The Top Ten Qualities of High Performance Teams

Back on the farm, my grandfather used to say one boy can do a day’s work. Two boys can do a half day’s work. And, three boys won’t do any work at all.

Lousy teams frustrate more people than any other aspect of organizational life, other than lousy leaders.


Incompetent leaders don’t understand high-performance combinations. Incompatible talent struggles to perform. Lopsided teams deliver inconsistent results.

Skillful leaders know how to bring people together in ways that enhance performance, enjoyment, and fulfillment.

High performance teams:

  1. Stay small. Teams should be slightly undersized; never oversized. Teams larger than 6 are almost always too large. No drifters allowed. Ownership goes down as team size goes up.
  2. Know why they are working together and believe in their purpose.
  3. Understand each other’s strengths and compensate for each others weaknesses. Who needs time to mull things over? Who makes decisions quickly? Who organizes, works well behind the scenes, expedites, schedules, and/or loves social interaction.
  4. Care about each other. During team meetings, socialize to maximize. Have food once in awhile. Share what’s going on outside work.
  5. Establish rules of engagement. Some teams, for example, believe it’s ok to simply ignore suggestions. One person suggests an idea – there’s a moment of silence – someone makes an unrelated comment – the team ignores the first suggestion and moves forward. Successful teams work on how they work together.
  6. Develop timelines and deadlines.
  7. Strive for excellence. The acceptance of average devalues and disrespects talent. Mediocrity is never fulfilling.
  8. Hold each other accountable. It’s not OK to let other’s down.
  9. Celebrate often even as they press toward new goals.
  10. Disband when they become obsolete or ineffective.

Key ingredient:

Every team needs more doers than dreamers. Once purpose and goals are established, a team of doers always outperforms a team of dreamers. (More on this tomorrow.)

What are the qualities and behaviors of high-performance teams?