The Tyranny Of A High-Performing Team

Despite their success, many of us would not immediately describe the England World Cup squad as a high-performing team. Our expectation or experience of high-performance may only identify endurance athletes or men in suits – waistcoated or otherwise – with the world of targets, drive, ambition and success. A far reach for most, not obtainable by all.

Too often, high-performance is a euphemism for sustained high stress or high expectation. Whilst much is rightly expected of ourselves and our teams, it’s more often a recipe for burnout, where exhaustion has become the ‘collateral damage’ for an individual serving a corporate mission.

However, we work with high-performing teams who consistently demonstrate a very different outcome. They challenge our assumptions about what’s possible when diverse, engaged individuals collaborate towards a common goal. Our experience with world-class musicians, who are among the most committed teams we know, shows that ambition and success can be realised without the consequences we may fear.

Creating an Exceptional Performance

What’s needed to create an exceptional performance is a team that is highly effective. But that effectiveness is only sustained by a culture that identifies its high-performers as valued contributors to a common cause, motivating and rewarding them accordingly. Rather than as currency to be spent until the next profits announcement is made. So how do you create an environment where high-performers truly thrive?

They may come in all shapes and sizes. Some are more dominant thinkers, some are feelers. Some are introverts and others extroverts. But it doesn’t take a psychometric test to know that everyone wants to find some meaning, recognition and reward in what they do. What makes all the difference is how these align within the team and their organisation.

Across every industry, the most effective teams are those who engage the emotions as well as the mind, who create space for individuals to thrive whilst working together as a team; where leadership is empowering but not micro-managing. And it expresses itself with authenticity and trust.

That might sound like a tall order! But our work shows what’s possible for our clients through a unique experience.

Musicians High-Performing Team

Creating an Exceptional Team

Most of our delegates are leaders – emerging leaders at the start of their career or executive leaders with many years behind them – and it’s very much their responsibility to bring out the best performance in those around them, as well as themselves. Being able to create and sustain an environment that enables high-performers to thrive is a win for everyone though. So here are three tips on identifying, motivating and rewarding your high-performers –

Identify Your High-Performers

What’s vital in a demanding environment is being able to identify someone who can step up where the need is greatest. But optimising their performance is also key. It’s too easy to overlook your best players, positioning them where they are less than effective or continually relying on the same high performers and wearing them out altogether.

Identifying those with potential is just as important. This creates a leadership pipeline with a broad skill base, which enables a high-performing team to play to its strengths. However, asking too much of someone with high-potential can throw them off and perhaps knock their confidence altogether or stagnate their growth.

The key to identifying your high-performers is to truly focus on the individuals within your teams, creating low-risk opportunities for them to step up, watching and listening to see how they perform and what the response is from those around them.

Motivate Your High-Performers

Motivating your team takes it a step further. High performers usually know what they have to do. Most are self-motivated and driven. If their goal is clearly defined and so are the boundaries, they can operate freely within those parameters. But trust plays a key role in allowing them the freedom to get on with what they do best as well as recognising their limits. Authentic leadership creates an environment which enables teams to trust and be trustworthy.

Communication is key as well. Too many teams are ineffective and ultimately fall short of their potential because assumptions have been made, vision is unclear and behaviours are misunderstood. Tuning in, and re-tuning, are skills our musicians exemplify and can be practised in corporate teams for effective communication.

Being able to set a clear direction for your team, together with goals which are recognisable when they’ve been met, will empower your high-performers and keep them motivated towards a common purpose.

Reward Your High-Performers

Whilst a financial benefit may seem the obvious reward to keep your star performers at their very best, a simple thank you can have a huge impact. Many would be just as rewarded with a time-bonus too – whether that’s flexibility or time off. It also communicates trust.

High-performers can also be rewarded by recognition from their peers. Even within an orchestra mid-performance, this can be done with a simple nod or a shuffling of the feet, as musicians offer their ‘secret applause’ to one another.

Being willing to get to know your team means not only identifying who the high-performers are but what motivates them. This means rewarding them in a way that’s far more meaningful and more likely to bring out their best performance.

High-Performing, Highly-Thriving Teams

Our work demonstrates that there is an alternative to the tyranny of high-performing teams. Music engages us in a unique way. On an emotional level, it enables us to bypass some of our preconceived ideas and inspires something unexpected. Moving Performance provides an opportunity to experience a completely different, high-performance team and to consider just what might be possible instead.