Negotiation Mastery Blog

The Secrets Of High-Performing Teams


If your team wins, you win.  In fact, you only win if your team wins.

We all work in a team. A business is even a team of teams. In team games, you only win if your team wins. Knowing this moves your focus on to achieving the team goal rather than your own individual aims and the performance of your team can then shift into another gear.

This is the secret of the high-performing team, when the team member is no longer thinking primarily of how to achieve their own individual goal, but of their team’s goal and how they can contribute best to achieving that.

Is your team performing as effectively as it could? Can you say that your contribution to it is as effective as it could be?

The high-performing individual

High-performing organisations are made up of high-performing teams – each of which are made up of high-performing individuals.

So if the basic building block is the high-performing individual – just exactly who is this person?

Well, they know where they are going. They have a vision that inspires them and they have a plan how to bring that vision into reality. They know the milestones on the way to that vision and they know what to do to reach each milestone. And they also have the skills – the technical, personal, social and emotional skills – that they will need along the way. And they employ these skills so that they are at their best – whatever they are doing, they are doing it to their very best.


But if a team contains two high-performing individuals, each pulling in contrary directions, they end up cancelling each other out and the net result is zero.

So individuals, teams and the organisation all need to be aligned with each other, so that they are all pulling in the same direction.

That is, the individual’s goal needs to fit in neatly with the goal of the team, given their place and role within the team. Further, the team’s goal needs to fit neatly with the larger goal of the organisation, as a whole, again, given the position and role of the team within the organisation.

Does this alignment come from top down or from the bottom up? Is it decided on by the board and then cascaded downwards by decree or does it evolve naturally as an emergent property from the workforce? Ideally, it is a two-way, iterative process where each level informs the next level upwards and downwards.


But a high-performing team is about more than this – it is about how the team players interact. And they can interact negatively, so that the output of the whole is less than the sum of its parts, or positively, so that it is greater than the sum of its parts.

As an example, if the effect of the interaction is negative, you can have an orchestra full of fantastic soloists but who don’t play well together and don’t make a good orchestra. You can have a play or film full of great actors but they don’t gel and there’s no chemistry. Or a football team full of great individual players but there’s no co-ordination, no organisation, no sense of team and they lose every game.

On the other hand, if the effect of the interaction is positive, if you have a team full of high-performing individuals, all working at their best, and all working together, pulling in the same direction, then you will have a high-performing team, and that team will be special and will achieve great things.

And this is true at each level – individual, team and organisation. So your high-performing team needs to be made up individuals, all performing at their best, but also all working together, helping each other, supporting each other, knowing their own role and the role of all other team members, knowing exactly what each other member needs to be able to do their job and when and how they will need it.

Likewise, each team needs to be high-performing but, like the individual, they are not isolated and they also need to work with the other teams, know their role and know what they need to do their job and when and how they need it.

A Team You Are Proud To Be Part Of

And this is not just about getting the job done and achieving your targets. Yes, you will meet your targets and go past them, but it’s more than that. If you do have an organisation made up of teams all working towards the same vision and delivering for each other, and if each of those teams are full of high-performing individuals, all working at their best, and all working together, pulling in the same direction, then this team will be special and will achieve great things. It will be a great place to work; it will be a team that you will enjoy being part of, it will be a team that you will be proud to be part of.

And in one way or another, you’re going to be in a team all your life. This team, your next team, they all become one. You might as well make them enjoyable and productive, a team you’re proud to be in, and a team you look forward to working with. And the team is you, you can’t blame it all on other people, the team is you.

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