Performance Management

11 Traits that Define High-Performance Culture

Looking to drive high performance? We're helping you get started by breaking down some common characteristics of high-performance team culture.

There’s a generous amount of data available on high performance team culture, so we don’t have to look very far to find out what the world’s most successful teams have got in common. The challenge lies in the application, and, of course, figuring out which traits of high-performing teams are right for our own teams.

As a tech company in scale mode, we need to regularly evaluate how our teams work. It’s not enough to settle on a formula, and hope that it will take us where we want to go. But this list, featuring data-backed characteristics of high-performing teams, provides a great starting point.

11 Traits that Define a High-Performance Team Culture

high performance culture

1. A Strategic Approach to Meetings

In a high-performance team culture, everyone’s time is valued, and meetings are organised and run as efficiently as possible. One study found that high-performing teams are more likely to introduce an agenda, require prework from team members, and begin meetings by inviting team members to give updates on their progress (1).

2. 360° Feedback

The top-down approach to feedback is losing popularity fast, and with good reason. According to one study, high-performing teams receive more frequent feedback at work, both from their colleagues and their managers, but they also provide their colleagues with feedback more frequently (1).

3. Non-Professional Bonds

We also know that a high-performance team culture is one that encourages people to form personal bonds, both inside and outside of work. One study highlights the importance of making time for personal chat and socialising, stating that high-performing team members are more likely to spend time discussing non-work matters with their colleagues and socialising with their teammates outside of work (1).

4. Diversity

It’s generally accepted that diversity, in views and perspectives, as well as in age, gender, and race, can help teams be more creative, but what can the data tell us about performance? Well, in one study (2), teams with a mix of cosmopolitan and local members were shown to be the most successful. Another tells us that executive teams with high gender diversity were 25% more likely to have above-average profitability than teams with low gender diversity (3).

5. A Supportive Environment

Even the most gifted of individuals needs precise conditions in order to excel. An in-depth study of cycling pelotons identified the need for a supportive environment, meaning one where the team had the tools, resources, data and structures they needed to do the job well (4).

6. A Shared Vision

This one may seem obvious, but a team can only be truly great when everyone on it is working towards the same goals. And it actually goes further than that. Each team member needs to have an incredibly clear picture of what success looks like, and all those pictures need to look more or less the same across the team. The easiest way to do this is through digital goal alignment using the OKR framework, which you can manage through Frankli.

7. Meaningful Core Values

A high-performance team culture requires people to be engaged with their work, and research by Gallup makes a connection between engaged teams and teams that are aligned on values (5). Simply put we’re likely to perform better if the company’s values are in line with our own. What companies should be aiming for are authentic, meaningful core values that can be weaved into everything they do.

8. Psychological Safety

The research on this one is clear - an employee is 12 times more likely to be fully engaged if they trust their team leader (6). Ideally, we should be looking to build a culture of trust across the entire team, and give each team member the confidence to share ideas, give feedback and take risks.

9. A Coaching Mindset

Mountains of case studies tell us that the most effective managers are coaches. They ask questions instead of providing answers, support employees instead of judging them, and facilitate their development instead of dictating what has to be done (7).

10. A Focus on Continuous Improvement

High-performing teams need to change as the world around them does, and a philosophy of continuous improvement can be really useful for this. In its simplest terms, it’s the belief that a steady stream of improvements will have transformational results. One piece of research includes a case study which proves the point - it features a company that saved ten weeks worth of work by making small, consistent changes to their product (8).

11. A Culture of Praise

When managers are effective at recognising their employee’s achievements, it usually leads to better results for the whole company (9), a sign, if ever we needed one, that we should be giving positive feedback often and in many forms. This means in-the-moment, everyday praise alongside more structured performance reviews.

Frankli takes the guesswork out of building high-performing teams through goal alignment, smart 1:1 meetings and feedback channels. Find out more by speaking to a member of our team.

1. Ron Friedman, Harvard Business Review, 5 Things High-Performing Teams Do Differently. 2. Martine Haas and Mark Mortensen, Harvard Business Review, The Secrets of Great Teamwork. 3. McKinsey, Diversity Wins: How Inclusion Matters. 4. Jessica Watson, Peter-Evans Greenwood, Andy Peck and Peter Williams, Deloitte, Building the Peloton: High-Performance Team-Building in the Future of Work. 5. Gallup, Culture Wins by Attracting the Top 20% of Candidates. 6. Dr. Mary Hayes, Dr. Fran Chumney, Dr. Corinne Wright and Marcus Buckingham, The Global Study of Engagement. 7. Herminia Ibarra and Anne Scoular, Harvard Business Review, The Leader as Coach. 8. Carolyn Dewar, Reed Doucette and Blair Epstein, McKinsey, How Continuous Improvement Can Build a Competitive Edge. 9. Training Journal, The Power of Praise and Recognition.

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