How smart leaders build high-performing teams

high-performing team

I have a cousin [the identity of this person has been changed to protect the innocent] who is one of those freaks of nature that loves math. For nearly twenty years he was a middle school math teacher. Now he is a math coach, helping other math teachers get better at their craft so students can achieve more.

Even though he loves math, teaching, and helping students grow, in his current role as a coach, he is often drained. Not all of the people he works with are as committed or passionate about the work they are doing. Not everyone sees the benefit of being open to new ideas or collaborating with others. As a result, the team doesn’t get as great of results as they could.

But on the days when I chat with him and he’s just left a math conference or has worked at the district office with his “math peeps” there is a noticeable change. He’s happy, he’s excited, and he’ll talk for hours about the work they are doing, the new techniques, and the progress they are making. He’ll give up nights and weekends to do the work because he loves it, he believes in it, and he wants to support the students as best he can.

When he is with his math crew, he feels like he belongs. He works on a high-performing team. They run like a well-oiled machine. They work hard, but they get great results. And they enjoy their work, every step of the way.

When he works with some of the teachers at the school, as hard as he tries, the team doesn’t operate quite so cohesively. There are glimpses of greatness, but there are also many moments of frustration. Results are decent and improving, but not exactly what they could be, if everyone had the same commitment and passion for the collective goal. It is not a high-performing team. No bueno.

Why you need a high-performing team to consistently deliver remarkable customer experiences

Business is about belonging.

Your customers have a ton of options available to them when it comes to getting their problem solved. The businesses that earn their attention, adoration and loyalty are the ones who consistently demonstrate that they “get” them.

To create an experience that makes your customers feel like they belong, you first have to build a team where everyone feels like they belong. A team where everyone is working toward a common goal, and they work together to nurture an environment that allows everyone to thrive.

In his book The Freaks Shall Inherit the Earth, Chris Brogan explained why this is essential:

“Fitting in” often means shaving off your unique edges, hiding and masking what defines you, discarding any behaviors or appearances or images that prompt others to question you or push away from you. “Belonging” is about finding that place where you finally let out a deep breath you had no idea you were holding and feeling with great certainty that the people around you understand you.

You need a team that is comfortable challenging each other, bringing new perspectives, and celebrating how their differences can make your company better at serving your customers. You need a team that has the talent, the passion, and the commitment to work to solve your customers’ problems like none other. You want a team that is willing to push the envelope, in their relentless pursuit to earn your customers’ loyalty.

You need a high-performing team.

Why a high-performing team is a diverse team

You are limited by your frame of reference. And if everyone on your team looks, thinks, and has had similar experiences as you, collectively you will struggle to address the evolving and nuanced needs of your customers. You’ll implement the same old strategies and tactics year, after year, after year. Boo.

And if your team feels like they aren’t valued, they have no voice, or feels disconnected from how their talents make an impact on your customers, they will leave in search of the place where they do belong.

To give your business the fuel it needs to succeed, focus not only on getting the right people on your team but keeping them there. That means cultivating an environment that proves your commitment to connecting to who they are, what they are about, the challenges they experience, and what they need most from you.

Your customers are people. Your employees are people. And people connect with people. Make it a priority to make the people who are most important to your company feel like your business is the place they want to be.

Here are a few articles on how to build a high-performing team.

belongingHow to make everyone on your team feel like they belong

For your team to work together closely and effectively, they need to trust each other. They need to feel that the team environment is a “safe space” for them to bring their full selves to work, rather than a muted or masked version that “seems” safer. When everyone feels that level of comfort, the group will be poised to challenge each other to produce the quality of work they are capable of. Photo by Austin Pacheco. 

scienceWant to build a high-performing team? Science says focus on these 3 things

Success leaves clues. And I love how science reveals many of those clues, so you don’t have to recreate the wheel when working to lead a team to perform beyond even what they thought was possible. Here is what the data reveals about what you need to focus on to get your team to perform at their best. Photo by Austin Pacheco.

CEOThe CEO just admitted why he can’t hire a diverse team – you might have the same problem

Sometimes companies struggle with finding high-quality diverse talent. And the reason isn’t that there are very few of them. This CEO recognized why historically all the people on his team looked a lot like him and had similar backgrounds. In his quest to build a team that better reflects his customers, he found a new way to expand his reach and find the talent his team needs most. Photo by Jonathan Francisca.

KingThe essential Martin Luther King, Jr. leadership lesson all good leaders should master

The great Martin Luther King, Jr. was a transformational leader. And after digging deeper into his work as well as the way he worked, it was clear why he was able to make such a major impact on a global scale. No matter what goal you are trying to lead your team toward achieving, you can gain the support from your squad when you commit to mastering these simple principles. Photo by Luke Tanis.

starWant to build a rockstar team? Seek out people with a side-hustle

Building a team isn’t always the easiest thing to do. But if you want to find a group of people who are passionate, capable, and dedicated to the mission you are working to achieve in your business, go on the hunt for folks who do some moonlighting. Here’s why. Photo by Glen Carrie.

44 Tips to building high-performing teams (Because traditional methods just don’t work)

Just as marketing methods evolve over time, so do leadership best practices. Especially when you consider that the makeup of your teams is rapidly changing, as is the workforce. To make sure your leadership approach is relevant for today, check out what is working now. Photo by Makarios Tang.

inclusionHow strong leaders build inclusive cultures: 3 Essential lessons from an Air Force general

You can change the culture of your organization. Especially if prevailing ways of operating doesn’t support inclusivity which is highly detrimental to building a high-performing team. Here are some practical examples of how to create norms that help everyone feel like they belong. Photo by Mikkel Bergmann.

5Follow these 5 steps to build a high-performing inclusive team–even if you’ve struggled in the past

It doesn’t matter your track record in leadership. It doesn’t matter your company’s reputation in regards to embracing diversity and inclusion. If you commit to following these proven steps, you can build an inclusive team that performs at a high level. Photo by Alex Grodkiewicz.

boost68 Percent of employees are disengaged, but there is a scientifically proven way to boost engagement

One of the biggest barriers to getting your team to perform at a high-level is making sure they are engaged in their work. The challenge is, studies show that many are not. But science saves the day again and gives a blueprint on how to get your team to tune in to achieving your company’s mission. Photo by Bill Jelen.

happyWhat makes employees feel happiest at work (It isn’t salary)

Happy teams perform better. Period. As a leader, don’t assume you know what will make your team feel the happiest. When I worked in corporate, lots of times our leadership team dangled carrots that weren’t attractive or motivating in front of me. Needless to say, corporate wasn’t where I belonged. As you work to build a team of rockstar talent, and keep them on your team, make sure you give them what they need. The survey of 10,000 employees mentioned in this article explains what they most want.  Photo by Blaise Vonlanthen.

teamScience says doing this will significantly improve your team’s performance

Sometimes leaders think they need to build a team from scratch if they want to get them to perform at a high level. But science says you can transform your existing team to a rockstar team by consistently doing one simple thing. I’ve experienced this effects of this method firsthand and can attest that it works. Photo by Hermes Rivera.

Want more help on this topic? Drop me a note at sonia at and we can start the conversation.