Why Can’t Organizations Keep High-Performing Teams Working Consistently?

Having mentored hundreds of high-performing teams over the years, I have seen great successes. Unfortunately, I have also seen far too many failures. Obviously, my experiences bring up a big question: “Why is it that many organizations can’t consistently keep high-performing teams working in all areas?” Typically, the answer comes down to just a few basic reasons.

High-Performing teams, problem solving activities, performance management, operational excellence

Sometimes, team leaders set the team up for failure right from the very beginning

The first reason can be found behind the scenes when top management is not a believer in high-performing teams. If the organization’s leaders subscribe to more of a “theory X-type” style of management, as opposed to a more participative “theory-Y style” of leadership, the team members will not believe in their own abilities or performance. The worst type of manager is the one that listens to ideas and then tells the team what to do. This is a fatal step to take with a team and guarantees they will not reach the status of “high-performing.”

Another situation that hinders teams is the creation of a team that is either too small or too large. Three members or fewer creates the problem of no diversity and limited resources. Seven members is typically ideal for most projects. Teams with more than ten members start to be a problem because it’s too hard to keep everyone in-tune.

Sometimes, team leaders set the team up for failure right from the very beginning. This can happen due to several issues. For example, if a leader loads the team up with too many of one personality type, that team will struggle. To avoid this scenario, pick the personality profiling tool you like best and then try to select team members who bring different strengths and weaknesses. This may sound counter-intuitive on the surface, but it really does matter.

Unrealistic expectations can also shoot your high-performing team in the foot, whether those expectations are too low or too high. If given no or very low expectations, the team will go nowhere. Conversely, tasking the members with real or perceived expectations that can’t be met defeats and demoralizes the team before they can even begin. Finally, the team leader or facilitator may be the reason why the team fails.

Oftentimes, management is unable or does not know how to support the team. Either through not providing enough guidance, resources or support of good decisions, a team leader can destroy the chances of creating a high-performing team through inaction. Additionally, management that fails to give the right kind of leadership to the team guarantees a wasted effort.

Through establishing the correct size for your team, carefully selecting your members, providing measurable and realistic expectations for all involved, and effective team leadership, your organization can foster high-performing teams across all functional areas. If your organization is struggling to create high-performing teams, put these suggestions to the test and you will begin to see real results.

If you have an interest in learning more how the Code of Conduct can transform teams, join me for my webinar 3 tactics REVEALED to Crack the CODE on High-Performing Teams.  Here’s the registration link:


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Kim Crabtree, President of MetaOps WBENC Certified

Leading High Performing Teams

The single most important skill you must have to be an effective leader of high-performing teams is understanding that your role is always situational. You may already be aware of the theory of a four-phase development for teams: forming, storming, norming and performing. While that theory will go far toward helping you learn to lead a high-performing team, it isn’t the only information that you need to do well.

The Hersey and Blanchard’s Situational Leadership Model, which states that leadership styles must change for people depending on their level of competence for the task at hand, is also very useful. People and teams of people exhibit the same kinds of behavior with respect to a task assigned. As mentioned above, these behaviors shift through four defined phases. What most leaders fail to understand is the type of leadership behavior needed for each phase. The most critical phases for leaders to establish a team culture are the “forming” and “storming” phases.

Phase 1 – Forming the Team

High-Performing teams, problem solving activities, performance management, operational excellence

Your role as a leader in HPT is always – SITUATIONAL

During the first phase, members of the team may be unwilling, insecure or unsure how to do the task. That means that the leader’s behavior must be very directive. Team leaders must be very prescriptive and almost dominating in directing the team as they get started. They must accelerate the members through the “forming” process and get them oriented as quickly as possible.

Tell them what the team will do, show them the steps to take, and then figuratively hold their hands as they start the tasks. Close supervision and providing a substantial amount of feedback on how they are doing is essential during this phase, just as if training a new employee on a job he or she has never done before.  Finally, make no assumptions until the team proves they are ready to move on as a cohesive group.

Phase 2 – Storming Development

In the second phase of the model, people on the team are beginning get committed, seem to be “getting it,” but may still be reluctant. Members may also be working through developing their relationships and trust with each other on the team.

The manager’s role shifts from being directive to helping people build relationships. He or she also needs to focus on getting members emotionally involved with the purpose of the team. Think of the leader as a salesperson asking a lot of questions, helping the team break down their disagreements and finding compromises with which the entire team can move forward.

Leaders should directly reinforce the kinds of “norming” behaviors they want and allow the individuals to begin taking on some responsibility for tasks as they demonstrate their ability to do so. A “team progress check” is appropriate at this juncture.

During the final two stages, norming and performing, team leaders will eventually be able to step back from the team, delegate more, and function as a resource for the team. When led successfully through the first two phases, your team will earn the title of “high-performing” and will have gained knowledge and expertise that will continue to work for the organization in the future.

Share your experience with these four phases that teams go through.  If you have some interesting story to share about how you handled a situation, I’m sure my readers would enjoy hearing.  Just comment below.

Here’s an FYI – I’ll be hosting a webinar on the 3 tactics REVEALED to Crack the CODE on High-Performing Teams.  You might find it interesting.  Here’s the registration link and more details about the content.


Connect with us in LinkedIn: .


Kim Crabtree, President of MetaOps WBENC Certified

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