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ATD Blog

4 Elements of Leading High-Performing Teams

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It’s never a bad idea to discuss team dynamics and how to optimize them, but due to our unique point in history—with all the major shifts we’ve experienced recently—we are at a pivotal moment to explore what the leader’s role is in managing a high-performing team.

Here are four primary ways a leader can foster their existing high-performing team or help guide their current team into high performance.

1. Build trust.

The relationship between employees and leaders is dyadic—it’s all about the quality of interaction and trust between the two parties.

Some employees may trust you completely at first, but you may lose that trust. With others who are more guarded, you may need to gain trust over time. It can be difficult to decipher how much collective trust your employees have in you as a leader, but creating the opportunity to build trust comes down to a few key factors: consistency, credibility, and authenticity.

If you’re consistent in your approaches to solving problems, assigning projects, and interacting with your employees, if you do what you say you will do, and if you show up as the person you really are and are truthful in your words and actions, you create the conditions that build trust, maintain it, or rebuild it.

2. Create connection.

As a leader, you also need to create connections. This year, Airspeed investigated the issue of workplace social disconnection and reported that nearly 70 percent of workers would quit their current job to work at a company where they believe they’d feel more connection.

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People crave attachments, particularly in this digitally enabled world. Leaders can create psychologically safe environments that foster connection by handling conflict well, coaching and developing employees, and amplifying the strengths of individual team members whenever possible.

3. Seek alignment.

In remote and hybrid scenarios, it can be difficult to get people on the same page, but building alignment is an important piece of leading high-performing teams.

This part of leadership can take a lot of work—you must ensure your team members are all aimed toward a common goal. Alignment revolves around great communication, and that communication needs to be consistent. It’s important to check in regularly to ensure that your employees still have what they need.

On top of that, it’s also necessary to take stock occasionally to ensure that your aims align with overarching business strategies. This also gives you a moment to track your team’s progress—hold people accountable, measure success, and recognize individuals.

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4. Drive results.

Despite the best communication, high team morale, and excellent levels of trust, if you are not getting things done, you’re not working in the greater service of your organization. The inverse is true, as well: If you have a results-oriented team without connection or alignment, that team can’t sustain effective results for long.

Facilitate great results by ensuring the right people are working on the right things. Your team could be working really hard, but if that energy is misaligned with overarching goals, the results won’t materialize. Take the time to uncover individual strengths of your team members and assign responsibilities accordingly to achieve success.

Improve Your Leadership Skills to Facilitate High-Performing Teams

There are many ways leaders can enhance trust, connection, alignment, and results, but start with understanding your baseline. Honestly assess how you and your team are performing. It’s crucial to get feedback from your employees. How do they think your team is operating? What gaps do they detect in your team’s overall strategy? Do they feel purpose and connection? Where do they need support but aren’t receiving it?

After this assessment, be vulnerable and honest with your team. Let them know what areas you believe need improvement, and share your vision for the future.

These honest conversations can feel uncomfortable, but being authentic in your communication will help create the productive, safe environment that fosters high-performing teams.