Is your team focused, fired up and fully engaged?

“Can you help us build a high performance team” is the question I am most often asked.

Almost every organisation wants their teams to be more resourceful, innovative and adaptive.

  • They want team members to be fired up and fully engaged.
  • They also want these teams to play well with other teams in the organisation too.

As one Executive told me; “we want to do business with our customers, not with ourselves.”

He’s right. Shifting the focus of the team to its customer is the most important thing.

Who wouldn’t want this?

Why then are so many teams not creating value where it’s needed the most?

Building a high performance team requires the courage to get a few basic things right. Starting with the Team Leader. This is where the journey to high performance begins.

The effect this person has on morale and productivity is profound.

A wise friend once told me; “to the fish the water is most important” It’s the quality of the water that determines whether the fish will flourish and grow.

And so it is with a Team.

The Team Leader’s main job is the water. It is to create and sustain the conditions for team performance. If these are not favourable, people and performance suffer.

A lot goes into this.

At the outset the Team Leader must believe that teams are not machines.

They consist of people. People have values, emotions, dreams, fears, biases, insecurities and past experiences.

These uniquely human qualities must all be harmonised into one distinctive identity. An identity to which people feel they belong.

People must still be able to be themselves within the framework and purpose of the team.

All this is part of the water. Part of what makes people flourish and grow.

The team’s purpose is vital too.

People may have differences but PURPOSE is the unifying force

A demanding performance challenge separates a great team from all the others.

When the team’s purpose explains what this challenge is – and people buy into it – the team is well on its way to being formed.

Talented people relish solving big, worthy problems, with people they respect and admire.

The Team Leader has other important things to do too.

  • They must mould the team by getting people to submerge their egos and co-ordinate seamlessly.
  • They must create safety … and set the standards.
  • They must know how to match people’s talents with the requirements of the job.

All these we’ll deal with in future posts.

For now it’s important that the Team Leader keeps themselves in check too. For a high achiever this is often the hardest part.

It’s so easy to interfere and disempower.


It’s often true that the Team Leader does know more than others. They can spot problems sooner. What’s more, deep down, they like control and feel insecure without it.

But when the Team Leader is the Chief Controller & Problem Solver, there are problems.

It disempowers. People stop thinking for themselves, become lazy, go silent and wait to be told. They stop taking risks and trying new things.

Anxiety (and fear) often rears its ugly head. People become unwilling to admit weaknesses and mistakes. The team retreats … afraid to make decisions.

The result is a few people do all the work while everyone else waits for orders and instructions.

There are no winners here!

At the end of the day it is the water that matters.

Unleashing the potential of the people and the ability of the team to perform depends on it.

To this end, the Team Leader makes the biggest difference.

Get the leader right and watch what happens.

You start doing business with your customers and stop doing business with yourselves!

Video: What we really care about. 1 min 30 s

For the next few months our focus will be on the Team Leader. Helping you to build a toolkit to unleash the full potential of your team. This is vital, especially when talent is so mobile and the future is so unclear. Stay tuned.

To start, download: Do We Work Well Together?

Please comment below. We love hearing from you!

If you want to get your top team fired up in the new year, contact me to find out how:

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