To uncover the most effective strategies for building and leading high-performing teams, we’ve gathered 17 insightful responses from CEOs, founders, and other business leaders.
From tailoring workloads to individual preferences to practicing self-improvement with the magic question, these experts share their proven methods for fostering excellence within their teams.
Tailor Workloads to Individual Preferences
To build high-performing teams, start by asking individuals about their preferences for work schedules and work-related topics of interest, and build the workload from there.
Offering hybrid work (remote and in-office) provides different ways to position team members. It’s all about the right positioning and matching work schedules in the start. If someone is strong in one area, and they say so from the beginning, then they get the lead for that area. If someone likes to work at night, or has other time commitments (such as parenting or education), offer the remote option and have team calls that work for the team.
Set Goals and Foster Independence
Whenever I build a team, I make sure that all team members know the goal. From there, everyone is up to date on each of the ways we communicate, as well as when we expect team members to communicate.
Then, and this is a step I think many business leaders sometimes miss, I let the team work. I let the team be a team. Always, I provide feedback and even step in when required, but it’s important to let the team find its way. That’s how I’ve found a high-performing team stays that way for project after project.
Hire for Emotional Quotient and Agility
One specific approach I take to build and lead high-performing teams is hiring the right people who not only meet the job skill set but also have a high emotional quotient (EQ).
With the evolving hybrid work environment and employees from different generations (from baby boomers to Gen Z), it’s critical for all workers to have EQ to influence work and get work done across multiple teams. In addition to EQ, one parameter I look for is agility, which in a fast-paced business environment is the ability to be flexible and adapt to changes as required.
Aradhya Srivastava, Enterprise HR Technology Leader
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Promote Communication and Autonomy
As the founder of a remote SaaS company, I understand the importance of team building and prioritizing effective communication within the team. We use tools like Slack to facilitate seamless communication among remote team members. We hold regular video meetings, stand-up meetings, and team bonding exercises to boost employees’ morale and build relationships.
One thing that works great for us is the no-micromanagement policy. We employ self-starter professionals, set clear KPIs, and put faith in our employees in a supportive environment so they can grow along with the company. We’ve incorporated a transparent company policy, education plans, and a supportive environment for our team to enable them to offer their best for the company while thriving personally.
Integrate Development into Project Work
Our software development company’s core strategy for building high-performing teams hinges on embedded growth opportunities. We integrate personal and professional development directly into project work. Instead of having engineers solely focus on their immediate tasks, we encourage them to pick up new skills or tools that align with upcoming projects.
For instance, if an engineer has only worked in back-end development but expresses an interest in the front-end, we ensure they get a chance to collaborate with the front-end team on a real-world project. This project execution has boosted team morale, reduced turnover, and consistently resulted in fresh perspectives; it’s about growth, innovation, and shared success.
Provide Resources and Support for Excellence
One strategy I implement in my business is providing my team with the necessary resources, training, and support they need to excel at their roles—creating short-form video content.
I make sure they have access to the latest tools required for producing top-notch videos, like editing software and any other technology that may be needed. By having the right resources at their disposal, they’re able to deliver exceptional results.
Additionally, I encourage them to attend workshops or webinars, participate in online courses, or invite experts to conduct training sessions with them. By investing in their growth and development, we’re able to empower them to constantly improve their craft.
I also regularly check in with them to address any challenges and provide guidance or assistance as needed. By implementing these practices, I have been able to build and lead high-performing teams that consistently excel in their roles and produce outstanding results for the business.
Find Passionate and Excited Individuals
I like to hire absolute passion-players. People who geek out on what they do best. If I ask you a question about your area of expertise and your eyes light up in excitement, it’s a great start. I want people on my team who are excited to go to work every day. Get people like that on a team together, and it’s like we’re kids again, playing on the cul-de-sac!
Collaborate as a Remote Business
High-performing teams at Let’s Talk Talent revolve around the phrase:
“Fast, we go alone. Far, we go together.”
This is about collaboration.
The team is full of great people who do a great job day-to-day, but as a remote business, how they work together is critical to success.
Communication, creativity, and collaboration are the core elements of how the business has grown and developed.
If these elements are lost, then a key ingredient of the magic which makes Let’s Talk Talent what it is for clients, and what it feels like to work within, is missing. It is one of the key parts of the culture and one that should not be lost as the business grows in the coming years.
Cultivate Open Communication and Feedback
One strategic practice I implement to build and lead high-performing teams is fostering a culture of open communication and feedback.
Regular, transparent communication is crucial for keeping everyone aligned towards common goals and for resolving any issues or misunderstandings early. To facilitate this, I encourage team members to share their thoughts, ideas, and concerns in team meetings, one-on-one check-ins, and via digital communication tools and surveys.
Similarly, I believe in the power of constructive feedback to drive improvement. I ensure feedback is a two-way street, where team members feel comfortable giving and receiving feedback in a respectful and constructive manner. In our case, we use quarterly reviews. This practice not only helps individuals grow and improve, but also strengthens teamwork and collaboration, leading to a higher-performing team overall.
Implement Data-Driven Accountability
One of the most transformative strategies we’ve implemented revolves around data-driven self-awareness and accountability. To start, we all take the Gallup Strengths and DISC assessments. This reveals our unique strengths and behavioral styles. These insights allow us to collaborate more effectively and meaningfully, utilizing our strengths and bridging the gaps in our weaknesses as a collective.
We have also ritualized the tracking of our KPIs, which each team member takes ownership of. In our weekly meetings, we don’t just review these KPIs digitally; we plot them on physical grid paper. There’s something emotionally tangible about charting your progress—and setbacks, of course—on paper that can’t be replicated on a screen.
This has not only improved our operational efficiency but also instilled a sense of collective responsibility. We’re more engaged, we’re retaining our top talent, and we’ve fostered a culture where everyone feels emotionally invested in our outcome.
Lead as a Servant Leader
There is a lot of talk about servant leadership in the business world. Living and leading as a servant leader is critical to building loyal and high-performing teams. There are three elements to implementation. First, live as a servant leader to your team, company, customers, and in your industry. Second, recruit servant leaders to your team. Third, celebrate servant leadership within your team when you see it.
What does servant leadership look like? Years ago, a friend told me about this well-qualified leader who would be perfect as a vice president on my team. The friend shared how the leader cleared the plates of his colleagues during an important meeting. Interestingly, the leader was one of the highest-ranking people in the room. I knew from that one story that I wanted this leader on my team. His humility, work ethic, and servant heart were inspiring. He turned out to be a fabulous hire and helped me set the tone for servant leadership on the team.
Foster Psychological Safety through Vulnerability
Leading with vulnerability is a crucial part of developing a powerful team. I want my team members to see that I don’t have all the answers because it creates a psychologically safe team to be a part of.
If I don’t have all the answers, then they don’t have to either. That sentiment means we can rely on one another for support, we can invest time in finding solutions, and it’s okay to say, “I don’t know that answer yet.” As the leader, though, I have to set and protect that example.
Leverage AI for Agile Knowledge Bases
In today’s dynamic business realm, fostering high-performing teams demands innovative strategies. Harnessing the power of generative AI to construct agile knowledge bases emerges as a potent approach.
Generative AI, like GPT-3.5, offers swift creation and real-time updates of comprehensive knowledge bases. It aligns seamlessly with agile principles, ensuring teams access the latest insights promptly.
The process involves content creation through AI, enabling real-time updates to reflect evolving trends. This personalized learning aids team members, while continuous improvement and multilingual support enhance the ecosystem.
Generative AI serves as a mentor, stimulates innovation, and minimizes onboarding time. Its accuracy mitigates risks, and collaborative editing ensures reliability. Moreover, as teams expand, AI-driven knowledge bases scale effortlessly, promoting uniformity.
Establish Behavior and Process Norms
We implement the development of group behavior and process norms to shorten the time new teams spend in conflict and confusion. This is key to developing teams whose members have contributed to their own operational and behavior guidelines.
The cornerstones of an effective team process are roles, goals, and relationships. Effective behavior norms that are understood and agreed to by everyone build trust and accountability. It is behavior that makes roles, goals, and relationships highly effective—or not.
These norms serve as the invisible architecture that underpins high-performance teams. They create an environment where trust, collaboration, and excellence thrive. By fostering a culture of open communication, mutual respect, and streamlined workflows, norms empower teams to achieve their full potential.
Organizations that intentionally cultivate a culture of high performance that delivers results also elevate the experience, trust, and satisfaction of team members.
Dianne Crampton, President, TIGERS Success Series
Train for Constructive Criticism Acceptance
Train employees to learn how to accept constructive criticism. The best way to build a strong and effective team is to strengthen communication within the team. You have to train every member how to properly deliver and accept constructive criticism and treat it as motivation to further improve.
This can be done by conducting team-building activities, coupled with communication seminars, to help members become more familiar with each other and to practice more open communication. Team activities such as lunch outs, team dinners, or any other social activities can also help.
Most importantly, allow members to speak their minds during meetings so they can practice their delivery and acceptance of criticism.
Schedule Monthly Employee-Development Meetings
The one thing that really made a difference with my teams was implementing an employee-development program. We scrapped the annual review and replaced it with monthly employee-development meetings.
Managers spent time with their direct reports monthly, reviewing goals, performance, and also coaching and mentoring them on ways to improve. This allowed them to build rapport and trust with the people they were managing, and it also encouraged the employees to speak up about things that they were struggling with so that we could help them.
Colette Kemp, Accredited Small Business Consultant
Practice Self-Improvement with The Magic Question
The concept I teach my team is what I refer to as “The Magic Question.” They are encouraged to set an alarm to remind themselves to pause two to three times each day and ask themselves this question: “If I were being the very best version of myself right now, what would I be doing?”
Often, we find ourselves doing what is comfortable or familiar, which may not always align with our very best. The very best version of ourselves is already within us. We simply need to remind ourselves to let it regularly emerge!