Team Performance

How to Build and Manage a High-Performing Team for Your Project: A Data-Driven Approach

Ciara Byrnes ·

Ciara Byrnes spends most of her time reporting on digital marketing for an over-stressed audience of marketers and business owners trying to keep up with the fast pace of change. To center herself, she has become a wellness enthusiast, reaching “highs” like morning yoga on the porch of her family’s summer lake cabin to “lows” like failing to convince herself that wheatgrass is actually yummy.

high-performing team

Ever wonder why some teams consistently perform better than others? The truth is there’s no magic potion. These teams of high performers are built and nurtured to be star performers from day one, taking on all challenges and crushing projects as they go. 

However, building a truly high-performing team is challenging. It is the most important (and trickiest) task facing leaders today. It requires more than assembling a group of talents with the right skill sets. 

The good news is that despite the challenge, a few simple steps can also make a big difference. In this article, we’ll go over these steps with four expert tips for building and managing a high-performing team (with a data-driven approach).

But, first:

What is a high-performing team?

A high-performing team is a group of talents who strive for excellence through mutual trust, two-way open communication, shared leadership, clear job roles, common goals, and constructive feedback. It’s where every team member is:

  • Goal-oriented and ambitious
  • Highly skilled
  • Experts in their respective fields
  • Committed to their colleagues and overall project mission
  • Collaborative, encouraging contributions across teams, including the introverts

Above all, a high-performing team embraces innovation and adaptability. These talents are intrinsically motivated, inspired, and satisfied by their work.

Ideally, a high-performing team should not have more than eight people.

According to Ina Toegel, professor of leadership and organizational change at IMD, over this number, productivity is reduced, and members often struggle with coordination. 

high-performing team
Image source: Freepik

Building a High-Performing Team for Your Project: With Data

While every company and project is different, there are a few proven ways to build a team that’ll outperform the average group of employees hastily put together. It all starts with:

1. Defining Clear Objectives, Roles, and Responsibilities

Clear objectives with well-defined roles and responsibilities are crucial for every team to function. It’s the first step to building a high-performing team. 

Industry benchmarks, past project data, and performance indicators can define measurable data-driven metrics for your team. Even better, define quantitative targets, such as project timelines, quality standards, and budgets, to give your team a clear picture of what success looks like. 

As a leader, ensure that all your team members are set on exactly what is expected of them. This will help reduce conflicts and confusion–enabling your team to work more efficiently. Plus, the clarity will give the team members a sense of ownership over their work and be accountable for their performance. 

2. Leverage Data-Driven Recruitment

Data-driven recruitment means collecting and analyzing data from your talent pool–their skills, personalities, traits, experiences, etc. This data will help you accurately identify the candidates who are the right fit for your high-performance team. 

Trends encourage a data-first approach throughout the recruitment stages–sourcing, selection process, recruitment planning, and measuring hiring efficiency. 

Test for curiosity, the ability to adapt quickly to new tools, and analytical thinking skills. For example, even if you are hiring for non-technical roles, request basic SQL or experience working with pivot tables. If you invest in the hires, the team will be able to learn more sophisticated skills and collaborate better. 

The idea is not to hire the “perfect” talent but to hire candidates with basic fundamental skills and attitudes to learn more. This will make it easier to build a high-performing team with the data-centered culture you want.

3. Support Team Member’s Needs

Savvy leaders understand the value of building trust among teams to yield long-term dividends. One great way to do this is to support your team’s needs. 

Use technology like remote desktop software and collaboration tools to make collaboration easy within the team. This will allow your team members to help each other overcome roadblocks to project progress and engage in cross-functional work. 

High-performers thrive when they know it’s okay to try new strategies, even if they are not always successful. However, if you create a shame-and-blame leadership style to get work done, employees will lack psychological safety–an important element for success. 

Adopt a growth mindset instead. Let the team think of all the possibilities that come to the surface and let them know it’s okay to fail. 

Leverage data analytics to assess the gaps and provide your team with all the tools, training, and resources they need to perform their best at the job. Monitor workload and productivity levels and encourage continuous improvement.

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Teamhood workload view

4. Embrace Inclusivity

Monotony has never been good for growth–especially in a team. According to McKinsey research, companies with the top quartile of racial and gender diversity are 35% and 15% more likely to have financial returns than their respective national industry median. 

Moreover, a diverse and inclusive team helps minimize blindspots and empower individuals. Therefore, build a team of talented people from diverse backgrounds and skills to be the star performers for your project. 

Employ inclusive recruitment strategies to attract hidden talents from underrepresented groups. Most importantly, foster an environment where every team member feels comfortable expressing their diverse perspectives, challenges, and ideas. 

Managing Your High-Performing Team

1. Keep Lines of Communication Open

Consistent and clear communication is a crucial part of managing a high-performance team. When team leaders are transparent about company, department, project, and individual performance, then members grow professionally and perform better. 

Here are a few communication tips to keep in mind for maintaining clear communication with your high-performance team:

  • Use different channels for different purposes. For example, use Slack channels for water cooler chats and team updates, and project management software like Teamhood to house project data, define responsibilities, and track milestones. 
  • By organizing team-building exercises, workshops, and knowledge-sharing sessions, you can encourage your team to share their experiences and learn from one another through cross-functional collaboration. 
  • Schedule periodic all-hand team meetings to ensure everyone is updated on all project development and key priorities. 
Online gantt chart maker

However, creating an all-star super team means more than strengthening internal communication. How teams interact with each other and external leads matters just as much as their intellect. For example, a study on 192 groups by MIT academics shows that “social sensitivity, proportion of females in a team, and distribution of conversational turn-taking” are key predictors of a team’s success. 

Therefore, create a culture of open communication and collaboration in your team. Encourage members to go beyond the team and find collaborating partners. Use LinkedIn outreach to gain new members who can be the perfect fit for a high-performing team. 

Along with improving communication within and outside the team, this will also let its members feel involved in building a high-performing team from scratch. 

2. Focus on Learning and Development for Employees

Every member of your team will have a unique experience, skillset, and expertise. However, not all will be the perfect fit to function immediately as high performers. For most employees, it takes time and effort to learn new functions, skills, and collaboration strategies within their team.

That’s why you should encourage consistent learning and development needs of your team. Plus, as technology keeps changing in the wider marketplace, a continuous learning culture will help your team be proactive and forward-thinking.

Therefore, offer your team upskilling and reskilling incentives. Provide them with training and courses on the latest market trends. Empower your sales team with lead-generation strategies. Give strength to your engineers and programmers with insights on the latest technology and solutions that can potentially improve their workflow.

Learning is another aspect of your team’s development that can be automated. Employee training software can automate tasks like enrollment and reminders, freeing up time for trainers. It also personalizes learning paths and delivers consistent, on-demand training, making employee development smoother.

Encourage learning between members because, by their very nature, high performers are driven by professional growth. They actively seek out new challenges and want to learn new things. And if you, as an employer, fail to satisfy this need, you might end up losing these star performers–your biggest assets–to somewhere they are more stimulated and challenged.  

3. Use Team Building Exercises and Assessments

Another excellent way to manage and boost your team’s performance is to leverage various team-building assessments and exercises. However, the activities are best done in synchronized, in-person, or through video calls. 

Emotional Intelligence Assessments

Emotional intelligence is a vital soft skill to improve team performance. Team members with high emotional intelligence are better at modulating their emotions in stressful situations and staying attuned to emotions around them.

To increase this, you can lead the team through targeted exercises like:

  • Selecting their five strongest and weakest professional traits from a list and discussing how they can support them with different skills
  • Listing down traits they’ve noticed about other team members 

Along with improving emotional intelligence, this crucial data will also give you insight into individual member’s uniqueness (their strengths and flaws). Using the information, you can better situate the members and bring out their best side in the project. 

Mission and Vision Exercise 

Since, as a team, your high-performers will be focused on a common goal, consider engaging the members in a collaborative mission and vision exercises, such as:

  • Assessing the project mission/vision statement and examining how it aligns with their personal mission
  • Brainstorming a new mission statement for the teams

Brainstorming Exercices

Brainstorming sessions are great for everything you have: a new project or a milestone to work on. Introduce everyone on the team to the topic and give them a set time to think about innovative solutions.

Write everyone’s ideas in a shared document and review them as a group.

4. Provide Feedback on Team Goal Performance

Feedback is vital for improving performance, especially when given to a team. It helps its members see their individual contributions to the project’s success and understand how the leaders and the rest of the team members estimate them. 

Therefore, if you want to enable teamwork and performance, you should provide consistent feedback on team goal performance. Recognize their work and achievements. Even if you are unable to offer any monetary incentives, saying ‘thank you’ and appreciating their contribution goes a long way in showing your team that they are valued–thus boosting morale and performance. 

The Next Move 

A high-performance team starts with a high-performing leader. Leaders who know their strengths and are capable of identifying the best and worst in team members. 

The expert’s tips shared above work, but only under the right leadership. So, become the leader your team needs and, using the above strategies, build a high-performing body capable of hitting milestones and completing projects from the get-go.

Looking for a tool to support the work of a high-performing team? Try out Teamhood for a visual and easy-to-use solution.

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