You may have heard the phrase “managing [x group] is like herding cats.” The cat is known for its independence and capriciousness, two traits that are not likely to help in a team environment. While a group may exist with shared goals it, if it seems to be made up of a bunch of cats instead of teammates, collaboration and high performance are not likely to occur. The essence of a high performing team is collaborative independence and participative leadership. Without these traits, the members – the cats – will each go off in their own direction, reducing productivity, cohesion and positive outcomes. But what do you do if you have a new team or a team in trouble? The following are some characteristics of high performing teams. Consider adopting them to transform your group of cats into a team.



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  1. Skills: Members of a high performing team have complementary, yet unique, skills. Take the time to identify, even label, the skills of each team member and draw a link between the skills of each team member to show their significance to the success of the team.
  2. Group Identity: The team has a strong group identity which can be underlined with special names or methods of identifying the group (such as uniforms/shirts/pins/Internet groups). Team building exercises to help enhance the bond is a great way to create an identity for the team.
  3. Clarity of Role: In a highly productive team, each member maintains a clear understanding of both the importance of the work, their individual role, and how it relates to overall goal achievement. Like skills, the role of each team member should be explicit, and its mission-critical aspect should be highlighted.
  4. Empowerment: Independence isn’t necessarily a negative trait. Members of a team need to have the authority to act autonomously and with discretion to complete their necessary tasks. This doesn’t mean they aren’t supervised, rather it means they are properly empowered to take risks.
  5. Belief in the Team: Members believe success is achievable as a group. They are individually passionate about the results, and they hold themselves accountable for their own performance.
  6. Respect: Members treat each other with respect. High performing teams avoid sidebar conversations that are dissenting or subversive to the goal. Instead, a good team will have mechanisms to bring opposing views to the table to be discussed openly and productively.
  7. Motivation: Underachievement, or social loafing, is not tolerated in the team. The team establishes minimum standards for performance or level of effort, and members who are deemed ineffective or disruptive are eliminated.
  8. Self-Defined: A high performing team will set their own goals, rules, schedules and norms for behaviors and follow them. Making certain to have space for the team to do this is critical to team building.
  9. Democratic: As you integrate the ideas about skills, roles, empowerment and identity, make sure that that the team uses democratic decision making. This means that, even if there is a nominal leader, the voices of the team are heard, and leadership is participative.
  10. Equality: A good team spreads the resources and obligations out evenly. This means the division of work, workspace, and level of effort should all be equal if possible.

Are you looking to move to a new team, or searching for candidates to fill your team roster? Merito Group can help. Contact us here for a free consultation on your placement needs.