Team and organizations development

The 5 Pillars Of Team Performance: Going Beyond Traditional Team Building

A recent Dale Carnegie study found that only 30% of teams exceeded their minimum goals for the year and were considered "high-performing." When I shared this information with Jim, the CEO of a software development company, he said, "I want more teams like that in my organization."

The Problem With Traditional Team Building

Jim's company had recently held a summer team-building event, hoping to boost morale and improve collaboration. And it did—for about a month. Then everyone reverted to their usual way of working.
Traditional team-building exercises often fall short because they focus on temporary fun rather than fostering meaningful connections. These generic activities often fail to address the specific challenges or needs of the team and the organization. Without a structured plan for reinforcement and ongoing support, the positive emotions generated by these events quickly fade once the team returns to their regular work environment.

Exploring The Pillars Of High-Performing Teams

To answer Jim's request, I offered him a framework that has successfully helped create high-performing teams in both Fortune 500 companies and fast-paced startups. The CLICK framework goes beyond just tools and techniques, addressing the underlying mindsets, behaviors and relational dynamics essential for team excellence.

The five key pillars of the CLICK framework are:

1. Clarity Of Goals: Collaboratively agree on the shared team goal and purpose, ensuring everyone is aligned on the "why" behind the work. Nearly two decades of research from Harvard University suggests that a compelling purpose is one of the six key factors influencing up to 80% of a team's effectiveness.

2. Linking Relationships: Collectively discuss the expectations of the team's key stakeholders and spend time building social connections within the team. As noted in the book Work Better Together by Jen Fisher and Anh Phillips, positive, trust-based relationships between team members increase job satisfaction, engagement, productivity and profitability for the organization.

3. Integrated Ways Of Working: Agree on team norms and work processes that support collaboration, creating a structure that enables, rather than inhibits, teamwork. A recent TechSmith study found that "74% of teams have not established norms to provide clarity on how they will work as a team."

4. Collaborative Decision-Making: Agree on the frameworks for decision-making and stick to them. According to Gartner, poor operational decision-making compromises upward of 3% of profits. When team members collaborate effectively, they lay the foundation for successful decision-making by fostering a culture of teamwork, open communication and trust.

5. Knowledge Sharing And Feedback: Proactively seek feedback and share knowledge. Reflect on successes and challenges together. In his famous TED talk, Steven Johnson highlights the importance of knowledge sharing and dynamic "liquid networks," emphasizing that such collaborative environments are crucial for sparking creativity and driving innovation.

Strategies For Success

Building a high-performing team is a collaborative effort that requires commitment and input from every team member. As a leader, your role is to create an environment where all voices are heard and every individual has the opportunity to contribute ideas and raise concerns. Jim has taken steps to foster this kind of collaborative culture by engaging his executive team in a process of defining shared goals, establishing trust and integrating their ways of working. Here are some concrete steps you can take to follow Jim's lead:
1. Start with the goal in mind. Before jumping into any actions, take some time to sit with your team and discuss where you are leading your organization. What kind of future do you want to create together? And from that, define what needs to change now so that you can reach that future.
2. Get the people involved. The reason so many cultural transformations fail is that the leadership team created an ideal picture of the future, but the rest of the organization does not understand where those new concepts are coming from. Create a forum where people can share their ideas and concerns, discuss potential scenarios and know that their voices are heard and valued.
3. Start small. Don't aim for a major transformation from day one. Choose something small but impactful that will show the organization the benefit of change. You'll be surprised how simple tools like a decision-making framework or a "no agenda, no meeting" rule can improve team effectiveness.
While frameworks like CLICK can provide a structured approach, the real key to success lies in fostering a culture of collaboration, trust and continuous improvement.
The era of heroic leadership has passed; now is the time for empowered teams. Building high-performing teams requires leaders to prioritize the human side of teamwork and invest in the relationships that underpin success. It means creating an environment where everyone feels valued, heard and empowered to bring their best selves to work every day.
This is not a one-time event or a quick fix, but an ongoing journey of growth and development. It requires commitment, patience and a willingness to put people first.
So are you ready to take that first step? Your teams, your organization and your own leadership legacy depend on it. The future of work is collaborative, inclusive and driven by the power of human potential. Embrace it, and watch your teams soar to new heights.