10 Vital Conversations to Build a High-Performing Team

Every truly high-performing team has one thing in common: They spend time in candid conversation talking about what’s working and consistently look for ways to improve. They look at the work they’re doing and ask “how can we” do this EVEN BETTER?

And they enjoy and celebrate their success.

And yet, when you’re neck deep in urgent deadlines, fast pivots, and navigating uncertainty and change,  it’s easy to postpone those vital conversations to “someday when we have more time.” And of course, that someday may never come. Or, that conversation gets lost in the sauce of all the other important conversations at your end-of-year offsite.

But what if you carved out an hour a month to have the most critical conversations to lead your team toward high performance? Here are ten important questions to start with when building a high-performing team. What would you add?

1. What is our team vision for a great team culture?

If you are really looking to build a high-performing team, the most important place to start is with a clear definition of success.

An easy way to do this is to invite everyone on your team to draw two pictures: one of the team as they see it now, and one as they would like it to be. Discuss the themes and approaches for getting to your desired state.

Or, you can go a level deeper and involve your team in defining key values and behaviors critical for your team’s success. See How to Build a Great Team Culture.

2. How do we better leverage the strengths of every team member?

Another characteristic of a truly high-performing team is that they truly understand the strengths and gifts each member brings. They encourage confident-humility and focus on results and relationships.

Team members know their strengths, own them and use them. And, they know and admit their vulnerabilities and ask for help.

If you’re looking to help your team “land in the and” of confidence and humility AND results and relationships, click on the image to the right to download this free high-performing team conversation tool.

3. How do we best communicate?

Our clients tell us that one reason our leadership programs lead to sustained culture change is that everyone adopts a common vocabulary.

High-performing teams have a habit of “checking for understanding” to ensure key messages are received and “scheduling the finish” to ensure everyone is aligned on what “done” looks like.

4. What are our most important strategic priorities (and how do we best achieve them)?

If you’re a regular reader of our blog or books, you know we’re all about the MIT (Most Important Thing). One of the biggest differentiators of high-performing teams is that they have real clarity about what success looks like, and the critical behaviors to achieve them.

One of the most important one-hour investments you can make is to talk about your MITs and how you will achieve them. This Creating Clarity article gives you a clear road-map to do that well.

5. How can build deeper trust and connection

Trust starts with connection. Sure, building trust takes more than an hour, but it can start by having deeper conversations. Our B.E.C.O.M.E. model is a good place to start, as are compassionate conversations starters. Click on the image to the right to download those conversation starters to use with your team.

6. How do we enhance the effectiveness of our meetings?

When should you have a meeting? Who should be included? Which meetings make sense? Which needs to go? How can you enhance your asynchronous communication to eliminate meetings and help level the playing field for remote team members across different time zones?

How will you make decisions in these meetings? We’ve been helping so many teams have these important conversations. And, it’s pretty amazing the progress that can be made in an hour.

7. What can we do to give more meaningful feedback?

Another characteristic of high-performing teams is that they “ditch the diaper genie” and have important, candid conversations that will help one another to grow and improve. And, it’s important to set the stage for this 360 feedback upfront.  

8. How will we hold one another accountable (with compassion)?

It’s easy to think about accountability as your job as the manager. But the truth is, the highest-performing teams hold one another accountable. 

It’s worth an hour to not only talk about shared accountability but also to give your team a practical tool to do that well. Our I.N.S.P.I.R.E. method is a good start. 

9. How will we celebrate success and learn from our mistakes?

High-performing teams take time to celebrate success and learn from their mistakes. They look down the mountain and see how far they’ve come. They make plans about how to celebrate and when it’s most important. And, they master the art of post-project celebrations. 

10. What ideas do we have to improve our team’s performance?

Okay, if you’ve been following any of our research or writing on Courageous Cultures (download the first few chapters of our latest book for FREE here), you knew this was coming. High-performing teams have strong psychological safety and encourage one another to share their ideas. 

This conversation can start with a well-spent hour. Of course, to continue to build a truly high-performing team, we also encourage you to build this into your regular meeting cadence and one-on-ones.

Related: Avoid This Mistake When Giving Your Boss Bad News