The Language Of A High Performing Team

While some teams think they are teams, they are often merely work groups. They are comprised of individuals who each prepare their part to add to the whole without seeing how much they depend on one another. They fail to understand the magic of being interconnected and get fixated on only their piece of the final puzzle. The conversation between the work group members might go something like this:

“Here is my research and written part of the project. Do with it what you want.”

“I have no more time to focus on this assignment. I need to move on to something else.”

“I’ve worked so much harder than you. I’m cleaning my hands at this point and walking away.”

“I don’t agree with the direction the group is going so I’m not contributing any more.”

Work groups and teams are not the same. Teams work interdependently .

Step back to think about teams you are on and what makes them so successful. Maybe you are thinking of a sports team where each person may have a particular position, yet all players are essential to win a game. Maybe you are thinking about your company as a large team. Each division or department team folds into the bigger mission to bring different areas of expertise together.

How does a high performing team interact and connect with one another?

What language is necessary to make a team highly functional?


In a real team environment, members care about one another and respect each other’s points of view. In one company I worked with, there were silos within silos. Members of one department did not take into consideration the needs and stresses of the members of another department. It seemed as if everyone was working independently for a different organization. Even individual areas spoke to each other with little regard for challenges. Being empathetic is essential to create engagement and commitment.


To perform our best, we each need to know the responsibilities and expectations for our jobs. It’s always helpful to develop a list of tasks and who will be in charge of each one. Be as specific as possible and work together to create the descriptions.


No matter the level, no matter the title, no matter the role. Each team member should be seen as valuable and critical to the project.

  • Offer praise and appreciation often
  • Take time when further explanations are needed
  • Meet to keep up with progress, keeping everyone in the information loop
  • Avoid judgmental words like: “You’re wrong” or “Your input is not helpful.”

    When team members have a clear understanding of what is being accomplished and why, they are more likely to stay focused and offer relevant suggestions. In one organization I worked with employees were frustrated that different teams seemed to get different treatment. When senior leadership rolled out the reasons behind their decisions, all the teams felt more interconnected and on the same mission.


    One of the exercises I use in my team building program involves putting together five square puzzles. It’s a fascinating study in how teams organize and usually the leader changes during the activity depending on what expertise is required. The same happens on our teams. Team members need to step up to lead when their particular talents are needed. When that happens, the team is always being steered by just the right individual.

    Leaders take turns leading on high performing teams .

    What strategies and language do you use to cultivate a high performing team?