Overcome the complexity of forming a high-performance-team

Team’s talk

Research shows us that management teams are rarely performing as high-performance teams, and are often experienced as ineffective and unproductive by the team members. Frankly, we don’t need research to prove this; we all talk to colleagues and friends who complain about the way their management team works. They all describe issues of trust, poor behaviour, accountability and even cliches, sub-groups or inner councils.

This is a persistent problem that has plagued every business at some point in time

Many factors contribute to this problem. Firstly, managers in teams underestimate the complexity of forming a high-performance team. Secondly, the members of the team prefer to pretend that the team’s performance is better than it is. Lastly, team members show a preference for making assumptions about what motivates their colleagues rather than digging in to truly understand motivation, needs, values and world-view.


Complexity of forming a high-performance team

Common to all ineffective management teams are unchecked assumptions about creating a high-performance team.

The most basic is the assumption that teams form naturally without a need for an architecture. If I carry that analogy forward, simple dwellings require little help from a gifted architect; however, monuments to man’s creativity and accomplishments would not exist but for the talents of architectural minds.


Old ideas that have become folk-lore and are trotted out as a trite, meaningless, or prosaic statements aimed at soothing emotional unease. Think about that the next time you hear someone rhyme, storming, norming, forming, etc.

Here is a newsflash! Tuckman was wrong. The theory, published back in 65′, was a step towards understanding groups, but 50 years on we know so much more about effective teams that it is time for you to retire this mantra.


Pretending that the team’s performance is better than it is

Thinking performance is better than it is, is a seductive deception that requires no evidence at all. The leader, or the nucleus-of-power within the team, boldly announces “this is a great team!” and the other members agree, complicit in a myth that will forever prevent them from forming a high-performance team. Ironic isn’t it.

Assumptions add to the problem; many management teams don’t discuss the reason the team exists. This assumption is why so many senior managers and CEOs complain about alignment and talk about the challenges of getting everyone on the same page.


Making assumptions about motivation

The notion that each team member can decode the value of the other members based on their functional competencies and the habits they exhibit during meetings leads to so much misunderstanding and erodes trust.


Without explicit conversations unmet needs and unspoken narratives become the morns of the team and generates a culture that is significantly different from the one described in the Core Values that most teams set, and maintained in PowerPoint.

How do tools help?

Tools make it easier to design and build a high-performance-team. Tools give leaders mechanisms to formulate each element of the architecture. 

Tools that structure vision building, team culture, and connects these elements to strategy and execution ensure that what gets built is enduring.

High-performance teams measure their performance by monitoring their capability to solve problems, make decisions and keep the business on track towards their vision. Teams form around a common purpose, values and vision; however, they need time and a chief architect to help them develop a shared understanding of the purpose of their team and how to maintain the high levels of trust and understanding needed to sustain success over time.

Best tool to get started

The best starting point is to establish the core values within the management team. Our tool is DUET®; it asks participants to consider behaviours they value most in how they work. This inventory opens up conversations about what each member of a team values and why. What the leader needs to promote is that cognitive diversity is at the heart of leveraging the intellect of any team, even a two-person team – A DUET.

A successful, high-performance DUET is perfectly balanced; each member understands their strengths and how they complement their counter-point. They have negotiated their differences to create agreements on how to resolve issues and prevent divisive behaviours that could destroy their collaboration. Trust in each other, and the freedom speak their minds and call out bad behaviour, or challenge the direction are a the heart of the DUET’s capability to produce awe-inspiring harmony.

Use DUET to start a process to transform your team

Values act as a lens through which we interpret the world. DUET will give you and your team members insights into how values influence decisions. Learning how values shape leadership and performance is essential self-awareness. Values sit in the background, unannounced, unseen, making judgements and colouring our world-view.

Understanding values; yours and those of your team members, is the first step in the creation of a highly successful leadership team.


Get started, complete DUET and begin exploring the values held by everyone on your team, by asking:

  • What words describe your values?
  • What beliefs are linked to these words? and
  • What behaviours do you think make you successful?

Once you have discovered your values, and have helped your team members do the same, you will notice a change in how members appreciate each other. They will bond around shared values, and this will improve trust and enable them to talk through and understand their differences. Looking at problems through different lenses gives the team a more holistic understanding of complex issues and leads to better solutions.

When a leadership team can leverage differences between their values, new possibilities for innovation open up and transforms the team’s potential.

Please, use this tool and improve the culture inside your team; everyone deserves more success and a better place to work.

If you need help interpreting your team’s results, email us at info@makainggreatleaders.com, we promise not to sell you anything; we will just offer you help.



If you are interested in learning more about MGL or how to implement any of our models with your team, please contact chris@makinggreatleaders.com or call +1 203 253 2836.

Leave a Reply