Eight Attributes of High-Performance Teams

Buchholz, Roth, and Hess in their book  Creating the High Performance Team believe that there are eight attributes evident in all high-performance teams, but even in examining these attributes it is necessary to understand that many common problems affect the development of any team.  Because teams are made up of individuals seeking a common goal, the leader should recognize that the process is not much different from the development of a well-trained professional football team.

  1. Some individuals have never really learned what their assignments are, particularly for certain plays or situations.
  2. Some are afraid of the coach, so they pretend to know things that they should be asking questions about.
  3. Some want to do things “the old way,” while others feel that more modern methods are needed.
  4. Factions and cliques quarrel and fight.
  5. The whole unit has not come together to develop common goals to which everyone is committed.
  6. Decisions are made by someone, but some people either do not “get the word” or they disagree silently with the decision and drag their feet.
  7. Jealousy arises between units who then fail to play together.
  8. Even when people are aware of a problem, they do not know exactly what to do about it.1

With these facts established, the eight attributes of high-performance teams can be grasped more clearly.  The first attribute of a high-performance team is  participative leadership, an attribute that creates an interdependence among team members and encourages an attitude of empowering, freeing up, and serving of others.2   It is impossible for teams to function without the personal involvement of the team leader.

The second attribute is that of “shared responsibility.”  This trait is an attempt to instill in team members the idea that the role they play is as important and valuable as those of the leaders of the team.3  The team demonstrates that there is value and respect for other team members when:

  1. They listen to each other’s point of view.
  2. They do not become defensive with each other.
  3.   They do not talk behind each other’s back.
  4.   They express their feelings with tact.
  5.   They use persuasion instead of criticism.
  6.   They praise each other for good individual and team effort.
  7.   They do not blame each other or engage in scapegoating. 4

The third attribute of high-performance teams is an understanding as to why the team has been brought together.  Having a sense of common purpose is evident in teams that are successful.5  Building a quality team requires sharing character traits.  Those traits are:

  1. Having a clear sense of purpose.  Why are we a team?  What are we trying to produce?
  2. Having clear performance goals.  What is our output?  Who are our customers?  How will our performance be measured?
  3. Understanding the value of a team that works together.  How is the whole  greater than the sum of the parts?  What values are adding as a team?
  4. Having a sense of interdependence.  What responsibilities do we have to each other that produce a higher quality product?  Where can the collective wisdom of the group outperform individual outputs?
  5. Holding each other accountable for the output of the team.  Are we willing to hold each other accountable not only for our individual contributions but also for the output of the team?6

Fourth, the high-performance team has a climate of clear and high communication.  A high-performance team creates an environment that is based upon trust and clear and honest communication.7  Communication is extremely important as  leaders:

Leaders communicate in many ways.  In fact, it is hard for them not to communicate, for they are so closely watched, referred to, and emulated that whatever they do or say- and even what they don’t do or don’t say- communicates volumes to others.  The only question, then, is what leaders choose to communicate and how they choose to so.8

Fifth, the high-performance team is not threatened by and growth.  In fact, an efficient team sees a changing future as an opportunity for growth and expansion.9   Lawrence Miller says, “The behavior of leaders, the course they steer, the confidence they inspire, will do more to influence than all the tools and techniques.”10

The sixth attribute of high-performance teams is keeping a clear focus on the task at hand.  Meetings and the organization of the group keep their focus upon the ultimate goal.11     Communication is best received when it is conveyed in a personal nature.

Seventh, a high-performance team maximizes the talents of the team members.  The leaders remove any barriers that would hinder the use of gifts or talents.  The use of skills by the individual are maximized and encouraged.12

The eighth attribute of high-performance teams is that of practicing a rapid response.  This type of response is the skill of an organization to identify an opportunity and to act upon it quickly.  This skill works in harmony at a quick pace.

According to Max Depree, leading a team of individuals is like leading a jazz band:

Jazz-band leaders must choose the music, find the right musicians, and perform in public.  But the effect of the performance depends on so many things – the environment, the volunteers playing the band, the need for everybody to perform as individuals and as a group, the absolute dependence of the leader on the members of the band, the need of the leader for the followers to play well.  What a summary of an organization.13

Depree’s approach and analogy are extremely healthy.  The team, any team, cannot perform to its maximum abilities without each member of the team (band) taking part.  For any team to be successful there must be an absolute dependency of the leader on the members of the band.  For team development to take place within the local church the pastor must become comfortable with the concept that he cannot play all the instruments that are needed to create a successful ministry.  The pastor may have the ability to play many roles, but for the church to work at its maximum potential the encouragement and empowerment of others is essential.  The goal is for every team member to use those abilities and gifts that God has created in their individual uniqueness.  The process that creates a healthy and successful team is founded upon the leader’s desire to see such a creation take place.

Dale Roach

Who is Dale Roach?


  1. William Dyer, Team Building (Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, 1987), 4. 
  2. Buchholz, Creating the , 176.
  3. Buchholz, Creating the , 176.
  4. Edwin T. Cornelius, Involvement Skills for Team Leaders and Supervisors (Daniel Management Center, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC, College of Business Administration), 3.
  5. Buchholz, Creating the , 176.
  6. Jennifer M. Howard and Lawrence M. Miller, Team Management (Atlanta: The Miller Consultant Group, 1994), 37
  7. Bulchholz, Creating the High Performance Team, 176.
  8. Nanus, , 136.
  9. Nanus, , 136., 177.
  10. Lawrence Miller, Design for Total Quality: A Workbook for Socio-Technical Design (Atlanta: The Millers Consulting Group, 1991), 29.
  11. Buchholz, Creating the High Performance Team, 177.
  12. Buchholz, Creating the High Performance Team, 177.
  13. Max Depree, Leadership Jazz (New York: Doubleday, 1992), 8-9.

About Dale Roach

Dale is the creator of "Like A Team." He has been working with businesses, charity organizations, volunteer groups and church groups in the development of teamwork for over 25 years. The goal of "Like A Team" is to help share the knowledge and skills of healthy team creators across the planet.
Dale Roach , ,

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