Who doesn’t want to learn how to unlock the power of their team? Most leaders, however, don’t know how.  Here are the most common questions leaders ask me when it comes to this:

  1. When teams are high performing – what does that mean, exactly? 
  2. Where do I start? 
  3. How can I create that?

Leaders want to unlock the power of their teams more than ever, because the pandemic is accentuating and accelerating difficulties and disconnects. This makes it harder to perform, much less win.

As Warren Buffet said, “Only when the tide goes out do you discover who has been swimming naked.“Issues apparent now during the pandemic are not new”, many CEOs have told us. “They are merely highlighting the needs and dynamics we already had present in our organization.”  

Building a high performing team is more than just jargon. There are five well-understood conditions of alignment. These conditions are measured through nine characteristics of how high performing teams behave. Our methodology creates a roadmap that shows you how to put these building blocks in place.

Below is a brief overview of WHAT it is and HOW to start in your organization.

What IS High Performance?

The foundation of most high performance models are grounded in the field of social science from the GRPI model first introduced by Richard Beckhard in 1972. A version of this model, shown at the top of this post, suggests that five conditions of alignment are required for organizational success. The easiest way to think about this is the 100,000’ level, the 50,000’ level and the 1’ ground level.

100,000’ Level

The FIVE CONDITIONS for Alignment are:

  1. Vision & Strategy 
  2. Goals & Priorities 
  3. Roles & Responsibilities
  4. Ways of Working
  5. Business Relationships

Each of these conditions links to how teams create context, build capability and shape culture. The team and individual members are aligned on the Five Conditions (above), measured through quantitative and qualitative measures. The measures are based on Nine Characteristics (below), which are the specifics of how the Conditions are specifically implemented.

The areas where there is a lack of alignment can be a good starting point to reignite energy and performance back into your team, as discussed in this post.

50,000’ Level

The NINE CHARACTERISTICS of High Performance are:

  1. Common Purpose & Direction The team’s strategy and goals are defined and owned by all team members. 
  2. Right People, Right Seats The team represents diverse backgrounds and capabilities with a structure that is fit for purpose.
  3. Ways of Working The team’s processes enable the team to operate efficiently and effectively.
  4. Real Talk and Real Listening Team members have courageous conversations with care and openness that build trust.
  5. Agility and Resilience The team anticipates and adapts in an unpredictable and changing environment.
  6. Reflect and Grow The team relentlessly pursues excellence through a disciplined focus on individual and team development.
  7. Full Accountability Team members operate as business owners with an enterprise mindset.
  8. Collaboration and Integration Members proactively offer and seek diverse viewpoints, engaging across functional lines to deliver shared goals.
  9. Foundation of Trust The team’s culture creates and sustains a safe and supportive environment.

1’ Level


A team can only be as high performing as the weakest link on the team. In other words, every member of the team needs to demonstrate (i.e. consistently practice, not only know) key performance behaviors. No individual starts with them all. The team process starts with the individuals’ journeys to higher levels of practice with peers on the leadership team as well as with members of their functional teams. 

Does everyone get there? That depends on the willingness, coachability and speed of each team member to get there. Having seven out of eight members being high performing does not create “almost” high performance. It’s like having a boat of crew members – they are all powerfully in sync with each other, or they are not. We always start with the belief that everyone can become high performers. From there, we facilitate the process for the team and each individual to learn, practice and help each other get there. No one can get there alone.

To become high performing, it takes work at three levels. Members having the: 

  1. Mindset of high performance, such as being more enterprise vs. functionally focused
  2. Toolset of high performers, such as how they Build & Sustain Trust 
  3. Skillset of high performers, such as having strong Coaching Skills

How long does it take to become a high performing team? This answer ultimately depends on the CEO or team leader’s willingness and ability to hold the team and members accountable to evolve. As in parenting, our children listen to what we say and even more to how we act. While unusual, I have seen teams reach high levels of performance in as short as six months and some teams never get there. Generally, with mechanisms to create accountability, teams reach a noticeably higher level of performance in twelve to eighteen months. 

Where to Start?

The most logical place to start is with the CEO and the executive leadership team. From there, alignment cascades to functions and levels below, making it the most accelerated and robust process to get the organization to the highest level of performance. 

That is not possible in all organizations. Sometimes a high performance leader within the organization is more ready than the CEO. As the infamous Peter Block once said to me, “Go where you are wanted, start where you can.”  We have many examples of senior leaders who are not the CEO starting with their teams. Very often, their organization’s positive results become obvious and others are often inspired to engage because results speak for themselves.

Tangible examples of results include:

  • Financials targets/growth exceeded
  • Engagement numbers improve
  • High performing talent is attracted/retained
  • Decision-making accelerates
  • Collaboration replaces silos
  • Accountability occurs between peers
  • Conflict is productively managed
  • Trust deepens

How Can I Create a High Performance Team?

Step 1 Start with You: Educate yourself on what it means to be high performing and what is required. Ask yourself if you are up to the challenge – not everyone is. Click here to assess the 3 ingredients to review before starting down the road. As the leader, taking a look at what you are committed to, what you want to create and how willing you are to step out of your comfort zone (yes, this takes courage!) is key. You can reach out directly to inquire and engage around your own readiness.

Step 2 Engage Your Team: You can’t hold people accountable to standards they don’t understand. The key is to start with co-creating a context for them. You can conduct an interactive analysis with your team to learn more and conduct a real-time mini-diagnostic where they determine the key strengths and opportunities for the team, together. This can be a 2hr (virtual) session where they get a brief overview and then engage on what they see as the key focus areas for the team to increase alignment. 

Step 3 Determine Next Steps: The law of engagement is to involve and include people in creating their destiny. When the team sees the gaps in their alignment, their appetite for closing the gaps will be obvious. Our experience shows there is a correlation between high performers and those who are excited to increase the level of performance in the team (we hear comments such as “Finally!” or, “This is exactly how I like to operate”). Those who are cautious or resistant often don’t want to engage differently (note: pay attention to their reactions, they are useful data). 

Ask Yourself:

  • What is MY appetite for evolving my team’s performance? (hint: check out the 3 things to reflect on here)
  • What are the 2-3 biggest challenges that are getting in my team’s way? (hint: communication, conflict, collaboration, accountability and trust are critical areas to get curious about)
  • How able are we to meet our business needs given the team challenges in #2 above? (hint: challenges don’t go away on their own – you will need to do something to reduce them)

Please feel free to reach out to me and my team if you’d like to connect about how to apply these learnings, to help members on your team navigate these conversations, or to discuss the biggest current challenge you are facing today.

Wishing you good mental, physical, emotional and social health.

Remember to find resources to inspire you here.

Yours in practice,



If you are interested in exploring how to unlock the potential of yourself, your team or the women in your organization , contact us for a complimentary discovery conversation.

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