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  • Stephen Scott Johnson

How to Nurture and Grow a High Performing Team

Updated: Apr 27

Last week I sent out an invitation to my community requesting feedback on the biggest work challenges. The response was significant, and for the next month I’ll be focusing my newsletter towards answering your most pressing questions. Today, we’re looking at ‘How to nurture and grow a high-performing team’.


Back in 2017, I was invited to a private meeting with Simon Sinek in Melbourne, author of bestselling books, Start with Why, Leaders Eat Last, and The Infinite Game. During the encounter, we explored a radical reimagining of corporate culture, the idea being the best organisations lead with empathy and function like social movements. Essentially, it was a call for leaders to abandon legacy systems and processes born of the command-and-control business era and invitation to thrive in uncertainty – a ‘new vision’ of high-performance that celebrates mess, complexity and variation – that which makes us human.


Do you know what lights-up your team?


Understanding the nuances of people dynamics reveals triggers, blind spots, and latent abilities, enhancing people’s capacity for change – to move to higher levels of personal and professional leadership.

According to Google’s ‘Project Aristotle’, a two-year research initiative involving 180 teams spanning engineering and sales that sought to identify the conditions that determine team effectiveness – there is no high-performance silver bullet. In other words, no specific team composition (personality traits, skills, demographics or dynamics) guarantees success.


Consider “a team is a molecular unit where real production happens, where innovative ideas are conceived and tested, and where employees experience most of their work. But it’s also where interpersonal issues, ill-suited skill sets, and unclear group goals can hinder productivity and cause friction.” Project Aristotle revealed high-performance is less about who is on the team and more about how the team function together. From this perspective, nurturing and growing a high-performing team means something altogether different.


In order of importance, here’s what really matters:


Psychological safety: a person’s individual belief that a team is safe for risk taking in the face of being seen as ignorant, incompetent, negative, or disruptive. In essence, this is a collaborative environment where people feel safe to take risks around their teammates and feel confident that no one on the team will shame or punish anyone for admitting a mistake, asking questions, or offering new ideas.


Dependability: the context whereby team members are accountable to each other (do what they say, finish what they start) and pride themselves in completing quality work on time, as opposed to avoiding responsibilities.


Structure and clarity: Be crystal clear about your expectations and the process for fulfilling these expectations, including consequences of individual and collective performance (recognition, reward, opportunities for advancement). Goals must be specific, relevant, challenging, and attainable.


Purpose and meaning: Empathy is the crucial element in an organisations quest to inspire human connection. Purpose is its compass for transformation and growth. The meaning of work is personal and often varies. For example, comradery, self-expression, financial security, and supporting family. A clear sense of purpose in either the work itself or the output is vital to engagement.


Impact: Teams thrive when they can see the value and impact of their contribution (how it aligns with their own values and beliefs and makes a difference to the organisation’s goals).


More than at any other time in our history, we have the opportunity to devise a new operating model that makes work productive, fulfilling, and meaningful—soulful workplaces where talents can blossom and individual calling and connection with purpose can be honoured. As leaders, the onus is on us to co-create environments that inspire authentic connection and belonging – the true catalysts of high-performance.


Until next time...