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13 Myths About High-Performance Teams & How to Build Them.

In our previous post Defining High-Performance Teams, we explored some different ways to define high-performance teams. Regardless of one's definition, there are many misconceptions surrounding high-performance teams and the process of building them. Here are 13 common myths:

Myth 1: High-Performance Teams Form Naturally

High-performance teams are not a natural occurrence; they require careful cultivation. It requires leadership commitment, investment, clear communication, the establishment of trust, and the promotion of a positive culture to develop a high-performance team. Regular feedback, coaching, and conflict resolution are necessary elements of this process.

Myth 2: All Team Members Must Be Top Performers

A high-performance team is not necessarily comprised of 'superstars'. Often, it is diversity in skills, perspectives, and experiences that can contribute to a well-rounded and high-performing team. The key is to have team members who complement each other and collaborate effectively.

Myth 3: Conflict is Bad

While toxic conflict is detrimental, constructive conflict can actually benefit high-performance teams. It can promote innovation, critical thinking, and can push the team towards better solutions. The important aspect is managing conflict appropriately and ensuring it's focused on ideas and processes, not personal attacks.

Myth 4: High-Performance Teams Don't Make Mistakes

All teams, including high-performing ones, make mistakes. The difference lies in how these teams handle errors. High-performance teams see mistakes as opportunities for learning and improvement rather than failures.

Myth 5: Once a High-Performance Team, Always a High-Performance Team

Maintaining high performance is an ongoing process. External changes, such as shifts in market conditions or internal changes like the turnover of team members, can impact the performance of the team. Continual development, coaching, and re-evaluation of strategies and goals are necessary to sustain high performance.

Myth 6: High-Performance Teams Require a Hierarchical Structure

High-performance teams often thrive in environments that promote collaboration and egalitarianism over strict hierarchy. The best ideas and solutions can come from anyone on the team, and a culture that encourages everyone to contribute and values all contributions equally can enhance performance.

Myth 7: Team Building Activities Alone Can Create a High-Performance Team

While team-building activities can help improve team relationships, communication, and collaboration, they're just one part of building a high-performance team. Regular communication, mutual trust, shared vision, effective leadership, and individual skill development are equally, if not more, important.

Myth 8: Harmony Is More Important Than Diversity

While it's crucial to have a team that can get along and work well together, diversity is equally important. A mix of skills, backgrounds, and perspectives can bring richer insights, and lead to more creative problem-solving, and better decision-making.

Myth 9: A High-Performance Team Must Have a Competitive Environment

While healthy competition can be beneficial, an overly competitive environment can harm the team spirit and lead to unnecessary stress. Collaboration, mutual respect and support often yield better results in a team setting.

Myth 10: High-Performance Teams Always Need to be in the Same Physical Location

With advances in technology, remote and distributed teams can also achieve high performance. Effective use of communication and collaboration tools can bridge the gap caused by physical distance. It also opens up possibilities for diverse team composition.

Myth 11: High-Performance Teams are Self-Sustaining

High-performance teams require ongoing support, guidance, and resources from the organisation to maintain their performance levels. They may also need time for rest and rejuvenation to prevent burnout.

Myth 12: High-Performance Teams Don't Need Feedback

Feedback is crucial for any team's development, including high-performance teams. Constructive feedback helps identify strengths to be leveraged and areas that need improvement. Without feedback, teams may stagnate, as continuous learning and development are essential for maintaining high performance.

Myth 13: Everyone Likes Being on High-Performance Teams

High-performance teams often demand high commitment, high energy, and high accountability, which may not be a good fit for everyone. These teams also often face high expectations and intense pressure to perform, which some individuals might find overwhelming or stressful.

Building and maintaining a high-performance team is an ongoing process and needs consistent effort, flexibility, and an understanding of the team's unique dynamics. The success of such a team depends largely on how well it manages to balance productivity with a healthy and supportive work environment.

Recognising these misconceptions can help leaders and organisations create more realistic and effective strategies for developing high-performance teams. By debunking these myths and focusing on the facts, leaders can set realistic expectations and make more effective decisions when building and managing high-performance teams.
Trevor O'Sullivan

Trevor O'Sullivan

General Manager. Since the early 2000s, Trevor has worked with thousands of Talent Management professionals to develop and apply assessment-based talent management solutions for selecting, developing and managing people. Trevor is an active member of the TTI Success Insights (TTISI) Global Advisory Council, contributes to TTISI product development and is a regular presenter at TTISI-R3. He is honoured to have received multiple Blue Diamond Awards and, more recently, the Bill Brooks Impact Award recognising his contributions to the TTISI global network.

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