high-performance team development

High-Performance Team Development

My final hopes of staying dry and warm disappeared as the winds picked up and the precipitation began moving horizontally instead of vertically – our days of sun, warm rock, and blue-bird skies were over. We knew this moment was coming, we just weren’t sure when. Here it was though – now the real work began, the real test: safely climb another 1000 feet of technical and unknown terrain in inclement weather and summit an unclimbed peak. This was the adventure we were looking for and this was the best team I could imagine being out here with; for reasons different than I would have guessed previous to the expedition. We had inadvertently built a high-performance team.

High-Performance Team

Teamwork, we know it when we see it and we certainly know when it isn’t present. Teamwork is a transient experience that needs both a strong foundation and consistent attention to propel into high performance. While high-performance teams may appear elusive, the foundation for maintaining and achieving high performance is clear and attainable: a group of people with specific roles, complementary talents and skills, all aligned and committed to a common goal. Throw in a solid skill set of collaboration, innovative and creative problem solving, and a results driven environment and your team has moved into the high-performing realm.

MIT’s Human Dynamics Laboratory identified a series of characteristics to evaluate high-performing teams and separate tangible and repeatable behaviors for high performance. Below are a list of characteristics, derived from the HBR and MIT’s HDL, to support and sustain a high-performance team, additionally, the list can be utilized as a tool to evaluate strengths and identify areas of challenge.

  • Set and define clear and specific goals
  • Clearly defined roles and responsibilities
  • Transparent conflict resolution
  • Positive, appreciative, and future focused atmosphere
  • Atmosphere of trust and generous risk tolerance
  • Diversity in perspective and execution
  • Environment of clear and open communication – allowance for exploratory thinking without judgement
  • Individual engagement and input encouraged and expected by all team members

high-performance team development


Looking back at the final 1000′ feet of climbing on The Dragon’s Spine in Alaska – I can clearly identify what allowed us to not only succeed and reach the summit but to build a team foundation that gave us the gumption to dream and do even bigger ascents in the years to come. For us, the combination of a positive, appreciative and future focused atmosphere allowed us to all embrace our audacious goals and subsequently increased our sense of trust and tolerance for risk. We had inadvertently created a high-performance team. Cover the bases of the above characteristics and great things can happen – just be sure to tend to the team and support long term health, burn-out and overwhelm can always be waiting around the corner, but that’s a topic for another day…