Getting the Job Done: Five Secrets of High-Performance Teams

When a team outgrows individual performance and learns team confidence, excellence becomes a reality.—Joe Paterno, American college football coach.

Getting the Job Done: Five Secrets of High-Performance Teams by Laura Stack, MBA, CSP, CPAEIn business, we both expect and encourage teamwork. Teams understand the importance of working together on goals that align with organizational goals that move the whole organization forward. Most people make serious efforts to accomplish this, but somehow, a few teams always seem to outshine the rest. Why is this the case?

Manfred Kets De Vries, writing in the European Business Review, calls teams and organizations where people consistently perform at their best “authentizotic.” The term derives from two Greek words, authenteekos and zoteekos, that translate to English as “authentic” and “vital to life,” respectively. Applied to business, the terms mean that without authenticity, business becomes routine and boring; conversely, it needs vitality to be truly authentic. When the two factors interact and support each other, they yield a vibrant and productive culture where people love their work.

The Secrets

While a dozen experts might give you a dozen different recipes for creating a high-performance, authentizotic team, they would all agree that such teams don’t just happen by accident. At the very least, they require careful selection of the ideal talent, as well as skilled management. Beyond that, I expect the list would boil down to the following five success factors (or something very similar) for most of us. Like authenteekos and zoteekos, they interlace at a very basic level to achieve the kind of synergy that results in remarkable productivity.

Factor 1: Purposeful Goal Setting. Setting and working toward clearly defined goals may represent the most important of these secrets; indeed, it’s often the glue that binds a team together. You can’t hit what you don’t aim for, and you certainly can’t correct your aim without measuring your progress along the way. All your teammates require a transparent understanding of the team’s goals, both in general and particular. They need to understand how and why their participation in both goal setting and achievement is crucial to team success.

Factor 2: Full Engagement. Employee engagement is essential to achieving high performance. The 31% percent of workers fully engaged with their jobs (according to the most recent Gallup poll on the subject) form the core of high-performance teams, and it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that all or nearly all the members of these teams fall into the engaged category.

Factor 3: Clearly Established Roles and Interdependencies. Members of top-notch teams know their roles within the team, and fit into them as snugly as a nut and bolt or two integral cogs tie together. They remain constantly aware of what their teammates expect of them and vice-versa, as well as how they all depend on each other, and do their best to stay at the top of their games. Each teammate does his or her part in a smooth, timely, and above all professional fashion. 

Factor 4: Trust and Respect. You don’t necessarily have to like your teammates to trust and respect them, though amiability helps. Trust matters because everyone expects fellow teammates to be accountable to the roles and interdependencies that keep a team working together smoothly. Trust means you can rely on others to do what they say they will do. Respect matters because when you respect your coworkers as professionals, it’s easier to trust them to do their jobs, just as they respect and trust you to do yours. All work flows more easily with trust and bottlenecks without it. When you respect others, you simply don’t want to let them down.

Factor 5: Long-Term Association. The longer you work together, the better you understand the mannerisms, tendencies, and special talents of your teammates. When someone’s in a bad mood, you don’t take it personally. After a while, doing your job eventually becomes almost second nature, and people don’t have to “think” about the next step in the process. You know you can count on your teammates, and you also learn how to work around kinks in the system when a teammate takes a sick day, goes on vacation, or visits another office. Longevity breeds familiarity, which increases speed, flexibility, and efficiency, inevitably increasing productivity. So it helps when the team sticks together for a time.

What success factors of high-performing teams would you add?


© 2015 Laura Stack. Laura Stack, MBA, CSP, CPAE is an award-winning keynote speaker, bestselling author, and noted authority on employee and team productivity. She is the president of The Productivity Pro, Inc., a company dedicated to helping leaders increase workplace performance in high-stress environments. Stack has authored seven books, including her newest work, Doing the Right Things Right: How the Effective Executive Spends Time (Jan. 2016). She is a past president of the National Speakers Association, and in 2015 was inducted into its exclusive Speaker Hall of Fame (with fewer than 175 members worldwide). Stack’s clients include Cisco Systems, Wal-Mart, and Bank of America, and she has been featured on the CBS Early Show and CNN, and in the New York Times. To have Laura Stack speak at your next event, call 303-471-7401 or visit her website.





  1. Interesting points, I write about productivity in my blog but I’ve never specifically written about team productivity although I’ve studied it briefly during my education. Teams generally work better after a while and the faster you can get to know each other and lower your guard towards other team members, the more productive you’ll be. Your points on motivation and goals are of course key as well.

    • Thanks! I comment on what I observes as it plays out “in the trenches” in corporate America during my work with these teams. Fascinating stuff to be sure! Not often studied but hugely important!