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3 Things That Set High-Performance Teams Apart ( and How To Build One )

Massive growth and results great sports teams, corporations, startups or nonprofits achieve, happen predominantly on the back of high-performance teams, whose essence consists of fit with the organization, bias for action to reach excellence in execution, and an inspirational vision. Whether you are aiming to scale a business or impact the community around you, always hire people who will display those three traits. Here's how you do it:

Fit. Joining a new company or organization is a commitment that may signify a long-term relationship with a very broad group of people. Fit with the organization if the number 1 goal you should have in mind when hiring or becoming part of a new team. The “Flight Test” — would you be amazed or mad by seating next to a person during a 16-hour flight from San Francisco to Singapore — is a great barometer to measure whether a person represents a fit or not. Ensure your entire team embark on that flight with that candidate and ask each one them, after landing, how great the experience was. Did the team feel they respected, admired and learned from that person or it was like walking in the desert without water? If the latter no more words are needed.

Zappos, a Fortune’s Top 100 best companies to work for, offers its customer service employees $3,000.00 to leave the company after a week into their initial training. The ones who do not have a fit with the culture and environment will voluntarily accept it.

Another important driver of “fit” is diversity. Most teams I have been part of — where there was a higher percentage of women, members of the LGBT community, representatives from various countries, religion etc — had higher levels of engagement, and it naturally creates a bigger sense of community, camaraderie and ultimately inclusion. A McKinsey&Company research performed with 366 public companies, showed those in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity were 35% more likely to have financial returns above industry average.

Lastly you do not have to love your teammates, but need to respect who they are,  their caliber and legacy. Hire the ones who will not only adapt to the culture but help your company evolve it.

Excellence in Execution. “Rent a thinker and hire a doer” should be your mantra when searching for a new hire. Ultimately, teams have to deliver and those whose results are always above the average are formed by players who always cross the finish line with superb performance.

Doers believe they are in constant development or in “permanent Beta” and see challenges as a mean for growth, which Dr. Carol Dweck calls growth mindset, as opposed to some who have a fixed mindset — think “I am either good at it or I am not” and  “my potential is predetermined” — individuals who usually present an average performance overtime.

Another important trait doers have is Grit — people whose DNA is coded with the belief effort matters more than anything else when it comes to achievement. According to Dr. Angela Duckworth, teams whose members have Grit achieve higher performance, as they work harder and display more discipline in the journey for end-state goals. Look for those whose extracurricular activities can tip off signs of brutal effort in what they do and how they do it. A good way to do it is hiring ex-athletes or people who are fanatic about playing sports. Solid runners, climbers, triathletes must have a routine of training  that set them apart from the crowd. Besides they rebound faster and have more stamina. Find and hire those who believe in effort.

Go search for candidates in organizations with a proven track record of high-performance and bias for action. The military space is by far one of the best. Veterans in transition and out of MBA schools are an amazing source of excellence in execution. They come with a level of discipline, loyalty and focus, ordinary people do not possess. Last year, Amazon announced they plan to hire 25,000 veterans during the next five years and former president, Barack Obama, once said “ if you want to get things done, hire veteran”.

Passion and Energy are also excellent predictors of superior execution. When people love what they do, you will see them  in “flow”. Their attitude captivate the masses and provoke others to challenge the status-quo. Assess it by observing how people talk about their accomplishments in life, enthusiasm and pride of they do outside of work.

Vision. A person or organization's dream is what will make people fall in love with your cause. I am writing this article from a remote village in Tanzania, Africa, part of group of volunteers who came to support Karimu ( an NGO ) rebuild a school and develop the quality of life of the local community. As I go back in time, I was first invited to donate  money to the effort, but I actually got hooked up by the why they asked for those funds. Karimu is a non-profit whose vision and  dream inspired me to go above and beyond.

What one stands for will define the collective personality of a group or organization, and those whose vision is inspiring end up changing the world by attracting the best talents who will perform like nobody else.

Putting it all together high-performance teams are those formed by people passionate about achievement through excellence in execution, inspired by a collective cultural fit and driven by a vision that will make them run to the fire to create legacy wherever they chose to operate and impact.

What are the characteristics of a high-performance team? Please share your ideas in the comments section below. I also want to learn from you.


Vinicius David is a tech executive, a passionate for talent development and fanatic to drive innovation.

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