Building High-Performing Teams

Excerpt from Project Manager’s e-book, “Building High-Performance Teams.”

What is a high-performing team? A high-performing team is one that delivers what is asked for, when it is asked, without you having to roll your sleeves up and get involved as the project manager on a daily basis.

You need a team of people with individual roles and responsibilities who are empowered to make operational decisions for the benefit of the project. Each team member is able to carry out daily tasks with guidance from the project manager, but without having to lean on him or her to do the work. In contrast, poor-performing teams do not work well together to achieve the set goals. They lean on the project manager heavily to get work done, and communication among team members is poor.

The following tips will help you start building high-performing teams:


Before you hire the first person, you need to document what it is your team has to achieve and by when. You also need to create specific job descriptions that set out your expectations for each role and how you’ll measure their performance. But don’t stop there. Think about the team culture you want to build, the dynamics of your team and how they should work together. Only with a personal vision for how your team will perform, will you able to meet that goal.

Hiring Top Candidates

Recruitment is harder than it looks. It’s easy to recruit the wrong person, and it’s even easier to build a team that doesn’t perform well. Candidates should only be recruited if they fit the job description, align with your personal vision for how the team will work together, and want to work in a culture that depicts your vision.

Take your time. Be swayed by your gut feel. Recruit “like-minded people.” Introduce them to high-performing staff you know of and get their feedback. Be choosy. Recruit the best. If you have to pay top dollar for top performers, it often will cost less in the long run than a cheap resource who doesn’t perform.

Creating the Culture

If you’ve hired like-minded people, then they should gel, which is a great start. Get them working together on tasks and periodically change the people you pair up so they get to know others in the team.

If your ideal culture is “performance through achievement,” then shout out loud about each team success. And if you want “performance through happy customers,” then strengthen the relationship between the team and your customers. Get them socializing or try team sports.


A happy, motivated team will always out-perform an unhappy, unmotivated one. And it starts with you! Are you happy and motivated? Get on track personally by working out, relaxing after hours, de-stressing, and setting personal goals. Your motivation will rub off on your team.

When you’re ready, focus on motivating your team. Use teambuilding and group rallying exercises to get them pumped. Tell them how proud you are to work with them. Help them understand why goals are important and how every team contributes to them.

Reward and Recognition

People respond positively to positive behavior. By recognizing achievement when it’s due, your team will be motivated to perform at a high level. Tell the team about an individual’s success. Make them feel proud, and don’t focus on one team or person too frequently.

And reward them when it’s due. Reward them unexpectedly as people will appreciate it all the more. Meals at restaurants, tickets to the Super Bowl. These things mean a lot to staff when they’re not expecting it.

Excerpt from Project Manager’s e-book “Building High-Performance Teams.” To view the full e-book, visit Browse Project Manager’s library of free resources at

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