3 Secrets To Building High-Performing Teams


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Life is too short to work with people we don’t vibe with.

My co-founder Brendan and I have worked hard to build a team of creative thinkers that makes it easy to come to work and still have fun when we need to solve hard problems. Our investment in creating that community has paid off well — we’re still in the game after 17 years.

When a team gets along well, it has countless benefits. Innovative ideas flow more freely, people feel free to fail and improve quickly, and customers are happier. Positivity is contagious. When the morale is good, the product is better, and when the product is better, morale is better, too.

Establishing a world-class team that generates good things doesn’t happen overnight. You can’t hire this kind of team; you build it. Here are three principles we’ve used over nearly two decades to build teams that do amazing things.

Related: 7 Ways to Build a High-Performing Team

1. Celebrate failure and learn to give feedback

When you embrace failure, you learn and course-correct more quickly. Failure is a sign you’re doing something right. You’re testing, learning, flexing your creative muscles and moving on efficiently after hitting a brick wall.

You must build a team open to feedback to make the most of your failures for the company’s good. Feedback is the mode by which we make positive changes out of failure.

The challenge? Feedback makes most people cringe. We associate it with criticism as opposed to growth. To create a culture that sees feedback as an opportunity for growth, leaders need to model the way they want team members to:

A. Receive feedback

B. Give feedback

When it comes to receiving, leaders should welcome employees to comment on how they should improve processes, culture and performance to improve the business. We love employee surveys at Wistia. They’re effective and easy to conduct. We’ve found benefits in sending out simple Google forms to get a real-time pulse check from team members.

When it comes to giving, the most impactful way we can create a culture that embraces feedback is by paying close attention to how we give it. People respond best to immediate, specific feedback and from people they believe care about them.

A team that uses feedback as a valuable tool sets better expectations, aligns goals, squashes inefficiencies and strengthens collaboration across the organization.

Related: Celebrating Failure: How to Make a Hit Out of Misses

2. Be an open book

Clear communication may seem like an obvious necessity on high-performing teams, but it’s something that’s often taken for granted. Unclear communication can quickly tank a team’s efforts. A team that has mastered precise communication, on the other hand, can achieve incredible outcomes quickly.

We follow an “open book” mentality at Wistia. On all-hands calls, we share candid information about the state of the company – inclusive of the good and the bad – so everyone has the big picture. When everyone shares the same vision, they understand the desired destination and the obstacles we face, and they’re empowered to solve customer problems creatively.

Normalizing difficult conversations sets the tone for transparent communication on a team. Honesty begets transparency. When you avoid “negative” updates or conversations, you hinder progress when you could be solving hard problems faster.

Related: 5 Examples of Companies Succeeding Through Transparency

3. Seek the curious

When hiring those who will join a high-performing team, a solid resume is a nice-to-have, but curiosity is a must.

When you’re curious, you’re the kind of person who will ask “why” until you find a solution and a way forward. The curious-minded navigate change faster. They find solutions to problems more quickly. They always look for opportunities in a crisis with an eye on the competition and a mission to add the most value to customers.

This intrinsic drive to challenge the status quo is one of the most valuable traits you can have to stay ahead of the game in today’s fast-moving market.

Keep an eye out for talent who asks questions to better understand why something is working or not working. We often include a project as part of our interview process to understand how someone approaches a problem. We look for:

  • What questions do they ask?
  • How do they identify information gaps?
  • How flexible are they in working toward a solution?

This project-based interview gives insight into a candidate’s curiosity and approach to work.

The building blocks of building a world-class team begin at the hiring process but are created and cultivated over time. Committing to building a high-performing team requires patience, discipline, self-reflection and willingness to communicate hard things. Putting in that kind of work and time is a tall order for any leader, but it’s the most invaluable investment you can make for your business if you’re in it for the long haul.

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