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5 Characteristics of High-Performing Teams – and Getting There with the Right Support

4 min read
5 Characteristics of High-Performing Teams – and Getting There with the Right Support.

Team effectiveness and team development have become significant initiatives for organizations across the post-pandemic landscape. In The Conference Board’s most recent research, C-Suite Challenge™ 2021: Leading in a Post-COVID-19 Recovery, building agile teams was in the top three 2021 Human Capital focus issues for CEOs and Team Leadership ranked 4th in top qualities CEOs say they seek most in future leaders.1 Further, fostering team play has been found to be the second highest-correlated leadership competency to overall leadership effectiveness.2 We had a chance to chat with Executive Coaches Bill Koch and Dave Bertrand as they were preparing to facilitate an Executive Team Retreat to help accelerate senior leadership team alignment in preparation for a 5-year strategic planning session. Collectively, Bill and Dave have been successfully coaching senior executive teams for over 30 years.

“Building, strengthening, and inspiring senior leadership teams is one of the most effective ways to accelerate business performance and scale leadership,” explains Dave. “But regardless of where teams are in their evolution, it always starts with fortifying the foundation.”

The 5 Behaviors of a Cohesive Team

In this widely recognized model, based on Patrick Lencioni’s 5 Dysfunctions of a Team3, each of the 5 behaviors builds upon the previous and supports the others – and when maximized, results in a team that operates as efficiently and effectively as possible. The behavioral goals of the team, then, are to:

  1. Build Trust
  2. Master Conflict
  3. Achieve Commitment
  4. Embrace Accountability
  5. Focus on Results

“Let’s face it. We’ve all worked with some of those dysfunctional personalities in the story. And perhaps, at times, we’ve even been some of those personalities,” notes Bill Koch. “The key is to identify dysfunctional team behaviors early on and put corrective supports in place. Even high-performing teams can enhance performance by embracing the 5 Behaviors of a Cohesive Team.”

So what does that support look like?

Bill responds, “We invest a lot of time upfront with clients to assess, analyze and understand team dynamics as they currently exist. It’s a brutally honest assessment. Using the Lencioni pyramid, we quantify and gauge each team member’s perception of the current team relative to those 5 cohesive behaviors.” Dave adds, “It’s also critical that we hone in on what matters most, and focus intensely on what we must accomplish as facilitators to help the Team close the gap.”

Cultivating the Resilient, Agile, Exceptional Team

Bill and Dave offer their insights as to what critical characteristics will differentiate high-performing teams in 2021:

  1. Long-term vision. Whether a company thrived, was shattered, or landed somewhere in between through the pandemic, the ground is stable enough now, for leaders to be setting clear, compelling, forward-thinking visions for their organizations. Those organizations playing the long game will be those built to last.
  2. Strong culture and teamwork. Establishing a team culture predicated on a strong foundation of safety and trust is not new. However, teams must now embody an invigorated level of readiness; an openness to exploring; a new sense of diversity and inclusion in bringing the team together beyond just the right people with the right skills; and, a new level of enthusiasm and optimism for what the future holds.
  3. Self-awareness. Perhaps one of the most difficult challenges among executive teams is facilitating a community of vulnerability-based trust where egos must be checked at the door. Executive team members today must possess a higher level of self-awareness, be willing to engage in continued self-reflection, and be open and ready to evolve and develop.
  4. Commitment. Every team member must recognize the sheer amount of time, work, and commitment necessary for the team to excel. They must each be willing and fully Invested in doing the real work necessary to strengthen the team for the long term.
  5. Targeted recruitment. To keep high-performing teams alive and thriving as new members rotate on and off, recruitment for team fit and contribution is critical. New team members must be comfortable operating in an environment where they can be open, honest, and vulnerable, and embrace that the mission of the team has greater potential than that of the individual. As a result, a productive and high-functioning team creates a competitive advantage and more easily attracts top talent.

Accelerating Forward Momentum

Executive teams may need additional support for a variety of reasons, including realignment, dysfunction, a new team leader, or the need to accelerate performance and outcomes. Even high-performing teams benefit from building stronger cohesion to optimize performance. This can be the difference that makes the difference in a highly competitive environment as, more than technical skills, teamwork is responsible for achieving winning outcomes.

Bill Koch believes “The time is now for leadership teams to establish their post-pandemic visions, align as a unified team, and set their new way forward. With so much now at stake, it’s imperative that leadership teams invest in getting this right – so they can move quickly into decisive action.”


Additional Resources:

  1. C-Suite Challenge™ 2021: Leading in a Post-COVID-19 Recovery. The Conference Board, 2021.
  2. Anderson, Robert J., and William A. Adams. Mastering Leadership: An Integrated Framework for Breakthrough Performance and Extraordinary Business Results. John Wiley & Sons, 2015.
  3. Lencioni, Patrick. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable. Wiley, 2002.
  4. Trillion Dollar Coach: Leadership Playbook of Silicon Valley’s Bill Campbell. Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Rosenberg, and Alan Eagle. HarperCollins, April 2019.



Dr. David Bertrand is an award-winning scholar and executive leadership coach with two decades of blended experience in human development, high-performance coaching, and education. He is experienced and skilled in working with executives at all levels from C-Suite to high potentials, as well as with teams and staff.

Bill Koch is an executive coach with over 25 years of C-level and leadership experience. Bill’s primary objective is to inspire and guide high performers to become even more effective organizational leaders. He coaches new leaders and senior executives in a range of industries – from Fortune 500 companies to start-ups to academia.


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