How to build a high performance team

How to build a high performance team

Teams come in all shapes, sizes and types…such as marital partnerships, families, sports teams, political parties, small business and large corporates.

Regardless of the type of team though, there is a process that can be applied to accelerate team performance. You will be introduced to this process shortly.

First though is this cold-hard reality about success – be it in business, sport or any other performance endeavour for that matter.  And the reality is that:

1. Human behaviour is the core driver of performance and success

2. Human relationships are the success currency to building high performance teams

In other words, our behaviour and relationships determine our results.

Now having said that, it is important to understand that there are many factors that dictate how well an individual or team performs. Put simply, high performance/behaviour is not just about having the right skills or being mentally tough.  Other factors that affect performance include:

  • Clarity of vision
  • Strength of leadership
  • Strategic positioning
  • Environmental factors and uncontrollables
  • Structure and systems
  • Personality type
  • Response to stress
  • Ethnicity
  • Religious affiliation
  • Genetics (Nature)
  • Upbringing (Nurture)
  • Social status
  • Personal values, beliefs and worldview
  • Team culture and dynamics (Values and beliefs in action)
  • Skill sets (Technical, mental, social and emotional)
  • Relationships (And whether they are high-functioning or dysfunctional)
  • Strategic alignment
  • Training and practice

Some performance and HR experts believe that all you need to do to improve individual or team performance is put people on a training course or give them a pep talk. Oftentimes though this approach is too short-sighted. As an example, there’s often no point sending someone on a training course to upskill, when that person’s values system is at odds with the organizational culture.

The secret?  You need to take a strategic approach to high performance and look at all the factors that determine performance results, such as those outlined above. Don’t cherry pick a short-term “solution” in the hope that it will solve the problem. Be strategic.

How to be strategic?  First, you need to apply a strategic high performance model.  Second, you need to build a team using principles of strategic human resources and behaviour.

To help you apply these approaches, let me introduce you to the Champion Team Formula.


The Champion Team Formula is built upon my view that getting people to perform to their best requires a strategic approach to people development and performance. In other words, it’s not just about throwing in an advert for a new employee and hoping for the best, or sending your people on a leadership course.

The model integrates elements of business, sporting and personal performance into a comprehensive blueprint for developing and improving high performance.  As a result, it can be effectively applied to a number of domains, including:

  • Business growth and development
  • Career development
  • Improving sports performance (individual and team sports)
  • Developing and improving personal performance (weight loss, health and fitness, personal relationships)

As the model shows, the centre piece in all performance endeavours is human behaviour, which can be measured on four levels – physical or technical, mental, social and emotional.  To optimize performance, a strategic process must be implemented.  This encompasses the following steps:

    1. Spark a purpose, vision and values
    2. Establish your master mind or leadership group
    3. Analyze and develop your strategy/game plan
    4. Create your team culture and brand
    5. Identify required skills, roles and behavior patterns. Who do we need? What will be their roles, tasks, accountabilities and rewards?
    6. Recruit good buggers via behavioral patterning.  Use STARMAP, which represents the 7 keys to identifying the best talent.  These 7 keys are soft skills (emotional intelligence), technical skills and tools, academic background, relationship and culture fit, motivational and values drivers, achievements and track record, and personality and thinking type.
    7. Design patterns and systems
    8. Apply relationship bank account.  Invest in relationships and build the relationship bank account and currency.
    9. Improve your team’s skill base and strategy using effective “Game Sense” training, coaching and mentoring. Adapted from high performance sport, Game Sense is one of the most powerful performance improvement concepts you will ever learn.  Coaching needs to focus on developing emotional intelligence, technical skills and strategy.
    10. Execute and manage your strategy with purpose. Build a high performance environment through Example-driven Leadership. Ensure that behavior – particularly at the leadership level – matches proclaimed values. In other words, “being the sermon”, and not “giving a sermon.”

It doesn’t matter what type of organization you run – be it a corporation, small business, sports team, non-profit – these steps must be followed if you want to build and maintain high performance.

Relationships are the currency

As mentioned earlier – and highlighted in the Champion Team model – strong, trusting relationships are the currency that puts us on the success path and helps to keep us there.

Yes indeed.  In a world dominated by technology, systems and high tech/low touch social media, having strong relationships is more important than ever.  And try as you might, your chances of succeeding at anything are limited without the support and trust of others.

How to build and maintain strong relationships of trust? Two leading authorities on relationships have provided expert recommendations on how this can be achieved.There are several techniques you need to be aware of, and the first involves making sure your emotional bank account is full. Let me explain it this way.

In his best-selling book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R. Covey introduced the concept of the Emotional Bank Account, which he defines as a, “metaphor that describes the amount of trust that’s been built up in a relationship.”

As stated by Covey, “If I make deposits into an Emotional Bank Account with you through courtesy, kindness, honesty, and keeping my commitments to you, I build up a reserve. Your trust towards me becomes higher.”

Conversely, “If I have a habit of showing discourtesy, disrespect, cutting you off, overreacting, ignoring you, becoming arbitrary…eventually my Emotional Bank Account is overdrawn.”

Ultimately, a high trust relationship is one where the positive deposits far outweigh the negative withdrawals.

Covey’s work is in step with that of Dr. John Gottman, a professor emeritus of psychology and one of the world’s leading authorities on marital stability and relationship analysis.  Gottman is most famous for his divorce prediction work where he has been able to predict divorce among couples with a 90% plus accuracy based on the behaviours he observes in the couples’ relationships.

One of the behaviour patterns Gottman defines as the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, which are:

  1. Criticism
  2. Contempt
  3. Defensiveness
  4. Stonewalling

According to Gottman, when these behaviours dominate a relationship, the chances of that relationship being a successful and positive one are very remote.

I’ve developed a Relationship Bank Account model which is based on the work of both Stephen Covey and John Gottman. And, by applying this model, partners and teams can develop stronger, more effective relationships.

Here is the model.


Using the model, measure the relationship trust by placing a tick or cross next to each deposit (or positive) behaviour, and then do the same for each withdrawal (or negative) behaviour.

Once you’ve gone through each behaviour, calculate total scores for both deposits and withdrawals, then deduct the withdrawals from the deposits. This will leave you with a net score. You can then rate the relationship using the emoticons.

Where the deposits are much higher than the withdrawals – say a minimum 6 ticks ahead – rate the relationship trust level as high.

Where the deposits are slightly ahead of withdrawals through to even scores, rate the trust level as neutral.

When withdrawals exceed deposits, rate the trust level as low.


The model can be used to measure relationships between two people, or to measure the level of relationship trust in a team. When using it in a team setting it can help to gauge the level of function/dysfunction in the team, including team climate and culture.


One of the useful aspects of this model is that it pinpoints specific areas to work on. And the work ons specifically are those deposits or withdrawals with ticks next to them.

Work ons can be improved through a variety of approaches such as coaching and training.


Stephen Covey and John Gottman provide powerful insights into what breaks and makes relationships.

My visual model brings their work to life and gives you a specific tool to help you measure your relationships, and to consider the actions you need to take to build the level of relationship trust even higher.

For coaching to build your team and relationships using the Champion Team Formula and Relationships of Trust Model, please contact Ben on (021) 158 0019 or email