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Leading High Performance Business Teams

When we talk about high performance teams, we usually think about sport; a group of people who wear matching shirts and operates under a single team name.

While this might be a way to create a memorable metaphor for high performing teams it isn’t necessarily reflective of the true inner workings of high performing teams in the business world.

Of course a team name and matching shirts helps in creating a sense of belonging and it will indeed create the foundation for competing against another team, but the business context is different from the sport analogy we often refer to as a metaphor for high performance.

While some of the fundamental characteristics like setting high standards, focus on the common goal and setting clear roles and responsibilities are indeed transferable from sports to business, there are others that don’t and actually might even hinder the business setting.


It is true that competition exists in the business world, yet it is important to recognise that teams operating in the business world are more often required to collaborate with each other; sales teams must collaborate with production teams, R&D teams, marketing teams, teams from partnering organisations and many more. Business teams are required to work together across boundaries to establish effective partnerships.

In such situations, a different name and different colour shirts don’t help, on the contrary they cause silos and turf wars.

High performing business teams seek to build bridges, to partner and collaborate with other teams in order to create effective organisational relationships and extend the word “team” to a broader and much more flexible group of people within and outside the organisation.

Sports teams spend most of their time preparing, rehearsing and perfecting their skills to deliver a short performance. High performing business teams are required to perform on a continuous and consistent basis with a limited time to prepare and rehearse.

It is vital for high performing business teams to become proficient in debriefing their performance on a consistent basis and be able to make quick changes as they perform.

Sports teams spends a lot of time working with each other to know each other strengths and develop well coordinated approaches to perform.  Business teams are constantly shifting and mutating in size and composition, and required to engage with multiple stakeholders. High performing business teams rely on each individual team member’s flexibility and ability to quickly build rapport with relevant stakeholders.

Developing high performing business teams is a much more complex task than leading sports teams, and while we can learn some valuable lesson from the sport world, business team leaders also require a special set of tools to get the job done.

Do you have what it takes to lead a high performance business team?

IMI has developed a new programme that will enable you to develop High Performance Teams by taking a deep dive into the behavioural aspects of managing a group of people to excel and to achieve high performance.

Fabio Grassi is programme director for this programme and Executive Learning Director at IMI. He is a specialist in the development of team performance, collaboration and motivation. 


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