What makes a High Performance Individual or Team

What’s the difference between highly performing individuals and teams, and those that fall short of achieving that title”?The short answer is that it’s complicated, because it’s multi-layered

After having been part of and leading numerous High Performance Teams, and now speaking to business leaders and sporting organisations on the subject, I’m frequently asked, “what’s the difference between highly performing individuals and teams, and those that fall short of achieving that title”?

The short answer is that it’s complicated, because it’s multi-layered and can be highly varied depending on the nature or the area of the pursuit. HOWEVER, I believe there are 4 Common Characteristics which must be mastered in order to achieve, well, mastery;

  1. Technical Skills - Whatever the chosen field, the individual and/or team must know and consistently demonstrate a mastery of the essential technical skills that enable them to operate in their chosen field. E.g A sporting team member must be an expert at their particular component (i.e a prop forward vs an outside back  - in Rugby Union) or tradesperson (an electrician or plumber on a building site). I love the quote “advanced skills are basic skills mastered”, through time effort and developing and refining a particular talent.
  2. Essential Human Skills - Remaining calm under pressure and in a variety of situations, understanding and controlling your physiology, to enable good decision making. Importantly, your personal values sit in this space too. For me and the teams I’ve studied, led or been involved with who’ve seen outstanding success, they consistently live by and demonstrate;  Humility, Professionalism, Integrity and Courage. There will be other pursuits, in which the value set will vary, for example Empathy is an essential value and would be in the top 4 for many of the health/ wellness and support area’s, but perhaps less important in the heat of the sporting arena. Regardless of the pursuit, high performers live by and demonstrate their values.
  3. Communications Skills - Being able to communicate clearly, succinctly and accurately in difficult and challenging situations, particularly when time is critical. Communicating within operational teams, across other teams and groups, up and down management levels, and to internal and external groups. Success, even for individuals in what are essentially individual sports/pursuits (such as Golf) don’t happen in a vacuum . The ability to effectively communicate with others is essential to High Performance, and
  4. Personal Health and Wellness - High performance by nature often requires a lot, consequently it can be taxing on both body and soul. The individual or collective must be ‘fit and well’ to perform the role that is being asked and expected. It’s essential to have within you, and to demonstrate the drive, motivation and energy to excel in your area of expertise in a range of circumstances.      

All 4 characteristics must be at play. Not 2 or 3 of 4, and not some, some of the time. All four are essential all of the time.

It’s easy to focus on obtaining and achieving the technical skills because they’re a definable metric, however what separates a well rounded High Performer is their ability to deliver the soft skills in a pressured environment or situation.

The question of balance of time and effort spent in training and the effort dedicated to each of 4 characteristics is one for a different post… for example Technical Skills are essential and is often what separates a Subject Matter Expert (SME) from a generalist however many people over invest in Technical Skills, for diminishing returns, at the cost of investing in one of the other areas.

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