4 Principles for Building a High-Performing Team

The following is a guest post by Faith Whatley. Faith serves on our team in the Church Resources Division at LifeWay and is the director of adult ministry. She is an incredible leader and it is an honor to serve churches alongside her. While some of her articles on our leadership channel are directed to women leaders, God has given her insights that I believe apply to all leaders. Faith and her husband, Jimmy, have two grown children, an amazing daughter-in-law, and live in Nashville, Tenn.

Have you ever stopped to count how many teams you’ve served on or led throughout the years? Take a minute and try to count just within the last five years. I think you’ll find it a challenge. Teams come in all shapes and sizes — from a softball team to an executive team. Any team is important, especially the ones that serve the Lord and His Church. There are many ways to build a high-performing team, but I believe these four principles are the most important.

1. Hire and Enlist the Best People
Hiring the right people may be the most important step in building a high-performing team. Great teams don’t happen accidentally, they are built. Never get in a hurry to hire or enlist. After interviewing hundreds of people, I am still learning the importance of taking your time to hire. I’ve always thought it’s best not to have anyone than to have the wrong person. You can’t ask a candidate too many questions or arrange for too many people to meet with him or her. You can’t have too many checklists when it comes to hiring. It only takes one bad hire to realize how important it is to hire the right person. Ask any leader who has made a bad hire. It’s painful.

2. Create Strong, Trusting Relationships
Calling a group of people a team does not make them one automatically. It takes time. You must first establish trust, which can move a team toward success faster than anything else. Lack of trust can paralyze a group of people and waste a lot of time. Here are the best ways to build trust quickly: Simply be honest with one another. When you are frustrated, tell the person directly but privately. Do what you say you will do. Give credit to those who deserve it. Accept those who might think differently. Laugh and enjoy the time you spend with each other. Care about each other’s personal matters (family, health, milestones). Pray for one another.

3. Create, Communicate, and Push Vision and Mission
Over the years I’ve heard many leaders talk about vision and mission. My current leader has done the best job of not only helping create the mission, but also leading our leadership team to create a culture where the mission is our DNA. We use it as a measure for future hires. We keep it in front of our team regularly. You find it posted in offices and hallways. We are consistent in our language and how we talk about the mission. It has taken time, but I believe our very large team of 500 employees not only believe in the mission, but also live it out in their work and life.

4. Measure Performance
It’s important to measure the performance of each person on the team and then measure the team as a whole. I’ve had dozens of leaders during my career and each leader has taken a different approach. One of my favorite performance reviews was presented to me as a coaching document. My leader spent hours giving direction and encouragement in writing. It meant so much to me because it was clear, and he invested a great deal of time in my development. All year, I would refer to that coaching document to be sure I was addressing the improvements and moving the team forward.

Measuring the team’s performance as a whole is important as well. I believe doing this together can be productive and gives each person a chance to express his or her excitement and disappointment, and set new goals together. Measuring the team’s performance is most effective when done multiple times throughout the year.