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How To Build A High-Performing Team In Your Business

Tim is a business coach to smaller/medium-sized business who have found themselves on a ‘plateau’ in terms of performance and want to make a change. He gets real pleasure from seeing business owners reclaim control and create personal/work-life balance.

Executive Contributor Tim Rylatt

We’ll let you in on a secret…it’s your responsibility as the leader of your business to nurture, develop, and build your people into a high-performing team.

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It is well documented by experts in team dynamics that adapting your management skills to suit the behavioural preferences of individuals is important if you want to change both the people-performance levels and the overall culture within your SME!


A high-performing team is not just about recruiting and retaining top talent


You want the best people in your team, and in most cases the best people will be those who align with the culture and behavioural expectations of your business. They understand and buy into your purpose, and have the right skills and experience to contribute successfully.


The best form of recruitment is to advertise based on both the skills and the values you are looking for. During the induction process, onboard that person by clearly explaining and discussing the values and expectations of the role alongside the processes and tools for doing the job.


Training and development should not stop at the point probation is passed, especially if you want a truly high-performing team! The Federation of Small Business’ research found that just 31% of SMEs had a training plan for the next 12 months, and only 17% had a training budget allocated for it. This is not a recipe for creating an engaged and high-performing team over a long-period of time.


If you want your team to be working at their best ongoing, and to keep the very best people in your business, you are going to have to invest in them.


Investment is the key word here because if you invest in your people as part of an holistic organisational development plan, you will see a positive return in terms of performance, productivity, and most likely in profitability too.


What does a high-performing team look like in an SME?


You will hear endless business tales of overnight successes and high company valuations from just a couple of years of operation. In my experience, however, there is not all that often a high-performing team behind this.


Achieving flash-in-the-pan success is possible without a team, but to reach consistently great results you’re more than likely going to need the help and sustainability that only a supportive and effective team can provide.

A high-performing team is in fact about consistent improvement, consistent growth and a culture of pushing on to the next step-target / goal ongoing. Individual talent may provide a one-off fantastic result, but having real team engagement and a high-performing team will enable improving results year after year.


A good book on this is from Jim Collins, Good to Great which reflects on the thorough research he did of over 1,400 companies to find out why some of them became great and others didn’t. What he found is that of those that did achieve sustained success levels, the vast majority had a “committed to excellence process” within their business rather than a specific short-term change programme. The same principle will likely be required in how you approach and manage your people.


The 9-box performance management grid


Knowing that team engagement and building a high-performing team is important for your business is one thing, but knowing how to do it is another thing entirely!


There is one tool I’d particularly recommend to help get you started in your own business with this, and this is the 9-Box Performance Management Grid or sometimes referred to as the Talent Grid.


It sets out three levels of low, moderate and high potential, and relates them to each team member’s performance. By identifying this against consistent assessment factors, you can then determine the right strategy and approach to further engage and develop them, whether that is progressing towards a future leadership role, inspiring them to use their full potential, or managing them out of your company.


Start off by considering the person’s potential for success within the organisation (and the role they are currently in) they will either have it or not. For those that do have potential, use your quarterly, six-monthly or annual reviews to then consider and set a plan for moving their actual performance forward.


  • Are they consistently immovable from their place on the Grid?

  • Are you failing to engage them to use their potential?

  • Or are they making small improvements?

  • What better habits do they need?

  • How can you challenge them or encourage them further?


Significant business outcomes await you and your engaged team 


This might sound like a lot of work and when you are a business owner, with a multitude of other activities to perform, it could be tempting to short-change on it.


However, as the leader of your business, the onus is on you to enable this either personally, or by engaging external providers or in-house managerial colleagues to support it.


Additionally, the business return from building a high-performing team outweighs either ignoring it or simply focusing on getting more sales if you truly want to grow your business.


Anybody who is learning and developing should be able to achieve greater results year-on-year, and when you compound this impact across a whole team, the business improvements can be quite substantial.


It's not about one person but the unified achievement of the group as a whole around a centralised purpose and targeted set of prioritised goals that allows for that to happen.


Purpose beyond profit to unite your team


At the heart of any high-performing team, there needs to be a unifying purpose beyond profit. There has to be a cause for your team to join up around and through which they feel that giving their best is going to be important, meaningful and noble somehow.


It is also important that they can see their contributions will be recognised and rewarded. All of these aspects together feed into the success of a team and the outcomes of that are significant for your business.


This is a complex field for SME owners and not always something they feel confident in doing or have sufficient knowledge to work on without help.


Feel free to give me a call or book a complimentary 90-min Business Review and I’ll be happy to help you get your head around it, and make some suggestions specific to your setting.



Tim Rylatt, UK Growth Coach

Tim is a business coach to smaller/medium-sized business who have found themselves on a ‘plateau’ in terms of performance and want to make a change. He gets real pleasure from seeing business owners reclaim control and create personal/work-life balance. His valuable real-world insight and experience spans many sectors and industries, with businesses at all stages of their journey from start-up through to exiting a business. You would be hard pushed to find a more experienced business coach, having worked with around 250 companies throughout his career. He is also a published author on the subject.



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