Characteristics of High-Performing Teams

Characteristics of High-Performing Teams

Understanding characteristics of high-performing teams is important for any business. In fact, if you have ever doubted the urgency for high-performing teams in healthcare, medical death rate data should make you sit up straight. A study done at Johns Hopkins estimated that more than 250,000 deaths per year in the US are due to medical error. This figure is higher than deaths due to respiratory disease, which, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is the third leading cause of death. This means medical errors are, in fact, the third leading cause of death.

It stands to reason that a well-oiled team consisting of actively engaged, dedicated, and goal-focused professionals, who work seamlessly together towards the same goal, would minimize the risk of patient death. These teams display certain outstanding characteristics that bring about extraordinary results. While each team is unique, most high-performing teams share the following characteristics.

1. Share a common goal

High-performing teams share a common goal, which stems from a shared vision. Both individual and team goals are set to support the team’s shared vision. Goals are clearly defined, and everyone on the team knows what they are.

In healthcare, teams that work well together are fundamental to achieving healthcare goals: the best possible health outcomes for patients. Healthcare teams have many stakeholders, including doctors, nurses, hospital management, emergency personnel, administration, and other support staff.

Effective healthcare teams work according to flexible and SMART goals that are aligned with the organization and the department the team functions in. Because every team member knows what they have to do and why they are doing it, the team becomes highly effective, leading to successful outcomes for patients and teams, with improved patient care and safety, improved productivity, and less risk of burnout among team members.

2. Trust And Respect

One of the most critical characteristics of high-performing teams is trust and respecting one another. Trust and respect are the basic prerequisites for a high-performing team. A healthcare team can’t possibly hope to deliver optimal care if they don’t trust and respect each other. Members on high-performing teams value each other and trust the abilities of each person. They don’t see diversity as a threat Rather, they know that it brings multiple perspectives and skills, which benefit decision-making.

When team members value each other, the benefits for the team are many:

  • Members become more engaged and committed to each other and their work
  • Collaboration becomes effortless, leading to higher productivity and increased morale
  • Members are more forthcoming with their ideas
  • Communication is effective
  • Members can be themselves because they know diversity is valued
  • Conflicts are handled better

Lack of trust and respect among team members can be disastrous for the team and its goals. To avoid this, and to allow for the complexity of modern society, institutions must not take it for granted that team members will have a high regard for each other. Steps must be taken to provide proper training on how to build trust and respect through formal exercises.

3. Effective and timely communication

High-performance teams pay a lot of attention to the way they communicate. They make sure that their communication is clear and timely. Research has shown that effective communication is the most decisive factor for establishing and maintaining collaborative teams. In fact, effective communication is an indication of the efficacy of teams.

In the healthcare industry, effective and timely communication is of the utmost importance. Research shows that U.S. hospitals waste more than $12 billion annually due to miscommunications between healthcare providers. Miscommunication among care providers leads to patients staying longer in hospital than they need to, with a 500-bed hospital losing more than $4 million annually as a result of poor communication.

Effective communication is vital in the healthcare industry – poor communication can cost a patient their life. Information needs to be conveyed in clear language and on time. In high-performing teams, this is exactly how things are done. It’s so easy for misunderstandings to develop in hospitals and clinics where people work different shifts and don’t always see each other at the same times every day, possibly resulting in poor patient care. 

4. Continuous Learning

Healthcare has changed drastically in recent times and change will continue to accelerate. It’s impossible for individual healthcare professionals to keep up to date with all developments. For instance, the U.S. National Guideline Clearinghouse has published more than 2,700 clinical practice guidelines, and every year more than 25,000 new clinical trials are published.

As more information becomes available, teamwork in healthcare is the only option. In highly effective teams, each team member counts on the knowledge of other team members, trusting that everyone is committed to continually keeping abreast of the latest developments in healthcare.

Top healthcare teams are aware of new developments and are willing to implement new techniques, medicines, and procedures, such as robotic surgery. A top quality of high performing teams is leadership that encourages healthcare teams to learn and grow together.

5. Effective conflict resolution

As with any situation where people work together in a group, conflicts in healthcare teams are inevitable. Teams that are able to resolve disputes effectively without trivializing the contributions of any of its members, complete tasks in time and successfully, contributing to the overall success of the entire team

High-performing teams realize that conflict stalls their productivity and impacts patient care negatively, so they employ proven strategies to ensure that spats and disagreements don’t deteriorate into unhealthy conflict.

  • Psychological safety. Google’s 2-year study of team success found that the brilliance of team members was not as important as psychological safety. The study looked at 180 real-life teams and found that highly successful ones provided a work environment where members feel safe to express themselves without fear of ridicule or rejection. As a result, these teams get the continual input of all members, not just the most vocal ones.
  • Normalize sharing ideas and thoughtful disagreement. Instead of avoiding or ignoring conflict, successful teams expect it to happen and encourage discussion by all team members. This approach makes healthy discussions the norm, much like what happens within close families.
  • Never allow conflict to become insurmountable. Successful teams find ways to turn conflicting ideas into a challenge to find innovative solutions. For instance, when the team can’t choose between two options, the team actively looks for alternative solutions. This approach gets team members to focus on the goal, not on winning a debate or proving a point.

6. Clear roles and responsibilities

It is common today for patients and family members to be confused about who is in control of the patient’s care. Often when asked about the issue, the answer is something like, “We’re a team working together’’. The team members can’t really say who is responsible for what. In high-performing teams, every team member knows their own and every other team member’s role and responsibilities.

High-performing teams have clearly defined roles and responsibilities, which minimize conflicts and ensure accountability. These teams and the patients they care for, experience less stress because everyone knows what they have to do. When roles and duties are clear, there is less chance for confusion or errors.

In these teams, members understand and appreciate the roles of doctors, nurses, nursing assistants, social workers, physical therapists, and other allied health professionals as part of the overall purpose and function of the team to provide the best possible patient care.

7. Patient-centered care

One of the many characteristics of high-performing teams in healthcare is a focus on patient-centered care, realizing that this approach improves outcomes for patients. In this approach, patients are partners in their own health care. The team doesn’t only take clinical factors into consideration, but also emotional, mental, spiritual, social, cultural, and financial factors.

High-performing healthcare teams actively encourage patient and family participation in designing a customized and comprehensive care plan. In addition to clinical care, these teams work towards the physical comfort and emotional well-being of patients.

The team takes patient preferences and family values, as well as cultural traditions and socio-economic realities into account. In this regard, the presence of family members is encouraged. The team ensures that test results and other relevant information is given to patients and their family members to help them make informed decisions.

8. An optimistic, can-do attitude

It’s well known that people who practice optimism in life and at work are more satisfied with and effective in what they do. High-performing teams are characterized by cohesiveness and cooperation that stems from team optimism. Optimism and a can-do attitude are mutually strengthening. 

In these teams, leaders, managers, and members actively foster optimism by challenging each other to frame challenges as opportunities. Studies have shown that successful teams tend to make positive solution-focused statements and avoid problem-focused statements, which fosters an optimistic mindset within the team. Optimistic teams tend to be more committed to high-priority goals, enabling them to work hard to solve complex challenges so common in healthcare situations these days.

The team and its members maintain a positive and optimistic atmosphere by making optimistic assumptions about current challenges and having the attitude that a solution will be found.

9. Strong leadership

The healthcare industry is complex and changing at the speed of light. Providers, from private practices and clinics to hospitals, are expected to provide flawless, high-quality, timely care, while working long hours in stressful circumstances. This can only be done with the guidance of quality leadership. Great teams have great leaders.

Great teams are led by team leaders who are respected and trusted. The focus and guidance that these leaders provide help teams to act as a cohesive unit towards the same goal. Successful teams are led by optimistic and positive leaders who communicate an expectation that the team can rise to any challenge. This, often implied belief, encourages the team and motivates it to deliver the best possible service.

10. Collaboration

Some teams perform better than others. One reason for their success is the team members know how to work together for a common goal. A clear, common goal is a prerequisite for a collaborative team. Teams cannot function effectively if team members are focused on their own goals and performance. In high-performance teams, the success of the team is prioritized over the success of each member, and everyone works together to achieve the team’s goals.

In high-performing teams, professionals with specialized knowledge and skills collaborate to achieve specific results, all while encouraging team members to contribute to the efforts.

Research has also shown that effective healthcare teams consider commitment to working collaboratively, dedication to the organization, and commitment to quality outcomes as defining teamwork competencies.

Final thoughts

Teamwork is crucial for the provision of optimal healthcare. These days, healthcare is provided by a team consisting of various interdisciplinary groups consisting of medical, nursing, allied health practitioners and administrative staff – the days of the lone doctor visiting his patients at home are long gone. One individual can no longer provide complete medical service to patients. In fact, reliable patient outcomes depend on effective interdisciplinary teamwork.

Teamwork in healthcare provision has become so important that there are calls for training on how to work effectively in teams to be included in courses for all students who want to work in healthcare, whether as doctors, nurses, or therapists. Now you can take these 10 characteristics of high-performing teams and apply them to your business.