Building a high performing team: lessons from our Commonwealth Games athletes

With today marking the start of the 2018 Commonwealth Games, we find ourselves reflecting on the lessons our competing athletes can teach us about high performing teams in the workplace. Striving for excellence both individually and together as a team, they demonstrate the amazing results that can be achieved when passionate, committed, and fully engaged individuals share a common purpose.

While the business benefits of a high performing team are obvious – greater productivity, profitability and performance – it can also give your employment brand a competitive edge, helping you attract and recruit the right talent even in a candidates market.

Here are four tips on building a culture of high-performance, to attract and retain the best candidates:

Create healthy competition

Healthy competition can have many benefits in the workplace. It pushes your team to be the best they can be, increasing innovation and performance while also providing opportunities to learn valuable skills and lessons along the way. It is through healthy competition that we evaluate our strengths and weaknesses, and develop the motivation to excel.

Healthy competition also boosts creativity; think of how much more creative a team can be when they are competing for a bonus or trying to win a client account. Ashley Merryman, the co-author of Top Dog: The Science of Winning and Losing, sums this up well, “Whether professional musicians or school children, studies have shown competition fuels creativity and even improves the quality of the work produced. More than that, the skills that make you a great competitor – such as a willingness to push boundaries, trust one’s instincts, problem-solve – those are the same skills needed for innovation.” 

Set individual performance goals

Athletes push themselves to achieve extraordinary feats as they are driven by their goal to break records, be the best and earn a coveted gold medal. We do better when we have a goal to strive for. It is also easier for us to manage our time more effectively as our goals help us prioritise the tasks we need to do and identify the skills and relationships we need to develop.

Jeff Boss in his Forbes article 5 Reasons Why Goal Setting Will Improve Your Focus explains, “Having a clear, compelling goal mobilises your focus toward actionable behaviour…When you set a goal, you naturally direct your attention toward a next step and, as a result, lead yourself in the right direction which forces your actions—your behaviours—to follow.”

Have a compelling purpose

While our Commonwealth Games athletes will have their own performance goals to achieve, together they are striving for something greater – Australia to lead the medal table. Your team should be the same. While everyone needs to meet their own performance goals, to drive your organisation forward, you need to be united in purpose.

In the Harvard Business Review article The Fundamental Purpose of Your Team it was said, “A clear and compelling purpose is the glue that binds together a group of individuals. It is the foundation on which the collective “we” of a real team is built.” Is your team working towards a clear and compelling purpose?

Establish a great support system

While we see an athlete compete individually, the truth is their success is a result of a team effort behind the scenes. There are coaches, mentors, dieticians, doctors, physiotherapists, massage therapists and more that are all there to support them on their journey, help them maintain good health, establish training plans and provide every opportunity to excel.

Your workplace is no different. For your team to excel they too need coaches and mentors who believe in them and are willing to help, they need processes and training to upskill and do tasks efficiently, and even more importantly be given the opportunity to thrive in a collaborative culture where everyone is willing to help the other succeed.

By investing the time to build a high-performance culture now, you will naturally attract high performers into your team – and ensure underperformers don’t stay under the radar.

At Arete Executive, we actively work with clients to identify and engage high performing candidates for management and executive leadership roles throughout Australia and Asia. To find out more about our executive search and placement services, please contact Fiona Cochran or Sally-Anne Blanshard on +61 7 3010 9220 or email   

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