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Managers: The Secret Sauce to Building High-Performing Teams

Written by
Laura Saracho
Laura Saracho

What does it take to build a stellar team? Managers are reimagining the right mix to create a group that is stronger than the sum of its parts.

Remember: finding and creating high-performing teams is not solely a function of your HR team during the hiring process—all leaders must understand the role they play, and how employee recognition fits into the picture. 

How to define a high-performing team 🙋

What comes to mind when you think of a high-performing team? One that knocks ALL of its goals out of the park? Are strong teams the ones who set the bar higher and higher each year? Or is it the “other team” you think about…the one full of over-achievers and know-it-alls?

Let's all agree that strong employee performance isn’t a sign of perfection, but rather a blend of healthy attitudes and actions. 

SHRM explains that a "high-performance work team" refers to a group of goal-focused individuals with specialized expertise and complementary skills who collaborate, innovate, and produce consistently superior results.

This definition provides some clues 🔍  that describe a synced vision and way of thinking. High performance elevates the group over an individual, right? But how do you make sure everyone feels included, challenged, and recognized? This can be quite an issue for managers, executive leaders, and company culture enthusiasts to figure out.


Manager Graphic 3 stat only

Why employee recognition matters ☝

Employee recognition remains one of the top factors for why employees stick around and stay motivated, but it can be overlooked by many companies. A Brand Hall Group study found that having a strong recognition culture meant that employees are 79% more likely to give their employer brand a high rating. In addition, employee retention is likely to increase up to 3x for these conditions.

Good managers share the credit and look for ways to make team members shine. High-performing teams spend time dreaming big and drilling down to every detail. What happens when personal and team goals are met and the recognition falls flat? Think of ways to help inspire each team member by combining individual and team goals in a visible format. That way, the team can celebrate and lift each other up to achieve their performance metrics.

Remember, it can be unnatural for every employee to be their own cheerleader 📣. Team leaders should encourage easy ways for employees to claim their work and space that matches their personality. Finding positive ways to reinforce good performance and collaboration helps build a culture that gives everyone a chance to participate and thrive.


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What high-performing teams want 🙌

If you ask managers what they believe motivates high employee performance…many convos lead to compensation. Harvard Business Review shared a recent joint study from Ignite80 and Front, which concluded that members of high-performing teams reported receiving more frequent appreciation at work—both from their colleagues (72% more) as well their managers (79% more).

SHRM describes the following needs for high-performing teams:

  • A deep sense of purpose and commitment to the team's members and to the mission
  • Relatively more ambitious performance goals than average teams
  • Mutual accountability and a clear understanding of members' responsibilities to the team and individual obligations
  • A diverse range of expertise that complements other team members' abilities
  • Interdependence and trust between members

Clear lines of communication and accountability are important factors when building and managing a stellar team. Good job benefits, competitive pay, and healthy company culture are all factors for attracting and retaining top talent and high performers. Be sure your team is also building a framework for employee recognition and personal development. This helps establish trust with each employee and a roadmap for progress.

Get the free and fun Ultimate Retention Checklist for Managers ✔️

Ways to recognize top-performing employees 📋

No matter the size of your company, there are ways to scale employee recognition and make it a priority. Think of a few ideas for managers to share good performance in both micro and macro groups. Maybe you have a shoutout section in your all-hands meetings, or a team survey to drop a name for getting a project over the finish line. Morning standup meetings with your department are also good times to share praise and recognition for a job well done. Be sure to keep in mind the qualities of effective recognition! 



Besides words of affirmation, organizations are finding effective and scalable ways to reward their teams. Have you ever considered implementing a recognition program to motivate your employees? Many of the top-rated places to work are seeing great benefits from implementing solutions and processes for high-performing teams. Boosts in employee engagement, increased collaboration, and well-organized feedback loops are just a few improvements that can have a BIG impact!

Getting buy-in for employee recognition 🤑

It’s estimated that employee recognition is now a $46 billion market. ​​Business leaders are recognizing the huge value these programs and rewards are having on successful teams. When team members can quickly identify and acknowledge success, it can lead to high productivity and an overall better experience for each employee.

While tenure remains a popular milestone in most employee recognition programs, executives and team leaders should consider daily motivating activities. A survey of employees by Gallup found that recognizing employees at least once per week is best for employee recognition.

How is your business syncing values and company mission with recognizing internal success? According to 83% of HR leaders, employee recognition programs benefit organizational values. 85% of these leaders say they positively affect organizational culture. 💚


The takeaway

If you are looking for ways to engage your workplace, capture more data from your teams on what matters most to them and how to act on it. From there, you can make informed decisions on the steps and solutions to consider for implementing an employee recognition plan for maintaining high performance across your organization.

For more helpful engagement tips, check out this resource!

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Originally published on March 16, 2022 → Last updated October 20, 2022

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Laura Saracho

Laura is the content marketing manager at Bonusly and is passionate about employee engagement and uncovering creative, data-driven ways to drive impact. She loves writing and going on excessively long trail runs.


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