3 Success Factors for High Performance Teams, and What Gets In the Way: Interview with a Millennial

Leadership today has evolved greatly and includes high performance within teams.  Teamwork can also be the “secret sauce” that defines successful organizations.  Our systems for supporting high performance and leadership in teams and in entire organizations have not kept up with the times. Some of our most persistent management practices date from the industrial age, including rating and rankings in performance systems and the difficulty of providing good performance data to teams.  

At a recent workshop with JVS in Southfield Michigan, I shared some of the research and practical organization experience I’ve collected on high performance teams.

3 Success Factors that Define High Performance Teams (Slideshare)  from Deb Nystrom
The  video below excerpt highlights examples of business member experiences with high performance teams, from the workshop.  UPDATE: Skip the 2nd half, as the Losada research has been disproven. Other team performance research cited still holds true.

Simply providing team access to performance data, however, can spur on team performance, including the example above of achieving a championship, (win-loss records.)  The digital revolution is now making performance data more widely available, and more accessible. Decision data” will not be exclusive to management.   The role of, and needs for management may continue to shift.

As we hear of findings and new development from “big data” AND “small data” (highly personalized, tracked), it is also good to explore how access to performance data can inform leadership at all levels and encourage team achievement and speed, especially when old practices that slow and interfere with performance are removed.

That said, is important to remember the basics, what defines a team vs. a group:


“A team is a small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, performance goals, and approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable.”


from The Wisdom of Teams (Harvard Business School Press, 1993)

Note the differences between true teams vs. psuedo-teams  and groups.  Many project and task groups are assembled as teams to accomplish a charge or purpose.    Sometimes these groups or teams: 

  • produce an innovation or breakthrough success for their organizations,
  • are formed based on a favorite interest or pet project / idea of an executive that, in hindsight, provides limited value to their organization.    

An invitation or “team charge” does not a team make.   Here is an excerpt of some sample distinctions as a preview  from next week’s post:

Excerpted from next week's pending handout, Team or Psuedo-Team or Group?

Excerpted from next week’s pending handout, Team or Psuedo-Team or Group?

Photo from Audio - Video "Interview with a Millennial, Part 1"

Photo from Audio – Video “Interview with a Millennial, Part 1”

At JVS in Southfield, Michigan, I included a slide of my own informal findings of what stops performance dead in its tracks, including fresh insights from an interview of a millennial, a 25 year old, describing her work experience after graduating from college in 2010.

If any of these conditions exist, as she cites, good performance, let alone high performance will not happen. I’ll share more about the positive site of leadership with millennials in a future post.

Real Life Interview with a Millennial


The full interview is sobering.  It also may provoke new thinking about the role of managers in business, as well as non-profit and learning environments.  It offers cautions to inexperienced managers.

To lend credence to this interview perspective, I have my own experiences as an internal consultant.   I was hired by a number of university organizations over the years to deal with:

  • Assessing vague, non-specific rumors of sexual harassment which I found to be true in one situation, not in another
  • Finding the source of a persistent, toxic story about a professional that appeared to have been black-balled by faculty (remedied) that affected the department’s evaluative ratings and status
  • Dealing with persistent, emotional, negative emails, a number of which were forwarded to senior executives and elected officials (remedied)

These sample situations could have easily been set within a for-profit business as well.  You may find similar stories in your workplace. Experienced leaders know that whether or not a story is entirely true, a powerful story can take on a life of its own and can live in the grapevine for many years.  

Stories are powerful.  They can be positive and spur change.  Stories can also be negative in how they can dampen morale, erode trust, affect performance metrics (productivity, reputation ratings, department evaluations and customer service evaluations.)  Stories can help or hinder high performing teams and individual performance.

Here is one more team example, pointed and humorous, featuring a group of managers in what could be seen as a “Taker” or “Make the Boss Look Good” traditional, hierarchical culture.  It’s a 2013 video, with 50’s-60’s era sensibilities:

What have you noticed?

  • Have you experienced high performance teamwork vs. psuedo-teams or group work in your work or volunteer experiences?  
  • Do you recall times when group work is preferred (it’s faster) to the time it takes for a true team to form and produce results?
  • Have you noticed the differences in high, medium and low performance teams or groups?
  • Does the single, highest success factor in the research cited above, the Giver culture provide insights into what to do more of, stay the same, and what to stop doing?

As always, your comments enrich the learning!

UPDATE: Losada’s research has been found faulty, as listed in the comments. The information on teams, minus Losada, however, still stands today, 2018.

Deb continues in her role as President of Reveln Consulting, LLC and welcomes an introductory conversation with you. Contact Deborah Nystrom at 734-846-5631, or email Deb, DebNystrom@REVELN.com


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Thanks for stopping by.   As always, on-topic comments are very welcome!

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5 Responses to “3 Success Factors for High Performance Teams, and What Gets In the Way: Interview with a Millennial”

  1. […] are called teams, consistently underperform and many fail (Hackman, 2002.) From my last post on 3 Success Factors for High Performance Teams, you can see visually that high performance teams are hot-rod versions of true […]

  2. […] Read the full blog post here: reveln.com/3-success-factors-for-high-performance-teams-a… […]

  3. Salada says:

    Hi Original Poster,
    Just for your information, Losada’s paper was proven to be false and incorrect by a critique paper. Losada was heavily incorrect and not factual about their assertions. Their evidence was not mathematically correct because it is clearly evident that Losada did not understand mathematics. I highly suggest you to read the critique paper by Brown, Sokal and Friedman.

    The critique paper is called “The Complex Dynamics of Wishful Thinking: The Critical Positivity Ratio”.

    July 15, 2013 Published in American Psychologist 68, xxx–xxx (2013) http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0032850 c 2013 American Psychological Association

    A Millennial named Salada

    • Thank you Salada. Yes, I learned last year that Losada’s paper / conclusions turned out to be false – misleading. I will either add a disclaimer to this post or will edit the post to share the update about the Losada information. For now, your comment helps! Thank you for taking the time to share the update, lessons learned about the Losada research.

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