Building a High-Performance Team: Professional Sports and Your Business


Building and leading a high-performance team is the ultimate end goal for any business leader. Actually understanding exactly what it takes and means to build a high-performance team, is what seems to be the greatest challenge of all.

When we think about high-performing teams, the first teams that usually come to mind are professional sports teams – teams that are a part of some of the most rigorous leagues: NFL, NHL, MLB, MLS and NBA. But what exactly is it that makes these teams so successful? What is their secret to success?

Your immediate answer may be their quarterback, pitcher, or point guard – the people who are seemingly running the show. Or maybe you say it’s their physique that allows them to plow through the other competition. Some might even say it’s all on the coach – their inspiration and knowledge determine their overall success.

The first step in understanding how these teams craft their high-performance energy, is to understand that all of the things actually only play a minor part in the greater whole. From the minute that they step on the field, the court, or the rink, they’re encompassed by the atmosphere and mood set by the team. Your team is your backbone, and without them, you wouldn’t be able to play. The same goes for your business.

Professional athletics are more than just a game to be watched. They are classrooms for learning and instilling positive attributes. Loyalty, character, discipline, teamwork, and leadership values are the main principles in a team’s success. Whether it be building a high-performance basketball team, or a high-performance workplace team, the same fundamental principles apply.

What are the main fundamental principles of creating a high-performance team?

  1. Platform
  2. Process
  3. Purpose

Platform – To create any team, you first need to create a solid foundation. Your foundation consists of people, training, and standards. A team is comprised of individuals, who are trained to meet the same set of standards. As with any professional sports team, if you don’t continue training throughout the season, you’ll fail. If your training doesn’t involve the same standard for every person and training session, then you’ll never have a clear shared objective, and your results won’t achieve organizational excellence.

Process – Strategic execution in daily operations is key to creating a high-performance team. Your team must have a shared mental model that can break down silos and communication barriers with a simple, scalable process. Imagine your favorite sports team playing in one of the biggest games of the season, but without proper communication. Without communication about what process (or plays) they want to run, they won’t be able to adequately execute (or win).

Businesses can run their processes through the  Flawless Execution℠ Cycle, which originates from the zero-tolerance-for-error world of military aviation. Through the four main steps of the cycle (Plan, Brief, Execute, and Debrief), the end result is ultimately success. Find out more about how to implement the Flawless Execution Cycle here.

Purpose – What is your team playing for and how are you going to get there? Essentially, what is the end goal? In professional sports, it’s to win the game. For your business, it’s to reach your full potential. The first step in winning is describing what victory looks like for you. High-performance teams find the balance between setting a strategic direction and allowing practical execution by Leader’s Intent. It’s best to allow for open planning so that you have a conducive environment for ideas. Instill leadership amongst all your team members. You’re only as strong as your weakest link, so build your team to be full of strong links.

What is the ‘secret’ to the success of your favorite sports team? It’s not the quarterback, it’s not the coach, it’s not their physique. It’s the combination of the attributes that every member of the team brings to the table. Creating a high-performance team isn’t a one-man show, it’s instilling loyalty, character, discipline, teamwork, and leadership amongst all team members to build the best business you can.

Want to start building a high-performance team, but don’t know where to start? Reach out to us here. We’d love to bring our team in to help.