Build Your “High Five” Performing Team


“It is literally true that you can succeed best and quickest by helping others to succeed.” – Napoleon Hill

My New Team: What Do I Do Now?

I started a new job in early September as director of Minnesota’s Continuous Improvement program. The position had been unfilled since the end of June. My new team has three positions: one open, one filled, and one person had just resigned but was still on the job for a few more weeks. My first task? Ensure each one of the people in these positions is successful. But how?

In the past 25 years, I’ve led teams of between two and 400 people, across public, private, and government sectors. Along the way I served on some incredible teams and a few really bad ones. Here are five things I learned that help build a high performing team:

  1. Meet them where they’re at
    • Each current team member has a set of skills. Maybe they are good at the job, maybe not. You start where the team IS, not where you expected them to be.
    • Help people start out well. Freedom is abandoning all hope of a better past. You can’t fix yesterday, just be present today and guide for tomorrow.
  2. Make sure you both know what their job is, then let them do that job
    • Via Position Descriptions and regular 1v1s for updates.
  3. Remove roadblocks
    • Serve your team. By understanding their work and where you and the team are going, your job is to remove barriers. One of the best compliments you could receive is, “I finally get to do the job I was hired to do!”
  4. Provide cover
    • The team doesn’t have to feel all the pressure from senior leaders or customers. You do.
  5. Promote freedom
    • Everyone needs to grow and learn. I employ a 70-20-10 approach where 70% of a person’s time is doing the specific work in their job description, 20% is doing work related to the job description, and 10% doing work that has nothing to do with the job description (innovation!).

The ultimate challenge and reward for leading a team is to be a net exporter of talent. Once people learn that being on your team means they’ll get to move in the direction of their dreams, you’ll never have a problem finding good candidates. When you have good people, you shouldn’t try as hard as you can to keep them. You should try as hard as you can to get the most by using their skills and abilities, and help them to their next level, before they go.

Here’s What I Did

In each of the following scenarios, I adapted and applied all five tactics.

For the person still there, it was important to quickly remove as much of the extra work she took on during the months-long transition. What a gift to have such a dedicated, hardworking, and schedule-flexibility staffer! And I wanted her to know it.

For the person who had resigned, I worked to ensure her smooth transition to her new opportunity. She was incredibly graceful and helpful in leaving us in good shape. This is a nod to her dedication to civil service and the continuous improvement work we are all passionate about.

I also had to fill the (now) two open positions. One position is soon to be posted. The other one I quickly filled from a roster of qualified candidates. This new person needed to get up to speed quickly, but also in a sustainable way so there was little chance of burn-out or a feeling of overwhelming “it’s too much”!

A Bit More

This past Friday my team embarked on one of our most ambitious projects to date. As the official launch day wrapped up, guess what we did? High fives!

Are you currently building a team, or having trouble with the one you lead? Let’s connect and see if we can get you a “high five!”


Joe Raasch is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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