Most companies who talk about high performing teams are never going to be one - here's how you can

Uncategorized Aug 19, 2021

Punchy statement, right?

I know it to be true based on many experiences of being in high performing teams who actually need to operate in high performance situations where life is on the line, studying other high performing teams at the highest level in sport and business, and then being involved with companies who are talking the talk but won't do the work required to walk the walk.

If you think this is a context specific thing that can't be replicated, you are wrong. It's a human connection thing, so if you have humans, you're all set!

I'll explain the factors you can learn from in this article, but before we start, if you want to know if you're in a high performing team environment ask and answer this question.

  • In an extremely difficult morally challenging situation where one of your team was in a discussion with some people that they really wanted to be accepted by, and they overheard someone bad mouthing or disrespecting you, your decisions or values, would they speak up and make it known in no uncertain terms that they did not agree with what was being said and that it should stop immediately or just keep quiet despite not agreeing?

This is a difficult question to answer, but it is one of the indications of whether you're in a high performing team or not.

This video will give you an indication of the strength of the bond and the individual leadership authority and trust that is given to every single member of this team to be able to make decisions in a moment and be backed by the team.

If you want to understand this at a visceral level, play it full screen, turn up the volume and keep looking at their eyes...

  • Did you see the conviction, belief and calm yet extreme power in their eyes?
  • Did you feel anything physical in your body from watching this?

The All Blacks are a perfect example of a high performing team that are committed to each other and always looking for the extra 1% in their own development.

For the All Blacks this is clear in their humility in the Haka.

Many people believe it is to intimidate other teams, and it does do this, but the primary function of the Haka is for the team on the pitch today to draw strength from their ancestors and to respect those who have gone before them with the hope that they will live up to their legacy.

These are the some of the characteristics that they share with other high performing teams, and that we replicated in 24 Commando together to enhance the high performance culture when I had the privilege of serving there.

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T - Tradition

R - Role Model Behaviour

I - Identity

B - Belonging

E - Excellence


This is how we did it with some of the 'actual policy wording' from the Commanding Officer of the time and how you could benefit from the TRIBE characteristics too


The Regt signifies the importance of traditions that link it from the past to the present in an Annual Durrant dinner and award for the best SNCO; annual Cloutman dinner and award for the best LCpl; Regt’l presence at the Commando (Cdo) Memorial Remembrance Service; Dagger Parades for all new Cdo trained soldiers on re-joining their sqn; CO, RSM and new Cdo Spr attendance at the REA Cdo Branch AGM; biennial Cdo Spr Reunion.

The pictures of the two men next to Tradition in the poster above are:

  • Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Brett Mackay Cloutman VC MC KC who was a British Army officer and awarded the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.
  • Thomas Frank Durrant VC, a soldier in the British Army during the Second World War and a posthumous English recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.

These two men were aspirational figures in our unit's Commando and Engineering history and we the Regiment (read company) signify the importance of traditions that link it from the past to the present in many different ways including by awarding two annual awards:

  • The 'Cloutmant Award' to the best junior leader who had demonstrated the commando qualities in leadership of their people in the year
  • The 'Durrant Award' to the best senior soldier or officer who had demonstrated the commando qualities in leadership of their people in the year

These awards were just one way of many that were weaved into the unit's commitment to its TRIBE and marked with a formal dinner that is still a significant priority and occasion in the unit's annual calendar.

  • What tradition do you have or could you link to from your history that could inspire the behaviours you want to keep alive and reward the team members who strive to live it?

Role Models

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The Commando Memorial at the foot of Ben Nevis.

I expect all members of the Regt to display role model behaviour in all areas, regardless of rank or location, in line with the Army Leadership Code

  • What company values, behaviours or codes do you expect your people to live as role models for your team, your customers and everyone else who comes into contact with your company?
  • Do you have them? Are they lived in real life? Do you live them as the leader?


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The Cdo dagger is an extremely powerful Regt’l identity, which is worn by all members of the Regt on the 3 Cdo Bde badge in uniform and Regt’l/sqn t-shirts on Physical Training. 

The green beret and Royal Engineer Cdo Belt is worn by Cdo trained personnel.  

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We don't need to tell people how great we are, our actions and our identity is already strong enough.

The All Blacks have the all black jersey and the silver fern.

  • What identity do you have in your company that people really care about and can galvanise them as a team?


We must all foster an infectiously inclusive team culture, where everyone feels valued.  

This is true for Cdo volunteers who strive to return to us after completion of the Cdo Course, as well as others who have not completed the Cdo course.  

If you’re here to help and good at your job, come and play, you're part of our team.

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  • How much of a sense of belonging and inclusion do your people actually feel within your company?
  • How could you accentuate it in real life?

Exceptional Everyday in pursuit of Excellence

Members of the Regt are to strive to be ‘Exceptional Everyday’ in the unrelenting pursuit of excellence.

Mediocrity is not what we do.

Soldiers and Officers are to look for development opportunities in themselves and others as a priority in all that they do.  

Practice mission command to the point of discomfort and our men and women will rise to the challenge.

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Mission command where I was trusted with the leading the demolition of a strategic military target in a cave complex in Afghanistan, used to strike our bases by the enemy.

My team and I trusted each other to do our part in the job without question as we laid over 1000kg of explosives whilst under enemy fire. We had each others backs and strived to be exceptional for each other to keep ourselves safe and compete the mission with excellence.

  • What standards do demand of your team?
  • How do you let them live into them through giving them genuine responsibility to make decisions that matter?

These are the kind of characteristics (and there are other formats) that are common in High Performing Teams.

The reason many companies will not ever create them are many, including it takes selfless commitment, is genuinely hard work to build this culture from the beginning, and means that we have to strive to live our values every single day, whether in view of others or not.

For those that do, they become a part of something magical forever, even when they've left, they will always be able to call on the team.

They live in a special bond and it's visceral. That's a very special privilege and worth every effort to build and protect the culture of high performance.

If you’re ready for another level of development, join my amazing tribe of military and other leaders in our Optimise Monthly Coaching Membership, where I’ll coach you on brand new frameworks to optimise your mind, body and development on the first Friday of every month.

If you can't make the live calls, no worries, you have access to a members area with all of the replays and worksheets to use at your convenience and you'll be joining a community of people from around the world who are dedicated to optimising their physical, mental and emotional health and performance.

Find out more about this fantastic offer here High Performance Masters Community

I hope to see you soon, have an amazing day, on purpose!

If you like what I’ve shared with you in this article, please let me know your thoughts in the comments and follow me on social links below.

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