Collaboration: The essential elements of high-performance teams


Humanizing remote teamwork has become more relevant than everAlthough organizations around the world have been working with dispersed team members for years or decades, crisis has turned this into a new norm that many more people are now experiencing. And the situation in which we find ourselves has also prompted us to be much more aware of our colleagues’ and our own role in our teams.  

Although the tools we use come with various features, we must not forget what they’re truly designed for: to help us get things done. But don’t lose yourself in the process. Regardless of all the work that needs to be done, remember that we’re all human, and essential parts of the teams we belong to. 

Now that we have all the tools, what can we do on the human side to make our team collaboration healthier and more impactful?  

The value of teamwork: 1+1 = 3 (or more!) 

Let’s dive into some general characteristics of teams. You already know what a team is, so we won’t go into definitions.  

But there are different types of teams where the human aspects are crucial, not just for the members’ mental health, but also for the results they’re producing. These teams are ones in which each individual member brings their own set of skills to the tableTypically, we see this in project teams or management teams, but it’s also the case with sports teams, Special Forces, and so on. 

Teams are comprised of people who are highly interdependent on one another. Take the example of a sports team: adding one specific player to the team in the right position can completely change the outcome of the game. And we all know that even if that player is extremely skilled, the results will only come if the player blends into the team and feels he’s accepted by the team.  

In this type of team and dynamics, 1+1=3 (or more!), that is, adding one team member can completely change the outcome in a positive way. 

Often times, these teams are extremely cross-functional and therefore also very likely to have members who work in geographically separate locations. 

How do you know if you’re part of a real team 

Team concept illustrations

Team concept illustrations

Teams are often depicted through these types of illustrations. However, they fail to represent the different human beings, each with their own personality, strengths, weaknesses and affinities 

Team DNA: purpose, values, personalities and skills

Team DNA: purpose, values, personalities and skills


That’s why I believe teams may be better represented through this illustration. In real teams, every member is special, with their own DNA, and where everyone individually contributes to the overall team DNA.

So the answer to our header question How do you know if you’re part of a “real team”? is actually incredibly simple.

If you are part of one, you’ll feel it and know it.

If you are part of one, you’ll feel it and know it.

Real teams are also more resilient, which is when teams can still function when everything around them may be falling apart. The resilient team stays standing and adapts quickly to new challenges, instead of becoming dysfunctional. In fact, research has shown that the most fundamental reason for dysfunctions in a team is the absence of trust.

What are the characteristics of peak performing teams?

Inspired by the what Patrick Lencioni calls the five dysfunctions of a team, here’s how we describe the five characteristics of peak performing teams in a positive way – the traits of a team which DO lead the team to success. While these characteristics are already essential for teamwork when people are in the same building, they remain equally important and valid when people are distributed:

  • Trust
    “I can express my concerns and be respected.”
    People in these teams trust each other and can express their concerns without fear.

  • Healthy debate
    “I can give my opinion and contribute.”
    And because there’s no fear, they don’t fear conflict either, and can have healthy debates which lead to innovative ideas.

  • Commitment to what’s decided collectively
    “OK, now I’ll go for it, 100%. Even if I need to put some personal preferences aside.”
    Once they agree on something collectively, they’re fully committed.

  • Accountability
    “I feel co-responsible.”
    They show accountability for each other: they’re in the same boat and they feel co-responsible for the decisions they make.

  • Focus on results
    “We challenge the outcome; we exchange feedback to course-correct and we celebrate what we achieve.”
    All of these wouldn’t make sense if the team didn’t have laser-like focus on results. They challenge each other, exchange feedback to get better results, and they celebrate when they achieve an important milestone.


Members of peak performing teams have also acquired small habits over time, which are essential to maintain the key ingredients of their performance.

Peak performing team members habits

Peak performing team members habits

But what happens when these team members need to split? If they need to work from home or from geographically distributed locations?

Today, the challenge is no longer having the right communication tools, like it was 20 years ago. Today, the question is: what’s the purpose of the collaboration tools when we are talking about “any time, any place” teamwork?

The two sides of teamwork and the role of collaboration tools

Teamwork processes

Teamwork processes

Teamwork combines two tracks that go hand in hand and reinforce each other, just like combining two DNA strands would:

  • Task accomplishment processes
    The first track is where you and your team members get things done. That’s where tools for planning, execution, reporting and optimization come into the equation.

  • People engagement processes
    The second track is about what a team needs to get people engaged. It’s the track where motivation grows, where people start to love their jobs, and where they get more engagement and impact in the tasks they accomplish. It’s also where they feel satisfaction because they feel they are growing.

In both strands, we have important elements to make the “any time, any place” collaboration more human.


To explore what practical tips to help your team members feel safe and connected, check our ebook Humanizing remote teamwork: quick wins for team leaders. Whether you’re working with your team in the same room or across the globe, you’ll get handy pointers to avoid letting tools take over the human side of teamwork.