Everyone wants a team that gets results, but the process is often easier said than done. Many organizations are on the constant lookout for the secret sauce of putting together the perfect team, but Blue Shield of California seems to already be there.

High-performing individuals and teams operate above the market average and consistently meet their goals. It can be trial and error to put together the right combination of employees with the right project responsibilities, but building a framework for a high-performing team means the environment is in place that nearly every combination of employees can work together to reach their goals. Mary O'Hara, Chief Human Resources Officer and SVP at Blue Shield of California, provides her four conditions to success to create a high-performing team environment in any office:

Critical few. Anyone who has tried to multitask can speak to the disaster that comes from having too many things going on at once. If a person or a team is divided between 20 different tasks and responsibilities, it's a recipe for being spread thin and causing them to not accomplish any of the tasks well. Instead, organizations need focus. Every person or team should have the critical few things they are working on. With these tasks as the focus, employees know exactly what their responsibilities are and how to use their time and direct their effort to meet their goals.

Multiple modes. The best teams are clear about how the work is going to get done and know that not everyone can work the same way. If everyone on the team is working on the same thing, it severely limits capacity. Instead, high-performing teams distribute the work and create multiple modes of how people work. This will look different for each organization and can include things like breaking it into smaller teams, having employees focus on different areas of a project, or using various technologies to solve problems.

Established operating norms. High-performing teams aren't immune to challenges and obstacles, but they know how to handle difficulties when they arrive. At Blue Shield, this involves taking a proactive approach by having the team discuss how to deal with conflict before it arrives. With operating norms in place, the team isn't completely de-railed when obstacles arise and can continue working after putting the operating norms into place. Having a clear and agreed-upon process also removes office drama and interpersonal conflict because team members already know how to interact with each other.

Feedback training. A big part of working in a team is being able to give and receive feedback. Instead of assuming every employee knows about feedback, Blue Shield puts a large emphasis on the teaching process. Employees at all levels learn how to apply feedback without it taking away from their work experience. Giving employees the tools allows them to quickly apply feedback and speak openly with their team members without worrying how people will respond.

These four conditions to success take some effort but can provide teams the tools they need to be productive and efficient. A main theme is providing employees and teams with the tools and training they need before the work gets difficult and people can get distracted and sidelined.

Mary also notes that talent begets talent and a major focus on high-performing teams should be to create and develop high-performing leaders. When employees have a good experience and learn from example from their leaders who want them to grow, they are more motivated to meet goals and perform well. Corporate culture can also enable or disable high performance among employees. Creating a high-performing team isn't something that only applies to a single team at a company--it becomes part of the culture and is soon applied to every team within the organization.

High-performing teams can make a huge difference within an organization in morale, revenue, and efficiency. The good news is that putting these teams together isn't as difficult as it first may seem. In the team-oriented future of work, creating strong teams will be of utmost importance.

Published on: Apr 7, 2017
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