Barriers to Sustainable High Performance Teams: OR vs AND

With increased demands on school leaders’ limited time and resources, it has never been more important to harness the power of a high performing team.

QELi, in partnership with Drs Peter Stebbins and Danielle Stebbins, has developed a new High Performance Teams framework and run the program with a number of schools and regions around Queensland, with a great response from education leaders and their teams.

Dr Peter Stebbins shares his thoughts on how high performance teams can achieve sustainable results over the long-term, by maximising two co-existing top priorities: achievement and engagement.

One of the biggest barriers schools and organisations face is the sustaining belief that they can only operate effectively with one primary focus—either achievement or engagement.

I have worked with a range of teams and leaders who believe you cannot be profitable and have high levels of achievement if you are focused on team engagement and support (profit or support). Similarly, I have worked with teams and leaders who hold the opposite view; that you can only create high levels of team engagement and support if you lessen the focus on achievement and profit.

This vast chasm between the two camps can lead to inextricably complex and confusing arguments, conflicting strategies and endless politics, choking the life out of many organisations. The sad tragedy is that both points of view are both wrong.

Think about it…solely focusing on achievement may create short-term high performance, however excessive competition and isolation can lead to low morale and unwanted turnover. On the other hand, solely focusing on engagement can create cohesion and higher morale, but can lead to an increased risk of organisational failure, due to the lack of focus on results.

In truth, both elements are critical for a sustainably high performance team. Achievement and engagement can co-exist as equally important forces guiding the success of high performance teams.

But in practical terms, how is it done? The High Performance Teams framework says you can fully focus on both team achievement and team engagement simultaneously by drawing on a relatively simple strategy, and use the team’s focus on performance and achievement to drive their engagement and development of workplace relationships.

When we start focusing our communication strategies on business objectives, and build team engagement and relationships around the achievement of work-focused goals and objectives, teams are more satisfied with achieving business objectives and celebrating results.

To take the next steps down the road of becoming a sustainably high performing team we need to implement some simple yet powerful strategies to address each of the 4 Success KPIs.

You can find out more about High Performance Teams by visiting or following QELi on Twitter ( Facebook (Queensland Education Leadership Institute) and LinkedIn (Queensland Education Leadership Institute).

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Dr Stephen BrownDr Stephen Brown has more than 30 years of Australian and international education experience. Prior to his appointment as CEO of QELi in December 2010, Dr Brown held positions including Regional Director of Hume Region in Victoria and Executive Director of the Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat in the Victorian Department of Education and Early Childhood Development. Dr Brown was awarded the Australian Council for Educational Leaders (ACEL) Nganakarra Award in 2007, an ACEL presidential citation in 2009, and the prestigious ACEL (Qld) Miller-Grassie Award in 2013 for outstanding leadership in education. He has authored research papers on public sector change, leadership and organisational redesign, and is frequently invited to address national and international conferences on leadership, organisational change and school improvement.