Getting a GRIP on High Performing Teams

We all know that teams don’t just perform at their optimum level from day 1; it takes time and energy from everyone involved, from the team members to the managers.

The stages of development that teams pass through to achieve high performance, as defined by Bruce Tuckman’s Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing model, are well known and documented. I think Tuckman’s model provides a useful starting point to enable  managers to consider the interventions needed to reach that Performing stage as quickly as possible.

So, if you think about your team right now, at what stage are they? Are they Performing? Are they achieving everything you expect and need them to achieve? What would they, or others, say about their level of performance? If they’re not yet at the Performing stage, what do they need to do to reach it or, if they are, what do they need to do to maintain it?



I have been fortunate enough to work in high performing teams during my career. I have also seen teams where individual members focus on fulfilling their own responsibilities with no clear understanding or acknowledgement of the overall team goal or the responsibilities of their colleagues.  Teams like this have no chance of becoming a high performing team; teams like this need to get a GRIP!

The GRIP model describes 4 key aspects that teams should consider to help them fulfil the team’s potential. In this blog, I talk through each aspect of GRIP and suggest some questions for you and your team to consider to determine areas of team strength and possible areas for development.





Firstly, team members need a common understanding about the team’s goals. It’s all very well working hard, but the team need to be heading in the same direction. The fundamental question here is “What is it we need to achieve?” or “What is our end goal?”

Other helpful questions are those that further clarify why the team exists. For example:


  • Why does our team exist?
  • What are our individual objectives?
  • How do they help us to achieve the team goals?
  • What is the organisation’s vision and mission?
  • How does what we’re doing help to achieve that?


High performing teams support each other and have clarity about the roles that exist within the team. This helps them to be flexible and responsive to sudden, unexpected, changes or events. So here, we want to ensure clarity about the roles and how they fit together to achieve the goal. Here are some useful questions:

  • What roles do we have in the team?
  • How do we ensure the expectations of each role are clear?
  • Where is there duplication and overlap?
  • Who is responsible for what?
  • How do we organise ourselves and work together to achieve our goals?




As well as being clear about the Goals and Roles, teams also need healthy and constructive interactions both within and beyond the team. This aspect is about how we work together and support each other, both within and outside of the team.

Questions that help us to be clear about interactions are:

  • How will we support and challenge each other?
  • How will we deal with conflict?
  • How will we work with other teams?
  • How will we ensure everyone feels involved and listened to?
  • What groundrules would it be useful to have within the team?




Finally, teams need confidence and clarity about the processes and procedures that exist to support progress towards their goals. This includes, for example

  • processes for getting the job done, e.g. authorisation processes
  • communication processes, e.g. weekly team meetings.

Asking questions around this aspect will clarify the extent to which the processes help or hinder the team and therefore foster communication about what works and what doesn’t!

Helpful questions include:                   

  • To what extent are our processes aligned to our goal?
  • Which of our processes work well right now? Which don’t?
  • How do we structure our decision making processes? How well do these work?
  • How do we ensure we continue to communicate and co-operate with each other?
  • What control mechanisms do we need to put in place? For example, how often do we need to meet?

I’ve suggested just 5 questions for each aspect of GRIP but I’m sure you could add many of your own to help achieve greater clarity.

As you’ve probably realised, these 4 aspects are mutually dependent. If you don’t have Goal clarity then you can’t possibly have clarity about the other 3 areas. Likewise, you may have clarity about the Goal but if Role clarity is missing, there will be tensions and friction which need to be addressed before considering how you Interact with each other.

Working with your team to ensure clarity in the 4 aspects of GRIP will increase your chances of creating a high performing team that is well respected, successful and, most importantly, where people work well together.

As the manager, you will have a view about the level of clarity that exists about each aspect of GRIP. Does your team share your view? Does everyone in the team have the same view? If not, then there is clearly some work to do to align the team’s thinking.

So, for GRIP to be helpful, you will need to find out what your team thinks too! How about asking them at your next team meeting?! Knowing what they think will allow you to work together to determine what needs to be done to achieve greater clarity on each aspect, as well as to celebrate and re-inforce the areas that work well.

I hope that this has given you some food for thought about how your team can achieve their optimum level of performance. Get a GRIP together!

Look out for next month’s blog on Strategic Thinking.

Posted by Caroline Lewis

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