High Performing Design Teams

brian mcconnell
2 min readNov 10, 2021


How do you make the total greater than the sum of the parts?

There are lots of talented designers. There are teams with meaningful missions. But rare are the teams that are able to harness the talent, the mission and the culture to produce results that transcend expectations. The best design teams are able to surprise you.

I’ve seen high performing teams usually share these attributes:

High trust

High performing teams work together in concert, rather than acting as a disparate group of individuals. The contribution of each member compliments those people around them.

Low ego. Play for the name on the front of the jersey rather than the back. Each person supports one another to help the collective group achieve its goals.

Everyone puts the same achievements on their linkedin.

The journey is the reward.

Confidence that your efforts are not being wasted.

Shared Mission

Everyone knows what flag they’re flying and where it’s headed. Smart, creative and ambitious people don’t need extra motivation. They need alignment on where to aim their efforts. The team goals should be clear and known by everyone in the team. Everyone needs to know what they are and what the priority is. All the team-members need to be able to recall those goals or know where to reference them.

You also need to make sure everyone has the same understanding of what those goals are. Ask each person what we’re trying to accomplish as a team. If the answers differ, then you might have some work to do as a leader to recalibrate your message.

Supportive Leadership

The team believes their leaders are working to support them in achieving their goals; both for the team and individually. Nothing undermines the performance of team faster than a leader who is not pulling their weight or demonstrates that they believe the success of the individuals is in service of their success.