Winning Teams – The Eight Characteristics of High Performing Teams by Tim Baker

Book review by Ian Hamilton

In our last newsletter I promised I would review Dr Tim Baker’s recently released ninth book, ‘Winning Teams: The Eight Characteristics of High Performing Teams’. You may recall Tim also wrote a guest blog for us in June this year, which you can read here. Tim’s insight into the way teams of people most effectively work together is intriguing, as is his view on teams being a holistic microcosm of the broader organisation. There were some fascinating take outs for me, and I strongly recommend this book to anyone working in a team environment who is keen to maximise cohesion, job satisfaction and productivity. Please read on for some highlights.

The key attributes of team performance

The concept of self-management and regulation is not new. I remember in the early 90’s there was a lot of talk about the importance of becoming a learning organisation and building self-managing teams. Tim has built on this concept and developed a great recipe for methodically working through identifying, building and measuring the key attributes of team performance.  Through this process Tim gives good insight on how to develop a range of skills across the whole team, covering everything from sharing the leadership to managing stakeholders. He encourages everyone in the team to gain experience and skills in a range of attributes necessary for being a high performing team, allowing each person to develop professionally.

Building, Buffering and Bridging

These are the three key functional areas Tim explores in detail. He describes the three characteristics of buffering as building trust, sharing leadership and being agile. Bridging in contrast involves reaching out to other critical people and resources beyond the team. In buffering, Tim spends time differentiating job roles and non-job roles. Interestingly, this is what we do in the recruitment process when breaking the person’s specification into Can Do’s – specific skills and experience necessary for the role and Will Do’s – motivations or behaviours.

Behaviours to succeed in virtually any role:

  • positive and enthusiastic attitude
  • working well with others (described as displaying teamwork in the book)
  • developing oneself
  • contributing to improving the functioning of the team.

Building meaningful relationships

Tim explains we must all pay attention to the way we deliver messages, as this can have more impact than the message itself. He also explores the ever-increasing importance of trust and explains how to define team values. Through this, the book becomes a useful reference guide for any manager, organisation or team.


Tim dedicates significant time to understanding if the team is aligned and heading in the right direction – all very important stuff. I often talk to my clients about the need to communicate purpose and strategic direction to candidates and existing employees, so they feel empowered and an important part of a larger whole.

Technical training, personal development and problem-solving ability

Training is broken into these three components. Tim recommends that while organisations focus most of their resources on technical with some personal development, everyone will gain from improving problem solving ability in staff.

Learning high performance from sporting teams

Aspects of diversity are also covered, diversity of attitude, cultural background and beliefs. In the book Tim talks heavily about the All Blacks as a case study, with his main reference being James Kerr’s book Legacy. James has produced a well-documented case study and gives terrific evidential support to much of what Tim describes. Tim also uses non-sporting references and offers further readings for those wanting to pursue the subject in more detail.

I highly recommend this book to anyone wanting to understand how to create high performing teams made up of capable and self-motivated people. Tim pulls together an effective methodology for understanding the attributes of team effectiveness, testing the cohesiveness of the team and measuring the eight characteristics as outlined in the book. It is a great reference to keep in the library of any leader with good workable examples of best practice and of developing skills. I encourage you to give it a read and let me know what you think!

Happy reading!

Ian Hamilton