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My Team Is High Performing But Everyone Hates Us

Being part of a high performing team is supposed to be great. Everyone’s working together, perfectly aligned and in tune with each other, delivering what the stakeholders wants, in a company that appreciates them. 

Except it’s not always like that.

This is a story about being part of a high performing team. It’s a view from the inside, about the highs and the lows and why being part of a high performing team is great, but it’s rarely the utopia that blog posts and books will have you believe. 

I’ll focus on:

  • Why being part of a high performing team can be fragile and something to be treasured
  • How you can’t be good at everything and being part of a high performing team is all about compromises
  • Areas that can be challenging when leading or being a part of a high performing team; building a diverse team for example
  • Ways in which I have dealt with culture clashes, strong personalities, and conflict
  • Putting the wins of the team above your own personal wins, and why this can be harder in a high performing team
  • Why other high performing teams may not be as good as they look from the outside, and why comparing yourself to that view of perfection may not be healthy
  • Keeping things stimulating and engaging when you hit the big deadline that you’ve been working towards
  • Why you should focus on your sponsors, and how to avoid your high performing team from being one person’s pet project
  • What to look out for when scaling high performing teams, and how to keep everyone caring when teams grow
  • How the team changes when leaders change, and what you can do to ensure a new leader continues to build a culture of great teamwork 

In the end, we all want to be part of a team where we have fun, feel supported and are able to do our best, Is it a high performing team that we’re looking for, or it is just good teamwork? Hopefully, my experiences will help you to answer this question, and play your part in making your team great.

What is the focus of your work today?

I'm VP of Engineering at Bloom & Wild. We’re redefining the flower delivery experience, making the giving and receiving of beautiful fresh flowers the joy it is meant to be. I run the Technology team and you could say that I'm accountable and responsible for all the technology there.

And what is the motivation for your talk?

I want to share a story about a period of my life where I was in what I think was a high performing team. It was all going great. And then it wasn't. I want to explain why that team was good and the things that we did to build a high performing team there. And then some of the things that, in hindsight, we should have looked out for, that caused the team and the product ultimately to fail.

What do you refer to when saying high performing team? KPI or happiness?

It was both. It was a team where we were building and bringing a new product to the market with a very tight deadline to do so, which we did very successfully. We did it in a way that was fun and was a nice thing to be a part of. This story is about how we did that, and what happened afterwards.

And how would you describe the persona and the level of the target audience?

I'd say this can apply to anybody. Most people are part of a team in one way or another. And I think a team performs well because of the team's members as much as anything else. Whether you are in a team or leading a team, you should be concerned about the culture in your teams and know what to look out for. And it’s not just within the team, but also how that team partners and interfaces to other areas of the company, particularly with its stakeholders. There's a part of the story that I'll tell, which is very much driven around how the team did and didn't manage particular stakeholders and the impact of that.

And what would you want this persona to walk away with from your presentation?

A couple of things. I think the first one is an understanding that sometimes what you read about high performing teams it's all great, but you shouldn't look at what you read and feel that it's your bad because your team does not feel like that. I’m sure your team does certain things brilliantly. It’s funny, but like many others I could write blog posts and give presentations about the good times. But hardly anyone seems to write or speak about those times when things aren’t great and I think it's really, really important for people to hear those sorts of stories. So firstly, I'd like people to come away with a feeling that actually "my team isn't that bad." But equally, I'd like them to come away with some things they can do, some techniques they could use or some exercises and changes they could make that might help their teams to become even better.


Stephen Janaway

Technology leader @BloomandWild

Steve is the VP of Engineering at Bloom & Wild, Europe’s fastest-growing online flower company. He's passionate about how we can use technology to push the boundaries of what’s possible while building sustainable, happy, high performing teams. He regularly writes and presents...

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