High Performing teams in uncertain times [My ’23 team manifesto]

Drew Jarrett
5 min readFeb 15, 2023

What exactly makes a team “great” to be part of? How do we all build up (vs take up) energy day to day? How do we, together, achieve what seems like the impossible? and… What does ‘High Performing’ even mean! Read on for 5 mins — As a leader I’m holding myself accountable to a few team commitments for ‘23.

Over the last 3 years I’ve kicked each year off by publicly owning a few commitments for my team (a few links at the bottom of you wana read more). The holiday season is well and truly behind us, ’23 is in full swing, and with each year we have a new challenge.

In ’23 we have continued uncertainty to navigate! So I’m going to take 5 mins of your time and share my thoughts on sustaining a High Performing team during uncertain times.

With DEI top of mind throughout.

Firstly, a few definitions / frameworks

A definition of a High Performing is…

A team of “goal-focused individuals with specialized expertise and complementary skills who collaborate, innovate and produce consistently superior results” [Forbes, Key Attributes Of High-Performance Teams All Leaders Must Know].

A growth mindset is…

“Hang on Drew” — [insert quote from anyone in my — or wider — team reading this] — “we are already high performing. Right?! 😅 Job done”.

Honestly, my point of view is — yes — I’m very lucky to be connected with amazing people 🙏. Still, let’s not forget there is always opportunity to grow, learn, adapt. We are not — no one is — perfect and each new challenge demands a mindset to navigate ambiguity.

Cue Carol Dweck’s TED Talk, The power of believing that you can improve and the importance of a growth mindset.

Image Source: https://management30.com/blog/growth-mindset/

A complex world — navigating ‘23…

Everyone, and every year, is different e.g Last year to kick off ’22 I discussed landing virtual working, and one year on a lot has changed! In today’s challenging and complex world, initiatives of the past are not exactly proven to be effective again. We have new personal and professional challenges, and beyond this navigating / making sense of all the craziness such as the Ukraine war, Macroeconomic concerns, Climate Change… (sadly, I can go on).

Image Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cynefin_framework

Cue the Cynefin framework above as a nice way to help make sense of where these different challenges sit, and why defining solid team commitments can move us into a more predictable space (vs an unpredictable).

Given those high level definitions of a high performing team, the importance of strengthening a growth mindset, and focusing initiatives into a predictable space…

My ’23 commitments / manifesto

  1. Building Connection with each other
  2. Bringing Connection with our purpose
  3. Creating space to Disconnect

Building Connection with each other

Image: Photo of myself in ‘illusion’ area — aligning with the wider picture :)

Be transparent (as much as possible) — The goal being to connect everyone with (1) an understanding the wider picture and why we should care, (2) create opportunities to feedback to clear channels of communication, and (3) empower folk to share vs walk on “egg shells”.

Establish a culture of continuous learning — (1) Team level plus (2) individual level L&D plans. As a team we grow together, and win together. That overlap between skills needed in current role and skills needed for personal development plans is a golden area for imminent impact and enabling folk for the future.

Allocate work equitably — (I do, but constantly keeping this top of mind is vital). (1) Distribute work across folk fairly, in alignment skillset and to create equal opportunities. Focus everyone on coming together for cooperation, not conflict. (2) Everyone should feel respected, supported and valued.

Bringing Connection with our purpose

Image: Photo of my Partner in ‘illusion’ area — taking on a stretch target :)

Be boring / repetitive — Keep bringing work back to our team’s (1) ‘northstar’ goals, (2) vision, and (3) values. A team of highly skilled people is pointless unless we all share and align around a set of goals and values, and understand what is expected of us, and recognise the impact we are (or should be) having.

Set Stretch Goals and Innovate — People are exceptional, and are motivated by the ‘extraordinary’ (vs regular), let’s apply this and (1) establish stretch goals focused at moving towards the exceptional. People are natural problem solvers, let’s continue to create an environment that (2) encourages and rewards innovation.

Lead by example — Leadership starts with behavior. (1) Guide via my behavior (vs my words), and create energy that inspires others. (2) Always do the right thing.

Creating space to Disconnect

Quick shout out to Matthew Campbell who has been keeping Wellbeing top of mind across our global leadership group 👏. Thank you.

Image: Photo of myself and Partner in ‘illusion’ area — creating space to detach :)

Tailor individual Wellness plans — In the same way a career plan is unique to an individual, so is a wellness plan. There are (1) group level initiatives we can do to support wellness and mental health, but (2) setting goals to support wellbeing and detachment at an individual level is vital.

Establish a culture of feedback — Feedback and discussion play an important part in growth, building (1) both a loop between individuals (in their day to day), and (2) with me (as a leader). This way we can learn from our successes and mistakes (note: we may not always agree with the feedback 🧐), and adjust our approach accordingly.

Remove unnecessary processes — (1) Don’t distract folk with unnecessary asks (newsletters, snippets…etc), and align to only the most productive / non-repetitive meetings (e.g Stand Ups). (2) Say no / resist the urge to overload, prioritise work against the biggest impact.

To my team, wider team — please hold me accountable to the above. Everyone, uncertain times ahead, let’s face it together, and continue to focus on Clarity not Certainty.

Thanks for reading.



Drew Jarrett

Working @Google across SYD & LDN. Developer. Innovative. Problem solver. Passion for making a difference through what I do. Proud Dad of two amazing girls.