Last week I was invited by the Rugby Players Association to speak to some of the players and staff at Northampton Saints Rugby Club. The club are currently sitting top of the Premiership with several of the players just returning from representing a variety of countries at the World Cup.

Speaking at Northampton Saints made me think about working in, or managing a high performing team, and how it can present its own influence challenges. This applies to all high performing teams whether it is an elite sports team, a high value complex sales team or the leadership team of any company. If you're relatively junior in the set up then getting your point heard can be difficult and frustrating. If you're managing the team then consistently getting the best out of everyone can require some delicate balancing.

At Applied Influence Group we use our DNA of Influence model as a way of thinking about those people we want to influence. Building up a rich picture of the individual helps you understand what is driving their behaviour and assists you in strengthening your relationships. It can be a useful exercise to fill out a DNA of Influence for all of your team members to see where the gaps are. When we do this with clients they are often suprised at how little they know about some of the people they work with.

Although the model covers a number of areas, there some parts of it which are particularly relevant for working with high performing teams.


There are many different ways that we can think about what type of person someone is. We can think of personal characteristics such as age or family status which might be affecting decision making within the team. The individual who was highly focused on business objectives might have just become a parent and they are now balancing things they've never had to before. Someone else may have largely achieved their life goals and now needs to find motivation in other things.

We can also think about the positive and negative characteristics which that person displays and ask ourselves what that means for both them and the team.

Likes & Dislikes

We all have our own preferences. These can range from how people like to be communicated with to how they like to take their tea and coffee. Over time, a group will learn each others' likes and dislikes and group norms can emerge which takes these into account. The challenge then comes when a new member joins the group with their own likes and dislikes and a lack of understanding of what others within the group like or dislike. It can be easy to forget that often taking into account people's preferences has taken time to achieve and the new person can be viewed as disruptive.

Relationships & Networks

Even within a relatively small team there will be micro-networks, smaller groups within the overall group that coalesce and can become highly influential. Understanding these micro-networks can be a key step in influencing across a team. It may only need you to influence one person within a micro-network for you to have an effect within that part of the group. Identifying who the best person to influence is within a micro-network can make you much more efficient in influencing the overall group.

Desires & Fears

Understanding what individuals want and what they are fearful of can often take a different direction when dealing with a high performing team. High performers are often motivated by similiar desires such as status, power and a will to win. When these are harnessed in the right direction they can be really useful in achieving the team's goals. 

However, when individuals sense there is a threat, the corresponding fears of these desires emerge. The individual may not even be conscious of the threat but will feel it anyway. A threat can come from a change of situation, can be self-induced, or can be stimulated by someone else. In high performing teams these threats can often come from an individual's success where someone else feels threatened by it. 

Within your team, working out who might view what is a threat can be the first step to removing it, allowing them to continue being motivated by desire rather than fear. Working out whether what you are doing might be viewed as a threat by someone else, can also help you change how you interact with your colleagues.


Having a common model to think about team members is just as useful as having one to think about key stakeholders within a client. It can help you identify where your blind spots are with certain team members as well as help you work out why someone's behaviour might have changed.  This can be highly beneficial in any team or management situation but is multiplied when working with high performers where the stakes are much higher.