Collaborative research teams are a necessary and desirable component of most scientific endeavors. Effective collaborative teams exhibit important research outcomes, far beyond what could be accomplished by individuals working independently. These teams are made up of researchers who are committed to a common purpose, approach, and performance goals for which they hold themselves mutually accountable. We call such collaborations “high-performing collaborative research teams”. Here, we share lessons learned from our collective experience working with a wide range of collaborative teams and structure those lessons within a framework developed from literature in business, education, and a relatively new discipline, “science of team science”. We propose that high-performing collaborative research teams are created and maintained when team diversity (broadly defined) is effectively fostered and interpersonal skills are taught and practiced. Finally, we provide some strategies to foster team functioning and make recommendations for improving the collaborative culture in ecology.