Building great teams is hard, but it is the key that distinguishes between mediocre and phenomenal successes. The best teams take time to build, but there are many good ways to develop a solid foundation to jumpstart effective teamwork. In order to build a great team, we need to start by assessing a few things about the individuals comprising a good team as well as the environment necessary to produce a great team.
What does a great team look like?
A great team is able to operate efficiently and effectively in all situations. Every individual knows what the big picture is, what their role in the team is, and how to get there. Each member is able to execute to produce results, knows who to go to for different tasks, and acts independently as well as interdependently. There is usually little confusion, miscommunication, or missteps that prevent results from being achieved.
How do we build a solid team?
- Assess Individual Strengths & Weaknesses - Having a well balanced teams in terms of personality, temperament, skills, and passions. One of the best ways to assemble a team is by having each individual complete a free online Myers-Briggs personality profile and then make sure that your team has a variety of personality types. Having a team that is too introverted won't help in convincing others / selling ideas. Make sure to have idea people that can brainstorm and executors who can put an idea into action. When it comes to team skills, take an inventory of what each person has done and can do well. Someone have web skills? How can the team use these skills? The goal is to make sure you have a well rounded team that can perform all of the different tasks required.
- Develop Clear Expectations - Know early what the team's final product has to be. Using popular goal setting strategies, make sure that the end result is specific, measureable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound. For example, "We want to win" is a bad goal because it is completely unclear. Something along the lines of "Our team will raise $1000 over the course of one week by selling sports drinks at all five sporting events." This can be broken down into actionable steps that tell you where you are and where you need yet to go, which will be based on step #1.
- Start with Small Wins and Build Trust - The fundamental key to having a great team is developing trust in that team. If you haven't worked with individuals in the team before, start by performing small tasks to provide small wins that build trust and credibility (such as showing up to meetings on time). If there isn't trust in a system, there is likely to be confusion, miscommunication, duplicated efforts, and people who simply do not work well together. This needs to be worked on concurrently throughout the whole process but is very important before a team can execute effectively.
- Execute and Hold People Accountable - By having clear expectations and delegating based on strengths, teams can create results and for holes in the system they know who to go to in order to find out why there were missteps. One of the best bits of advice we have seen is that teammates should be put in charge of tasks rather than be required to complete them. What this means is that everyone is in charge of seeing that something is getting done, and if they are having trouble getting it done themselves, they can ask/enlist the help of other members of the team to see that the task gets done. This is especially useful if something unexpected comes up that prevents one team member from being able to personally complete their task.
- Teamwork = Not Letting your Teammates Fail - If anyone on the team notices that someone is having trouble completing their task or has been able to complete their task relatively easily, they should automatically volunteer to help the rest of the team complete their tasks. This is not a natural instinct, and should be vigilantly pursued because it helps build stronger relationships, trust, and gets results.
- Evaluate, Celebrate, and Repeat - Once the team has comleted its goal, or perhaps didn't make its goal, have a group discussion that talks about what went right, what went wrong, what could be changed to make the results better, and what was unexpected? If the goal was met, don't forget to celebrate! Part of being successful means rewarding yourself and your teammates for a job well done. This feedback loop will go through each of the steps continually and the result will be teams that get better at working together and producing results.
What are common reasons why teams fail?
Ego: Anyone who lets their ego get in the way of producing results will always not be a great team player. Share successes, but take responsibility for failure.
Lack of Skills: This can be one of the silent reasons why teams break down. It's usually one of the initial reasons why a team stresses, which then cracks due to other factors that compound the problem. This is why step 1 and 2 are so important. If there is a mismatch between team strengths and the actions necessary to complete the goal, either the team needs to have another member added or the process needed to complete said goal needs to change.
Insecurity: If an individual is insecure, in part it can be attributed to a lack of trust with the team or being designated a task that doesn't match up with their skills or personality. By following the first three steps, this can usually be avoided.
Personality: Let's face it, some personalities simply don't get along with one another. That's why it's important to make sure the team dynamics work and that the team can foster trust between its members. If there is an individual who worked well but over time things changed, the team has to decide whether or not to try to work through the difficulty or to kick the person off the team if they are causing that many problems.
Lack of Defined Goals: Not knowing exactly what everyone is working towards can result in ineffective or even counterproductive efforts. Too much ambiguity leaves room for interpretations that aren't helpful for anyone and result in a team that usually breaks down because no one can communicate effectively and deliver results in ways that build trust.
Team building is hard. There will be many missteps, setbacks, successes, and failures. That's the nature of being on a team. The most important thing to do is to keep an open mind, be tolerant and appreciative of individual differences, and to always work to develop trust between teammates. Through this growing process can the contributions of each member create results greater than what people could produce independently. Team building should be rewarding both as a process and because of the end result it produces, and you'll know you have a great team when each individual's energy builds on everyone elses.