Building a team is much like building a home: brick by brick, step by step. The first building block is exceptional leadership. From there, everything else will fall into place with the end result being a pretty even blend of both an art and a science. A leader who can consistently build high-performance teams is key to the success of the whole operation. Large and small, companies need someone with the knowledge of building long-lasting teams — something many managers can’t do and the reason why many leaders don’t reach the highest forms of success. Forbes puts it this way: it requires the ability to master the art of people, knowing just how to maneuver hundreds of people at the right place at the right time.
Akin to a game of chess, building an effective team takes strategy and a little bit of luck, with strength at the forefront even amidst the knowledge that the wrong move could cost the company hundreds of thousands of dollars. Nothing like pressure, right? Well, leaders operate their best under pressure. Building a team is just another day at the park for top executive leaders. So, how can you get there? Let’s take a closer look.
Focus on Roles
A thorough selection process brings long-term benefits, even if this means you spend more time recruiting than you have time for. Hiring someone just to have bodies in the room can imperil your team, points out Entrepreneur. You don’t want to run the risk of becoming a revolving door, whether that’s because prospective employees view the role as a temporary landing pad and don’t really want to put in the investment of learning, or because you realize later that they won’t make a good fit. Either way, time is money. Invest resources in people whose roles truly match with objectives set forth by your company. Often, this isn’t something that sticks out on their resume. No candidate will say “I’m only aiming for this job as a stepping stone to something better.” Often, this takes gut instincts on your part — another quality of a great leader.
Play to Strengths
Understanding what each individual member’s strengths are allows each person to shine. It’s rare for an employee to vastly improve on a deficiency, especially if that deficiency is just a part of their character. A team member who isn’t good at managing details will probably never be good at that task. But if you play to their strengths — perhaps they’re great at communication with clients — and pair them with a detail-oriented team member, you’ll shore up both parties.
Just like families, teams need to know how to work things out on their own. You can’t be called in to referee every little disagreement. When things start going off the rails, bring together those who aren’t getting along and make them work through their concerns, suggests Inc. Letting them put you in the middle of a he said/she said situation wastes your resources that could be better spent elsewhere (like making money for your company). Your job as a leader is to help your team members understand each other better. Sure, it will be uncomfortable at first. Such transparency is always raw at the beginning. But instilling this strategy right off will encourage them to try resolving internal issues on their own, only bringing you into the equation when absolutely necessary.
Lay Out a Clear Map
If you pack up your car with the family and head out on a road trip, the first questions your kids will ask is “where are we going, how are we going to get there and how long will it take?”. All great questions, and all can be applied to the formation of a team. Having a clear road map in front of you that outlines what your goals are and how you will achieve them is imperative to the success of any team. Sounds simple, but it’s often one of the biggest road blocks facing teams today. Throwing 12 priorities all at once to your team will likely result in failure because it overwhelms even the most focused team. Instead, outline three main goals, suggest ways to achieve them and determine how those priorities will be measured — arguably one of the hardest jobs of a leader. All the work the team does from there on out will flow from those three goals, so they have to be spot-on. Therefore, you must align those priorities carefully, as even the slightest miscalculation can derail your team.
Getting to Know You
Engaging with your team on a personal level in some way is an effective way to build mutual respect. Perhaps a monthly outing or offsite socializing can infuse some much-needed stress relief for the team as they get to know each other beyond the job. This gives you valuable insight into the type of people you’re overseeing, help you understand their style of work, and thus bring about more constructive and interactive discussions.
In the end, there is no magic formula to creating the successful team you need. Sometimes, the stars align and you end up with a dream team that works smoothly together like a well-oiled machine. Other times, you struggle to fit the right pieces of the puzzle where they’ll do the most good. Great leaders know exactly what buttons to push and when to push them, becoming experts at activating the talent that surrounds them.