10 Steps to Building a Great Team
1. Know your purpose (and make sure the team know it too!)
Why, exactly, does your team exist? What value do they add to the business, or if you prefer, what would happen if the team didn’t exist? We underestimate people’s need to find purpose in their work. Studies repeatedly show that those who have a clear sense of purpose are more engaged, less stressed, stay longer in their roles, and work more productively than their colleagues. So make sure your team understand why they matter to the business, and how they make your business better just by being there.
2. Communicate clear roles
Imagine you have been working really hard on a project or initiative for several days or weeks, only to discover, after you’ve put in all that effort, that someone else has been working on exactly the same thing. Or the same problem comes up month after month after month, but it never gets resolved because no-one can agree whose job it is. Clear roles are one of the best ways of reducing stress in organisations – everyone knows what they are doing, and who to go to when something goes wrong. So why not dust off the job descriptions for your team and bring them up to date? And make a point of updating them at least twice a year, or any time there is a significant change in responsibilities.
3. Have a mixture of skills, experience and behaviours in the team
Teams work best when they include people with different skills, attributes, strengths and development needs. A mixture of introverts and extroverts, idea-generators and people who enjoy routine. Leaders and followers. And yes, sometimes this leads to conflict, arguments, or different opinions about how things should be done, but disagreements are healthy if they make the team really examine what they are doing and think through different options for achieving their aims.
4. Hold regular team meetings
Team meetings are a fantastic way to build a team quickly. I know some managers say that team meetings are a waste of time - they would rather the team was working instead of sitting around chatting. I’m afraid that says more about the manager than about team meetings. A well-structured and managed meeting will give the manager valuable insights into how the team is working, what needs to change and how to improve team performance. And they will remind the team that they are supposed to be working together and give them an opportunity to take ownership for problem-solving and improving team dynamics. Give them a try!
5. Have 1:1s with every team member, every month
I am the biggest fan of 1:1 meetings with team members. There is no better tool for building relationships, developing your team, finding out what is really happening in your workplace or managing your time. But they have to be regular and scheduled, with a set agenda, to get the most value from them – make sure employees know when they are coming and can prepare for them. Quieter members of the team can really shine in 1:1 meetings as they are not competing with more extroverted team members. If you do nothing else in 2018, start having 1:1s with your team members. I guarantee it will transform your team’s performance.
6. Multi-skill every team member
It’s really tempting when you have a team that is working well to leave things as they are. Let the experts do the things they are expert in. But what if one of your experts leaves, or is off sick for an extended period? It’s important to have a contingency plan, and multi-skilling the team so that you are not dependent on certain individuals is an important part of managing responsibly. So look at every single role in your team – who could step into that role tomorrow if needed? Which roles don’t have an obvious successor? Who needs to develop new skills? Now you have the start of your development plan.
7. Think about the future
Managers should be looking ahead all the time, and planning for the next challenge or opportunity coming towards the team. If you always do what you’ve always done – you are likely to find yourself out of business very soon. So talk to your team about what the future might look like and what might be different, and get them into the right mind-set for change. Change is scary when we feel it’s outside our control, when it’s done to us rather than led by us. So help your team take control of change and start to make steps towards it.
8. Be a leader who serves the team
A leader who does what? Surely this is the wrong way round? Well, no. You can stand behind your team and shout at them to work harder if you want, but it’s much more effective to lead from the front, clearing the barriers and blockages that are stopping the team from achieving their full potential. Ask your team every time you meet with them “What can I do to make it easier for you to achieve your targets?” and then do it.
9. Insist on clear performance measures
How do you know when your team are performing well? If your answer was “I just know”, then think again. How do they –the team members - know when they are performing well? When you leave them alone? When no-one is complaining at them? Doesn’t sound very motivational does it? Clear performance measures are just that – it’s crystal clear to employee and manager whether the target has been met or not. “Produce 300 widgets per day” is clear. “Improve productivity” isn’t.
10. Have a fair culture, not a blame culture
When a team is working well, they often take calculated risks to improve their performance even more. Sometimes they will get it right, and sometimes they won’t. The way their manager reacts will determine whether they ever bother trying again. So if someone has messed up, talk to them. Find out what was going through their head as they did what they did. Work out whether this is a coaching opportunity or a genuine violation of the rules, and then decide how to respond.
How many of these steps would be in your top 10? What else would you include? I'd love to hear your thoughts.
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