It is not by accident that excellent leaders are surrounded by great teams. Building a great team is one identifying aspect of great leaders. Team building is all about collaboration. Great leaders understand that they alone can’t make everything work. They can’t do everything and be everything. To ensure your organization is successful, year on year, you need to build the right team. However, just building the team does not ensure a high level of performance and team member satisfaction.
To begin, we need to differentiate between what team building is and what it isn’t. Team building is the term applied to types of activities that enhance the interpersonal relationships and define the roles within teams. It often involves collaborative tasks. Team building is not team training, which is designed to improve efficiency and performance rather than interpersonal relationships.
Building the right team begins with a solid understanding of the skills needed to complete the task and identifying those employees who have those skills. It is not necessary that all the skills need to be addressed, but the group as they collaborate will need to be able to build off of their own skill sets to take the team to a high performance level. It is important that each member looks at communication as a key skill and has a willingness to work effectively with others and is passionate about the mission. When putting the team together, one must also be aware of the personalities of the potential members, as it is critical that they fit together. Leaders sometimes make the mistake of trying to put together a team of like-minded individuals. I would suggest that diversity of backgrounds, experience and thought is a critical part of building a successful team.
The broader the experience, the more out-of-the-box thinking the team can bring to solving the problems and meeting the objectives placed before them.
When building the team, a leader needs to focus on goals, building effective working relationships, and reducing concerns about roles by clarifying them, along with helping to find solutions to team problems. In setting goals, it is important that both individual and team goals are clear. To this end, team members should be involved in the planning and in discussion on how to define success and failure in terms of meeting the goals. Having the team members involved will increase team motivation and their sense of ownership.
Defining roles helps to clarify individual and team duties and takes any ambiguity out of play and reinforces the team structure as well as helping to provide a basis for adjusting roles as the team makes progress on their goals. As the team works together it becomes easier to identify potential issues and problems. The collaborative nature of the team, in turn, helps to define a process to solve problems and prevent new ones.
By definition, the success of teams thrives on interpersonal relationships and dynamics. Teams with fewer interpersonal conflicts generally function at a higher level in terms of effectiveness and satisfaction. Building a successful team includes instilling support for each other, effective communication across the team and sharing duties, successes, and issues. A good leader can act as a facilitator to develop trust and open communication within the team. Depending upon your leadership style, it may be helpful to bring in an outside facilitator to work with both you and your team.
Focusing on team building as a leader will help to enhance the overall organization’s performance, improve the organizational communication, and help to foster a culture of innovation and creativity while improving employee engagement and morale. How the team and the individuals respond to problems and how they collaborate will also help in building other teams across the organization. One added advantage of building a great team is building organizational leadership by giving the team members a chance to unlock their own leadership potential.
Once the team is working effectively, it is important that the leader continuously provides feedback to the team including establishing new goals as the initial objectives are reached and new targets are identified, while continuing to build an open and transparent communication process.
Bob Cody, executive director of Leadership Cape Cod, brings over 25 years of leadership experience in corporate, academic and nonprofit organizations. He is Chief Executive Partner of Innoreate, a business consulting firm, and was a member of the Cape Leadership Institute class of 2012. He serves as a member of the Board of Directors of CLI, Open Cape, Cape Cod Technology Council and the Greater Hyannis Chamber of Commerce, where he is the incoming Board Chair.