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How to Build a Team

How to Build a Team

Whether you already have a team, are planning to build one, or are already a part of one, understanding the realities of team-building will save you a lot of pain and heartache.

Making the decision to grow your team is a huge commitment. It’s a commitment not just in terms of the extra financial cost, but also in terms of changing the dynamics of how you work and how others who are already involved will operate, and in terms of the amount of time and dedication it takes to complete the on-boarding process.

The trouble is, experts tell us to “outsource” and that the power is in the team. We’re constantly told that we need to leverage our efforts. In these conditions it’s easy to get lulled into the idea of working only a few hours a week, governing everything via a few emails whilst sitting on a beach, playing on an iPad with satellite Wi-Fi…

If you’ve ever tried it, though, you’ll already know that the reality of building a team is quite different.

It’s a Tough Job, But Someone Has to Do It

Teams are everywhere—from the girl guides to the school committee, the board room, and even the solopreneur’s kitchen table. Team-building is essential for the successful execution of even the simplest ideas, but it’s also one of the toughest things you’ll ever do. If you’ve already found this in the past, it’s certainly not because you lack patience or dedication. If it’s been difficult, it certainly isn’t because you don’t care. In fact, I’d bet that the more you care, the more you take the tantrums and friction personally!

Developing a team is all about maintaining a careful balance between getting the task done, helping the individual team member grow, and helping the team function more effectively as a unit. Notice how only one of the three outcomes is about the task and goal! This is significant, because this is the opposite of conventional wisdom, which says to focus on the goal.

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Assuming  you’ve managed to get over the initial hurdle to decide you need to build a team, there are a number of things you need to understand if you’re going to do this as effectively and painlessly as possible.

After all, no matter how competent you are at what you do, and no matter how much experience you have in dealing with people, building a team has an infinite number of variables because no two team members are ever alike. Compound this by the number of team members, and no two teams are ever going to be alike…

…Which Makes for Exciting, If Not Challenging, People Alchemy

The odds are things are going to go wrong.

People are going to let you down. Some will surprise you, in good ways and bad, and there are going to be times when you feel thoroughly frustrated. Take this as a given, and when it happens you’ll at least be able to relax knowing that it’s to be expected and it’s not a failing on your part (unless you’ve been a total jerk, of course!).

The good news is that there are some simple guidelines you can follow to make sure you recruit and build in such a way as to stack the odds of success in your favour, whilst simultaneously minimising the frustration factor and building your team into a self-sufficient, self-sustaining productivity hub.

The Four-Step Process to a Productive Team

Step 1: Arguably the foundation of effective team-building, Step 1 is about finding good people.

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How do you define “good”? Well, you’re looking for people who are enthusiastic and want to contribute. You’re looking for team players and people who can get on well with others, and you’re also looking for people whose skills and natural aptitudes contribute in the way you need for the task you need to accomplish.

Recruiting good people is essential, because bringing on people who aren’t naturally a fit is risky if you think you’re going to change them. I remember reading about an advert once for a diner. It said something like, “We don’t train our staff to smile, we just recruit happy people”. If you can do this for the talents you need on your team, you’ve won half the battle.

Step 2: Coupled with Step 1 is putting these good people into roles that suit their natural talents and abilities.

As we’ve said, trying to change people is the road to pain and frustration—for you as the team leader, and for the team member. However, when folks can spend their time doing what they’re naturally good at, they will achieve way beyond your expectations.

I have a chap on my team who’s a natural artist. Sure, he studied engineering at university, but whenever there’s anything creative or graphic-oriented, he’ll get the task, and love it. The work he turns out is a delight to behold. Not only that but he LOVES his job, and is dedicated to the company because he gets paid for doing things that he would do in his free time anyway.

Give people the best chance to excel and you’ll create an upwards spiral.

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Step 3: Training and encouragement are essential—especially on long-term projects.

Training helps individuals to constantly evolve, and if you’ve recruited bright, intelligent people then this is one of their most basic desires: to evolve, learn and grow. Feed that need and not only will you end up with a happy team, but you’ll have a group of individuals whose skills are always increasing, too.

Encouragement is important, even with the most jaded and cynical adults! People ALWAYS say they don’t need external praise, and that they don’t care what others think, but this simply isn’t true. In an experiment by Ariely et al (2008, Man’s search for meaning: The case of Legos) experimenters tested participants’ motivation to work under different conditions. The participants were given question sheets to complete, and each time they completed one, they brought it to the front of the classroom, handed it in and were given another one if they wanted. They were paid per question sheet they completed.

Each participant was randomly assigned to one of three conditions: acknowledge, ignored, shredded. When they handed their paper in each time, those in the acknowledged condition had their answer sheet glanced over by the experimenter before it was put on a pile of completed sheets, and they were given another one. Those in the ignored condition had their sheet put straight onto the completed assignments pile. Those in the shredded condition had their question sheet shredded immediately, in front of them, also without the answers ever being looked at.

Now, obvious those who had their work acknowledged completed more question sheets than the other conditions. However, what the experiments found was “the act of shredding the sheets without even looking at them is such blatant, unnatural violence toward the product of subjects’ labour that one might expect the subjects to respond much more to it than to the treatment in the Ignored condition, yet the difference between those two conditions is minor while the effect of being acknowledged is strikingly high.”

The willingness to continue doing more problem sheets was taken as an indicator of how motivated the person felt. The condition where the experimenter just glanced at the answers and said “uh huh”, acknowledging the work before placing it on the stack, elicited more than double the activity from participants!

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Acknowledge and encourage and you’ll build a highly motivated, highly engaged team very quickly. I thoroughly recommend checking out Dan Ariely’s TED talk about work and motivation.

Step 4: Review. In the early days of the team, it’s important to give people feedback to help them figure out what’s expected. Leaving it six months is too long, as that gives too much time without structure and allows problems to develop. It depends on the tasks in hand, but you should review and feed back more frequently in the beginning, then less frequently once everything’s up and running.

I’ve actually started using a two-way review process where my team also review my behaviours and tell me what I do that makes them more or less productive. This is incredibly powerful, encouraging greater openness of communication and very good working relationships.

Building a team isn’t necessarily about leading the way. Remember, only one of the three objectives is focused on the external tasks. If you’re naturally a “let’s get it done quickly” kind of person, then you may need to acknowledge the other two objects of team development and individual growth to alleviate the frustration. Following the four steps outlined above will certainly stack the odds in your favour. If this is new to you, it’s worth keeping this somewhere you can refer to it often, as it’s easy to forget the non-pressing, but highly important elements when you’re in the throes of meetings and “getting stuff done”. What’s more, if you stick to these four steps, you’ll massively increase the amount of time you have available to you, as your team will be taking on more and more responsibility as they develop.

Over To You: Your Concerns About Building A Team?

Building a team is a big responsibility, and it’s likely you still have questions and concerns. Maybe we can help you think your way around them.

What are your biggest worries about building a team? Share them in the comments below.

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Last Updated on December 3, 2019

10 Life Lessons You’d Better Learn Early on in Life

10 Life Lessons You’d Better Learn Early on in Life

There are so many lessons I wish I had learned while I was young enough to appreciate and apply them. The thing with wisdom, and often with life lessons in general, is that they’re learned in retrospect, long after we needed them. The good news is that other people can benefit from our experiences and the lessons we’ve learned.

Here’re 10 important life lessons you should learn early on:

1. Money Will Never Solve Your Real Problems

Money is a tool; a commodity that buys you necessities and some nice “wants,” but it is not the panacea to your problems.

There are a great many people who are living on very little, yet have wonderfully full and happy lives… and there are sadly a great many people are living on quite a lot, yet have terribly miserable lives.

Money can buy a nice home, a great car, fabulous shoes, even a bit of security and some creature comforts, but it cannot fix a broken relationship, or cure loneliness, and the “happiness” it brings is only fleeting and not the kind that really and truly matters. Happiness is not for sale. If you’re expecting the “stuff” you can buy to “make it better,” you will never be happy.

2. Pace Yourself

Often when we’re young, just beginning our adult journey we feel as though we have to do everything at once. We need to decide everything, plan out our lives, experience everything, get to the top, find true love, figure out our life’s purpose, and do it all at the same time.

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Slow down—don’t rush into things. Let your life unfold. Wait a bit to see where it takes you, and take time to weigh your options. Enjoy every bite of food, take time to look around you, let the other person finish their side of the conversation. Allow yourself time to think, to mull a bit.

Taking action is critical. Working towards your goals and making plans for the future is commendable and often very useful, but rushing full-speed ahead towards anything is a one-way ticket to burnout and a good way to miss your life as it passes you by.

3. You Can’t Please Everyone

“I don’t know the secret to success, but the secret to failure is trying to please everyone” – Bill Cosby.

You don’t need everyone to agree with you or even like you. It’s human nature to want to belong, to be liked, respected and valued, but not at the expense of your integrity and happiness. Other people cannot give you the validation you seek. That has to come from inside.

Speak up, stick to your guns, assert yourself when you need to, demand respect, stay true to your values.

4. Your Health Is Your Most Valuable Asset

Health is an invaluable treasure—always appreciate, nurture, and protect it. Good health is often wasted on the young before they have a chance to appreciate it for what it’s worth.

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We tend to take our good health for granted, because it’s just there. We don’t have to worry about it, so we don’t really pay attention to it… until we have to.

Heart disease, bone density, stroke, many cancers—the list of many largely preventable diseases is long, so take care of your health now, or you’ll regret it later on.

5. You Don’t Always Get What You Want

“Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.” – John Lennon

No matter how carefully you plan and how hard you work, sometimes things just don’t work out the way you want them to… and that’s okay.

We have all of these expectations; predetermined visions of what our “ideal” life will look like, but all too often, that’s not the reality of the life we end up with. Sometimes our dreams fail and sometimes we just change our minds mid-course. Sometimes we have to flop to find the right course and sometimes we just have to try a few things before we find the right direction.

6. It’s Not All About You

You are not the epicenter of the universe. It’s very difficult to view the world from a perspective outside of your own, since we are always so focused on what’s happening in our own lives. What do I have to do today? What will this mean for me, for my career, for my life? What do I want?

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It’s normal to be intensely aware of everything that’s going on in your own life, but you need to pay as much attention to what’s happening around you, and how things affect other people in the world as you do to your own life. It helps to keep things in perspective.

7. There’s No Shame in Not Knowing

No one has it all figured out. Nobody has all the answers. There’s no shame in saying “I don’t know.” Pretending to be perfect doesn’t make you perfect. It just makes you neurotic to keep up the pretense of manufactured perfection.

We have this idea that there is some kind of stigma or shame in admitting our limitations or uncertainly, but we can’t possibly know everything. We all make mistakes and mess up occasionally. We learn as we go, that’s life.

Besides—nobody likes a know-it-all. A little vulnerability makes you human and oh so much more relatable.

8. Love Is More Than a Feeling; It’s a Choice

That burst of initial exhilaration, pulse quickening love and passion does not last long. But that doesn’t mean long-lasting love is not possible.

Love is not just a feeling; it’s a choice that you make every day. We have to choose to let annoyances pass, to forgive, to be kind, to respect, to support, to be faithful.

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Relationships take work. Sometimes it’s easy and sometimes it’s incredibly hard. It is up to us to choose how we want to act, think and speak in a relationship.

9. Perspective Is a Beautiful Thing

Typically, when we’re worried or upset, it’s because we’ve lost perspective. Everything that is happening in our lives seems so big, so important, so do or die, but in the grand picture, this single hiccup often means next to nothing.

The fight we’re having, the job we didn’t get, the real or imagined slight, the unexpected need to shift course, the thing we wanted, but didn’t get. Most of it won’t matter 20, 30, 40 years from now. It’s hard to see long term when all you know is short term, but unless it’s life-threatening, let it go, and move on.

10. Don’t Take Anything for Granted

We often don’t appreciate what we have until it’s gone: that includes your health, your family and friends, your job, the money you have or think you will have tomorrow.

When you’re young, it seems that your parents will always be there, but they won’t. You think you have plenty of time to get back in touch with your old friends or spend time with new ones, but you don’t. You have the money to spend, or you think you’ll have it next month, but you might not.

Nothing in your life is not guaranteed to be there tomorrow, including those you love.

This is a hard life lesson to learn, but it may be the most important of all: Life can change in an instant. Make sure you appreciate what you have, while you still have it.

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Featured photo credit: Ben Eaton via unsplash.com

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