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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 2, 2018

7 Public Speaking Techniques To Help Connect With Your Audience

7 Public Speaking Techniques To Help Connect With Your Audience

When giving a presentation or speech, you have to engage your audience effectively in order to truly get your point across. Unlike a written editorial or newsletter, your speech is fleeting; once you’ve said everything you set out to say, you don’t get a second chance to have your voice heard in that specific arena.

You need to make sure your audience hangs on to every word you say, from your introduction to your wrap-up. You can do so by:

1. Connecting them with each other

Picture your typical rock concert. What’s the first thing the singer says to the crowd after jumping out on stage? “Hello (insert city name here)!” Just acknowledging that he’s coherent enough to know where he is is enough for the audience to go wild and get into the show.

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It makes each individual feel as if they’re a part of something bigger. The same goes for any public speaking event. When an audience hears, “You’re all here because you care deeply about wildlife preservation,” it gives them a sense that they’re not just there to listen, but they’re there to connect with the like-minded people all around them.

2. Connect with their emotions

Speakers always try to get their audience emotionally involved in whatever topic they’re discussing. There are a variety of ways in which to do this, such as using statistics, stories, pictures or videos that really show the importance of the topic at hand.

For example, showing pictures of the aftermath of an accident related to drunk driving will certainly send a specific message to an audience of teenagers and young adults. While doing so might be emotionally nerve-racking to the crowd, it may be necessary to get your point across and engage them fully.

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3. Keep going back to the beginning

Revisit your theme throughout your presentation. Although you should give your audience the credit they deserve and know that they can follow along, linking back to your initial thesis can act as a subconscious reminder of why what you’re currently telling them is important.

On the other hand, if you simply mention your theme or the point of your speech at the beginning and never mention it again, it gives your audience the impression that it’s not really that important.

4. Link to your audience’s motivation

After you’ve acknowledged your audience’s common interests in being present, discuss their motivation for being there. Be specific. Using the previous example, if your audience clearly cares about wildlife preservation, discuss what can be done to help save endangered species’ from extinction.

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Don’t just give them cold, hard facts; use the facts to make a point that they can use to better themselves or the world in some way.

5. Entertain them

While not all speeches or presentations are meant to be entertaining in a comedic way, audiences will become thoroughly engaged in anecdotes that relate to the overall theme of the speech. We discussed appealing to emotions, and that’s exactly what a speaker sets out to do when he tells a story from his past or that of a well-known historical figure.

Speakers usually tell more than one story in order to show that the first one they told isn’t simply an anomaly, and that whatever outcome they’re attempting to prove will consistently reoccur, given certain circumstances.

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6. Appeal to loyalty

Just like the musician mentioning the town he’s playing in will get the audience ready to rock, speakers need to appeal to their audience’s loyalty to their country, company, product or cause. Show them how important it is that they’re present and listening to your speech by making your words hit home to each individual.

In doing so, the members of your audience will feel as if you’re speaking directly to them while you’re addressing the entire crowd.

7. Tell them the benefits of the presentation

Early on in your presentation, you should tell your audience exactly what they’ll learn, and exactly how they’ll learn it. Don’t expect them to listen if they don’t have clear-cut information to listen for. On the other hand, if they know what to listen for, they’ll be more apt to stay engaged throughout your entire presentation so they don’t miss anything.

Featured photo credit: Flickr via farm4.staticflickr.com

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