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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 April 6, 2020

10 Powerful Ways to Influence People Positively

10 Powerful Ways to Influence People Positively

Most discussions on positively influencing others eventually touch on Dale Carnegie’s seminal work, How to Win Friends and Influence People. Written more than 83 years ago, the book touches on a core component of human interaction, building strong relationships. It is no wonder why.

Everything that we do hinges on our ability to connect with others and formulate deep relationships. You cannot sell a house, buy a house, advance in most careers, sell a product, pitch a story, teach a course, etc. without building healthy relationships. Managers get the best results from their teams, not through brute force, but to careful appeals to their sensibilities, occasional withdrawals from the reservoir of respect they’ve built. Using these tactics, they can influence others to excellence, to productivity, and to success.

Carnegie’s book is great. Of course, there are other resources too. Most of us have someone in our lives who positively influences us. The truth is positively influencing people is about centering the humanity of others. Chances are, you know someone who is really good at making others feel like stars. They can get you to do things that the average person cannot. Where the requests of others sound like fingernails on a chalkboard, the request from this special person sounds like music to your ears. You’re delighted to not only listen but also to oblige.

So how to influence people in a positive way? Read on for tips.

1. Be Authentic

To influence people in a positive way, be authentic. Rather than being a carbon copy of someone else’s version of authenticity, uncover what it is that makes you unique.

Discover your unique take on an issue and then live up to and honor that. Once of the reasons social media influencers are so powerful is that they have carved out a niche for themselves or taken a common issue and approached it from a novel or uncommon way. People instinctually appreciate people whose public persona matches their private values.

Contradictions bother us because we crave stability. When someone professes to be one way, but lives contrary to that profession, it signals that they are confused or untrustworthy and thereby, inauthentic. Neither of these combinations bode well for positively influencing others.

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2. Listen

Growing up, my father would tell me to listen to what others said. He told me if I listened carefully, I would know all I needed to know about a person’s character, desires and needs.

To positively influence others, you must listen to what is spoken and what is left unsaid. Therein lies the explanation for what people need in order to feel validated, supported and seen. If a person feels they are invisible, and unseen by their superiors, they are less likely to be positively influenced by that person.

Listening meets a person’s primary need of validation and acceptance.

Take a look at this guide on how to be a better listener: How to Practice Active Listening (A Step-By-Step Guide)

3. Become an Expert

Most people are predisposed to listen to, if not respect, authority. If you want to positively influence others, become an authority in the area in which you seek to lead others. Research and read everything you can about the given topic, and then look for opportunities to put your education into practice.

You can argue over opinions. You cannot argue, or it is unwise to argue, over facts and experts come with facts.

4. Lead with Story

From years of working in the public relations space, I know that personal narratives, testimonials and impact stories are incredibly powerful. But I never cease to be amazed with how effective a well-timed and told story can be.

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If you want to influence people, learn to tell stories. Your stories should be related to the issue or concept you are discussing. They should be an analogy or metaphor that explains your topic in ordinary terms and in vivid detail. To learn more about how to tell powerful stories, and the ethics of storytelling, take a look at this article: How To Tell An Interesting Story In 4 Simple Steps

5. Lead by Example

It is incredibly inspiring to watch passionate, talented people at work or play. One of the reasons a person who is not an athlete can be in awe of athletic prowess is because human nature appreciates the extraordinary. When we watch the Olympics, Olympic trials, gymnastic competitions, ice skating, and other competitive sports, we can recognize the effort of people who day in and day out give their all. C

ase in point: Simone Biles. The gymnast extraordinaire won her 6TH all-around title at the U.S. Gymnastics Championships after doing a triple double. She was the first woman to do so. Watching her gave me chills. Even non-gymnasts and non-competitive athletes can appreciate the talent required to pull off such a remarkable feat.

We celebrate remarkable accomplishments and believe that their example is proof that we too can accomplish something great, even if it isn’t qualifying for the Olympics. To influence people in a positive way, we must lead by example, lead with intention and execute with excellence.

6. Catch People Doing Good

A powerful way to influence people in a positive way is to catch people doing good. Instead of looking for problems, look for successes. Look for often overlooked, but critically important things that your peers, subordinates and managers do that make the work more effective and more enjoyable.

Once you catch people doing good, name and notice their contributions.

7. Be Effusive with Praise

It did not take me long to notice a remarkable trait of a former boss. He not only began and ended meetings with praise, but he peppered praise throughout the entire meeting. He found a way to celebrate the unique attributes and skills of his team members. He was able to quickly and accurately assess what people were doing well and then let them and their colleagues know.

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Meetings were not just an occasion to go through a “To Do” list, they were opportunities to celebrate accomplishments, no matter how small they are.

8. Be Kind Rather Than Right

I am going to level with you; this one is tough. It is easy to get caught up in a cycle of proving oneself. For people who lack confidence, or people who prioritize the opinions of others, being right is important. The validation that comes with being perceived as “right” feeds one’s ego. But in the quest to be “right,” we can hurt other people. Once we’ve hurt someone by being unkind, it is much harder to get them to listen to what we’re trying to influence them to do.

The antidote to influencing others via bullying is to prioritize kindness above rightness. You can be kind and still stand firm in your position. For instance, many people think that they need others to validate their experience. If a person does not see the situation you experienced in the way you see it, you get upset. But your experience is your experience.

If you and your friends go out to eat and you get food poisoning, you do not need your friends to agree that the food served at the restaurant was problematic for you. Your own experience of getting food poisoning is all the validation you need. Therefore, taking time to be right is essentially wasted and, if you were unkind in seeking validation for your food-poison experience, now you’ve really lost points.

9. Understand a Person’s Logical, Emotional and Cooperative Needs

The Center for Creative Leadership has argued that the best way to influence others is to appeal to their logical, emotional and cooperative needs. Their logical need is their rational and educational need. Their emotional need is the information that touches them in a deeply personal manner. The cooperative need is understanding the level of cooperation various individuals need and then appropriately offering it.

The trick with this system is to understand that different people need different things. For some people, a strong emotional appeal will outweigh logical explanations. For others, having an opportunity to collaborate will override emotional connection.

If you know your audience, you will know what they need in order to be positively influenced. If you have limited information about the people whom you are attempting to influence, you will be ineffective.

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10. Understand Your Lane

If you want to positively influence others, operate from your sphere of influence. Operate from your place of expertise. Leave everything else to others. Gone are the days when being a jack of all trades is celebrated.

Most people appreciate brands that understand their target audience and then deliver on what that audience wants. When you focus on what you are uniquely gifted and qualified to do, and then offer that gift to the people who need it, you are likely more effective. This effectiveness is attractive.

You cannot positively influence others if you are more preoccupied by what others do well versus what you do well.

Final Thoughts

Influencing people is about centering your humanity. If you want to influence others positively, focus on the way you communicate and improve the relationship with yourself first.

It’s hard to influence others if you’re still trying to figure out how to communicate with yourself.

More Tips About Making Influence

Featured photo credit: Wonderlane via unsplash.com

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