If winning requires team effort, then it would stand to reason that a leader needs to invest maximum time in building the team.
The VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) world that we live in has made life interesting, and by interesting I euphemistically mean to say tough, real tough. Challenges are increasingly unpredictable and complex, and when these challenges come up I’m just glad that I have a team that I know I can rely on. I guess then that is the key to wade through these times, to be successful, building a good team.
Amir Khan while making the movie Lagaan, a movie set in British era, symbolizing the spirit of revolution and freedom probably unknowingly gave us a good example of building a team. A bunch of people who had never played the sport before, who didn’t even get along well initially, were not in the best of shape. How did they then come together to be able to beat the Britishers at their own game? Let me share some of the building blocks that I’ve found work to build a team.
Hire for Attitude
Skills are important, but beyond that always look for people whose attitude you can appreciate and gel with your own values. They may have their own working styles but the way they approach work and life should be in sync. This is important especially during testing times because that is when teams either come together or fall apart. Teams aligned on values and attitudes tend to be the one that hold on together. I’ve found that Behavioral Event Interviewing is a reliable methodology to assess for behaviors and attitudes.
Bag of Gummybears
Like a bag of gummybears each team member comes with its own flavors. Some would be good at coming up with new ideas, others at execution, some at delegating, others at negotiation, etc. While individually each person may be performing well, it is when their individual strengths are used to complement each other that the whole becomes greater than the sum of the parts. Often leaders can go wrong here focusing on the individual shortcomings rather than the strengths. Some of the assessment tools available are a great value add in helping to identify and articulate the strengths of each team member.
Set Big Hairy Audacious Goals
It is often thought that a well formed, synchronized team can take on big goals to achieve. However often throwing a BHAG to a team will give them the common purpose that is bigger than their individual aspirations or fears and make them come together for that bigger picture. Of course not every goal is able to do that, it needs to be inspiring enough and the story needs to be told in a manner that each can relate to in their own way. Don’t just create projects, tell a story, create a mission.
Time to bond
While people work with each other in the office, the dynamics within a working environment allow for a limited interaction. In my experience teams that spend personal time together form personal bonds that diffuse the difference between being just colleagues and friends. These stronger bonds tend to help colleagues become more empathetic to each other as well as increase the inherent collaborative quotient of the team. While the team works hard keeping pace with the growing organization, we make it a habit to plan local outings, get-togethers on a regular basis to create the time and space for bonding. We also plan and in advance and go on self-funded offsites twice a year, with graded contribution which makes this concept work for us.
Empower and Guide
When you’ve on-boarded a great set of talent, given them a mission to work for, brought them together each working to their strengths what then must a leader do? The most important part is to let them do what you brought them on for. Empower them, challenge them to make decisions, guide them when they seem to be on a weak wicket, support them when they falter. Whenever a team member comes with a problem, I usually tell them to come with a probable course of action or atleast some alternatives. Works best to get them to grow up fast.
When the rubber hits the road, it’s not always going to be an easy ride, nor are all your tires going to perform the same. It’s essential for a leader to guide, to do course correction and sometimes, yes, even cut loose. Building a team isn’t a one time job, people grow and also move on and new ones join in. The faces in the team may change, but a well built team lasts and clearly outperforms!