Building the ideal team is challenging, but like most things, taking time to do things right in the beginning will often lighten your load later. What should you consider when building a team? There are a number of factors. However, I have found the following to be key:
PERSONALITY VS. SKILL
We all want a team of people that we like, get along with and with whom we enjoy working. That being said, your best friend or colleague may not be the best person for your team. When building a team, do your best to be objective about an individual’s skills and not whether or not they will give you a good laugh during a meeting. Let’s face it, we all bring a personality to the table--yes, even you. Sometimes those personalities may be difficult. However, if the individual’s skills will make the team stronger and more effective/efficient, that’s who you want on the team. That being said--a difficult personality should not be allowed to disrupt work or make the rest of the team miserable. That’s why the second key is--well--key.
RULES OF ENGAGEMENT
After you have created your dream team of talented, qualified and valued team members, you must establish your rules of engagement. These are your procedures and policies for meetings, accountability for tasks assigned, rewards and/or celebrations for achievements and milestones, and what disciplinary actions will be taken should they become necessary. This should be the priority topic for your first team meeting. I recommend bringing your list of ideas to the table and be willing to explain your reasoning for those ideas. However, make sure the team has a say in how things will work, too. It is important that you have buy-in from the team, and if they have a hand in creating the rules of engagement, they will be more likely to operate within the established parameters and enjoy the rewards. This will also help drive home the next key--everyone has a voice.
Your team must understand that they have a valued voice. Their ideas and opinions matter. Sometimes they will be good. Sometimes they won’t. Sometimes they will be in alignment with yours. Sometimes they won’t. Sometimes the other members will agree with them. Sometimes they won’t. However, they must be heard and valued, not dismissed, trivialized or devalued. Depending on the size of your team, you can decide how you want to make sure everyone has their chance to speak and that the meeting does not become monopolized by the more vocal members. Consider these tools:
Have a meeting moderator responsibility that could be and should be rotated among the members of the team. That member is responsible for acknowledging and creating a speaking order for members to share and speak; timing the members (the time limits will be established in the rules of engagement); and keeping the meeting on track in accordance with the agenda.
By the way--always have an agenda--even if it is a small meeting with only a few members. Never meet just to meet. If there’s no agenda--use an email or telecon.
If a meeting moderator position doesn’t suit your needs, consider a speaking stick, gavel, rock, stuffed animal, something that designates who “has the floor” at the meeting. Other members must wait until they possess the designated object before speaking.
Designate a team member and rotate the responsibility for taking notes so everyone’s ideas can be captured and addressed.
Another side note--rotating the responsibilities allows everyone to share the responsibility and understand the difficulty of the assigned tasks. After everyone has a chance to serve in the role, if there are those that enjoy the role more than others or are better at it than others, you can have the same person perform the task, but share the experience before making a final determination.
Follow the rules of engagement as the leader of the team and the meeting. This is one component to being the team member you want others to be.
BE THE LEADER - AND TEAM MEMBER
In order to be an effective leader, you must be an effective team member. This means you have to exhibit the highest standards when abiding by the rules of engagement. If you expect everyone to be on time to a meeting--you have to be early. If you expect others to listen respectfully and not interrupt, you must do the same. If you want your team to stick to an agenda, you have to provide an agenda and stick to it. Beyond having high standards and following rules, as a leader you must be able to accept and act upon criticisms and suggestions. Remember, your team members aren’t calling your baby ugly. It’s their baby too. You aren’t perfect, none of us are. Remember you invited these people to be part of your team for a reason. Hopefully that reason is because they have strengths in an area where you may not.
Building a strong team can be difficult. However, if you do it right in the beginning, you will find that your project and organization will be better for it. Working with other people isn’t always easy, but if done right, it can be rewarding and effective. As Henry Ford once said “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.” Here’s to your success!