Leaders cannot succeed without a strong team behind them. This is true whether your company is a startup with one employee who is relying on a few outside advisors or the CEO of a large company with thousands of employees.
The key to team-building is to leave your ego at the door and accept that some people will be smarter than you, have better ideas for moving forward or understand a complex idea you are having trouble grasping. That is, in fact, the concept behind why great leaders intentionally build strong teams: high-performing teams value individual contributions.
Team-building is a process. Whether you are the leader of a large company or a company of one, following are four steps to building an effective team:
1. Hire the Right People
Hiring the right people for the job is critical. Among the questions you should ask yourself is, “Would I be comfortable delegating some of my responsibility to this person?” Trust is hard to define, but it’s a critical element of team-building.
2. Orient New Team Members
When teams first come together, they experience a honeymoon period. They can do anything that is asked of them. Good leaders recognize that this is unrealistic. New teams or existing teams with new members are just coming together. It is the leader’s job to define the scope of work the team is responsible for, set any necessary timelines, describe each team member’s role, identify responsibilities and monitor how the team is performing. The leader must watch for conflicts that can affect how well the team is evolving as a unit.
3. Communicate with the Team
Communicating with and motivating the team is a big part of all leaders’ duties. The leader needs to regularly communicate progress on goals and changes to timelines or responsibilities while simultaneously motivating the team. The best way to motivate the team is by conveying the message that team members are working together on a task. It may be a subtle difference, but this is not the same message as everyone working individually on the same task.
This is the easy part of the communication function. The more difficult part is ensuring that the team is acting in unison. Teams are made up of people, and everyone is different. Some people are confrontational and assertive, whereas others are more inclined to listen than to speak up. Most teams have members in each camp. A good leader is able to ensure that everyone’s voice is heard and everyone’s contributions are acknowledged.
In a worst-case scenario, someone may be disgruntled and leave the company. If this happens, the leader has to be straightforward and clear in communicating the reasons to the team. When that person is replaced, the leader must closely monitor how the new person fits in with the other team members.
4. Support Team Growth and Evolution
When the team first gets together, the leader’s focus is on overseeing progress and performance. Everyone on the team is an individual at the beginning, and everyone wants to prove themselves. After a while, this changes. Team members work together more easily as they grow more confident in their roles. They truly begin working as a team. This is what team leaders strive for. It is at this point trust has been established and the leader can confidently delegate responsibility.