Five simple keys to building solid teams

2008

Ask any supervisor, manager, or leader what is necessary for building a solid, dedicated team, and you're likely to get a wide range of answers. The reason? People value different aspects of teamwork. Individual preferences and comfort zones affect what people believe to be important.

I'm no different. But as a consultant and management skills trainer, I have the benefit of having worked with hundreds of teams over the past twenty years, across a wide spectrum of industries.

That doesn't make my opinion the last stop on the road of teambuilding wisdom, but it does afford me the opportunity to see that some factors are needed across all businesses and industries.

What might shock some readers is that most of these five components are surprisingly simple. So simple that it's easy to say "no kidding!" But I list these "simple" factors because so often when I ask teams what they would like from their supervisors, these keep coming up.

One would think the simple ones should be automatic. Well, obviously they're not, or teams wouldn't continually be mentioning them.

Therefore, if you're a supervisor, manager, or leader and you perceive any of these items to be obvious, please don't skim over them. It's quite possible you think you're providing these things, but you're not. Or it may be that you are, but your teams aren't seeing it.

And guess what? If they're not seeing it, it's not their problem. It's the supervisor's responsibility to adjust so the teams do see it.

Here are the five keys:

1. Honesty: Yes, it ought to be automatic, but teams keeps bringing it up. For teams to be committed and engaged, they want honesty from their leaders. They don't want half-truths or feeble attempts at winging an answer. Don't know the answer to a question? Just say so. Allow me to quote a reliable book full of wisdom: Let your yes be "yes," and your no be "no." Also, be up front with facts – don't hide things. And by all means do not lie. If you do you will forever lose credibility when (not if, but when) you are found out.

2. Trust: Another "ought to be automatic" item. Yet teams regularly tell me "They put us through training on how to do certain things, but when faced with decisions, they don't let us do what we're trained to do. They don't trust us!"

Ouch, people! If we spend all sorts of time hiring and training the "right" people, shouldn't we be trusting them to do what we hired them to do? Show that we don't trust someone and they'll soon be doing the bare minimum, and that only when told. So much for 'teamwork' at that point.

3. Mutual Respect: My old mentor taught me "give what you want to get," and that maxim fits here very well. In other words, if we want respect from our teams, we've got to give it. But remember, this item is coming from the teams, not me!

Mutual respect involves being polite, talking with people as people (not as slaves), listening attentively, and seriously considering what our people tell us.

I could go on, but those are the basics. Here's a helpful visual: Just because someone is "lower" than us on the organizational chart doesn't mean we talk down to them. If I can play on something that the late advertising guru David Ogilvy once said, if we treat people like dwarfs we become a company of dwarfs. If we treat people like giants we become a company of giants.

4. Recognition: The tests have been conducted on nationwide levels, and the results are in: Communism doesn't work. People want recognition for what they do.

The key here is not to rely solely on individual recognition nor solely on team recognition. A balance is needed. Acknowledge people when they do well – and do it publicly. When the team meets or exceeds a goal or does something "as a team," be sure to recognize the collaboration that took place to make it happen.

5. Support: Quite simply, without support, teams will struggle in maintaining their foundation. They need to know that when they are given objectives and are working toward them, they'll have moral and financial support as they get the job done. Withhold those it will be difficult for the team to remain solid.

It's not exhaustive, but these five ingredients help build a solid team. Do you manage teams? Why not conduct a thorough, introspective inventory and look for ways to improve? Chances are you teams will notice the difference – and you will, too.

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About The Author

Dan Bobinski
Dan Bobinski

Dan Bobinski is a training specialist, author, and an accomplished keynote speaker. He's been providing management and leadership training to Fortune 500 companies as well as smaller, regional concerns for more than 20 years.

Older Comments

RE item 4, what's communism got to do with it? Communist workers do receive recognition for what they do ... just no more and no less than any of their colleagues.

Perhaps it would be better to keep the misinformed inappropriate political references out of management articles??

Victoria

Great post, my friend. I would also like to build off of your list and add these items for great team building...

The 5 differences between teams and groups. Teams have...

1. An identified, trusted leader. 2. An identified, agreed-upon goal. 3. An identified, agreed-upon decision-making system. 4. A process for creating and revisiting memories. 5. Individuals who are able to engaged their core strength.

Hope this adds some value to your blog discusssion.

Rhett Laubach http://pliblog.yournextspeaker.com/2007/06/fostering-relationships-difference.html

Victoria,

To follow up, the use of communism as an example in the discussion of teams is not uncommon. In fact, an informative, well-researched paper about the failure of collectivization on The Business Network website is an excellent expose on human nature related to “work.”

My implied point, which is explained quite well in the bnet article, is that individual recognition is necessary even on teams, as team efforts dwindle in the face of bureaucratic coordination and administrative coercion.

Quoting from the bnet article, when communism took hold in Viet Nam, “collectivized farmers were directed to produce regardless of costs and required to transfer their harvests to the state regardless of price.” The research paper also points out that “If farmers and their families were to survive and prosper when food was scarce and incomes from collective labor uncertain, they had to allocate their resources as efficiently as possible to maximize profits and minimize losses. Farmers therefore chose to concentrate on private production for household consumption instead of attempting to expand demand and production under conditions of shortage.”

I'm not against striving for ideals, but as a realist, human nature is what human nature is.

Dan