Successful Team Building Guide

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It takes more than just finding a group of people with the correct mix of professional skills to form a successful team. During my Corner Office interviews with over 500 executives, I asked them all about the skill of cultivating a strong sense of teamwork. Their perspectives can assist you in laying the foundation for a highly productive team that can communicate, collaborate, and innovate in an environment of mutual trust and respect.

Make a Strategy

What you wish to achieve requires a clear and measurable aim.

It Isn’t Enough to Hire Well

“You don’t have any priorities if you have more than three.” – Jim Collins, author of “Good to Great” and “Built to Last,” two best-selling management books.

“I recruit the best people and get out of their way,” a number of top CEOs will tell you if you ask them about their leadership style. It’s a clever phrase that makes sense on some levels. Of course, the most crucial component of developing a good team is hiring the proper people, and delegation to give workers more autonomy is a tremendous motivation.

Managing a team, on the other hand, is not so straightforward. To ensure that the group works effectively together and keeps focused on the correct aims, leaders must take a far more active role.

There are six major drivers for developing a good cooperation culture — activities that, when done correctly, have a significant influence. And the lessons may be applied to any team or organization, from five to 500,000 people.

Make a simple map.

Leaders offer their teams a solution to the question that many young toddlers ask their parents before embarking on a long journey: “Where are we going and how are we going to get there?” To put it another way, what is the aim, and how will we track our success along the way?

And while this may appear to be a straightforward task, it is sometimes one of the most difficult difficulties that teams, departments, and corporations confront. What does it mean to be successful? What would you measure if you were to create a scoreboard to track your progress over time?

The problem usually arises when executives begin to list five, seven, or eleven priority. “If you have more than three priorities, you don’t have any,” says Jim Collins, author of the best-selling management books “Good to Great” and “Built to Last.” The most important role of a team leader is to determine these priorities and how they will be measured, because much of the work that everyone undertakes will flow from those goals. Those priorities must be aligned as meticulously as the direction of a rocket launch, because even the tiniest error can throw a team off track over time.

Have a Scoreboard that Everyone Can See

Another advantage of having a clear strategy is that it generates a common purpose, which counteracts people’s natural propensity to connect with smaller groups. Take, for example, a football team. Within a team, there are multiple “tribes” – offensive and defense, linemen and receivers, running backs and defensive backs, and so on. However, because the team’s aim is clear and success is tracked externally, there is a larger sense of “us” on the team than the “us and them” dynamic that may sometimes split colleagues in corporations.

“Metrics are truly the method that you can harmonize a big number of individuals, whether it’s dozens or even thousands,” said Adam Nash, the former CEO of Wealthfront and now an executive in residence at Greylock Partners, a startup financing firm. “They may be empowered to make those decisions when they’re on their own and making their own decisions because they know they’re aligned with the rest of the organization,” he added.

People will build up their own ways to gauge their achievement if there isn’t a basic, unified scoreboard, Mr. Nash added.

“You’ll get endless fighting and disagreements if you have a corporation where everyone has their own system of keeping score, and they’re not even disagreeing over what to do,” he said. “They’re debating how to keep track of the score.” They’re debating which game we’re actually playing. All of this is counterproductive.”

It’s possible that you’re feeling like a broken record…

Even if it feels monotonous, once you have a simple plan, you must continuously reminding your staff of the priorities. It is common for people to need to hear something several times before they actually recall it. Marc Cenedella, CEO of the job-search website, gave an useful rule of thumb:

He said, “You say something seven times and they don’t hear you.” “They haven’t internalized it until they start making jokes about how much you repeat it.”

The Law of the Road

So that everyone knows how to operate together, you’ll need a set of values, behaviors, and cultural guardrails.

Create a culture for your team.

“I believe it is possible for employees at many organizations to grow cynical, which leads to politics, which may spread like a cancer and bring even the most powerful companies down.” — Kathy Savitt, managing director of consultancy firm Perch Partners

Even if they aren’t discussed openly, all families have values. Certain behaviors — such as rules of the road — are promoted and discouraged for how everyone will (attempt to) get along and spend their time.

Teams aren’t all that dissimilar. If you get a group of individuals together to work on a project, they will build their own culture, which will be as distinctive as the people in the group.

You can take a hands-off attitude as a leader and hope that the team gels nicely over time. You can also search for ways to establish some shared guidelines for how individuals will collaborate.

There are no hard and fast guidelines for fostering a team’s cultural beliefs. Employees may be given them by the company’s founder in some situations. In some cases, top leaders will delegate the exercise to employees, resulting in a bottom-up initiative.

…And don’t stray from it.

The most crucial thing is for the team or firm to live according to its stated ideals rather than just going through the motions of the exercise, with people getting promoted despite their behavior being in obvious violation of the rules of the road.

“I think it’s easy for employees at many firms to get cynical, which then leads to politics, which can produce a cancer that may wreck even the most powerful companies,” Kathy Savitt, managing director of consulting firm Perch Partners, said.

There are a few more pitfalls to avoid:

Make sure your lists aren’t too long. Most individuals can’t remember more than three things on a daily basis, and lists don’t have to cover every possible human action, good or bad. Simply concentrate on the aspects that feel distinctive to the group or organization and serve as helpful reminders to keep everyone on track.

It is preferable to be specific rather than unclear. Many lists of values include words like quality and integrity, but those broad concepts, according to Michel Feaster of Usermind, a customer-engagement software company, can cause problems of their own.

“The difficulty with qualities like respect and courage is that they are interpreted differently by everyone,” she explained. “They’re too unclear and subject to interpretation,” says the author. They have the potential to divide us rather than unite us.”

More on Creating a Positive Workplace can be found here.

Respect One Another

Team members who do not feel respected will be less inclined to bring their best ideas — and self — to work.

The Consequences of a Poor Boss

“We make sure that everyone understands that the culture works because we respect one other. Inside our company, there is a sense of security and comfort.” — John Duffy, president and CEO of 3Cinteractive, a mobile technology company.

Unfortunately, most of us have had at least one (and occasionally several) lousy bosses over our careers.

They frequently have a lot of the same undesirable habits. They are deafeningly deafeningly deafening They have a tendency to micromanage. They don’t have faith in you. Employees are solely seen as pawns to aid them in achieving their objectives. Instead of taking responsibility for their faults, they point fingers. They take credit for the team’s successes. They humiliate people in front of their coworkers. The list is endless (sigh).

People are forced into a protective crouch as a result of such treatment, and they begin to subconsciously check a part of their self-image at the door before going to work. And it means that if they have an unusual proposal for the team, they may be hesitant to share it for fear of being dismissed. Innovation is difficult, if not impossible, in this climate.

Decide on a mood

It is critical for leaders to set a tone and model behavior that encourages everyone to respect one another.

At the time of our conversation, Robin Domeniconi, the CEO of Thread Tales,,a fashion brand, told me that she used the phrase “M.R.I.” as a cultural cornerstone.

She explained that M.R.I. stands for’most respectful interpretation’ of what someone says to you. “I don’t need everyone to be best friends, but I do need to work with M.R.I. as a team.” So, as long as you say it correctly, you may say anything to anyone. Perhaps you should begin by asking, ‘Can you help me understand why you don’t want to do this, or why you want to do this?’

Chief executive of 3Cinteractive, a mobile technology company, John Duffy, stated he implemented a zero-tolerance policy for disrespectful behavior.

“We have very explicit dialogues with everyone about how respect is the one thing in our culture that cannot be messed with,” he stated. “When there is an issue with someone gossiping or disrespecting a supervisor, a subordinate, or a peer, it is swarmed on and dealt with.” We make sure that everyone understands that the culture works because we respect one other. Inside our company, there is a sense of security and comfort.”

It’s All About the Group

When everyone fulfills their individual responsibilities, a team is stronger.

Accountability is a two-way street.

“All you need are individuals who follow through, and it’s a lot more fun when your coworkers do.” — Brett Wilson, CEO of TubeMogul, a software startup that specializes in video advertising.

Respecting others is part of a two-way street that promotes teamwork. At the same time, leaders must hold everyone on their team responsible for their contributions and roles. In effect, CEOs can offer their staff a straightforward bargain: “I’ll treat you well, but we’ll be transparent about the work you’re required to contribute.”

This culture of accountability is discussed openly in many firms. “I hold people responsible for anything that comes out of their lips,” said Steve Stoute, CEO of Translation LLC, a marketing and advertising agency. “In a firm this size, everyone is directly responsible for the person next to them, so don’t claim you’re going to do something and then don’t.”

If you say something, make it happen.

Brett Wilson, CEO of TubeMogul, a video advertising software company, employs a clever phrase to emphasize the necessity of being dependable at this firm.

“We have a culture where we value people who follow through on their promises — they have a high ‘do-to-say ratio,'” he explained. “All you need are individuals who follow through, and it’s a lot more fun when your coworkers do.” You can rely on them, and you can cut down on management levels, allowing information to flow more quickly.”

Tobi Lütke, the CEO of Shopify, an e-commerce software business, came up with the creative metaphor of a “trust battery” to communicate to employees that anything they do can either help or hinder their reputation for dependability.

“Every time you work with someone at the organization, your trust battery is charged or depleted based on things like whether you deliver on what you promise,” he stated. “This is how humans already work.” It’s just that we came up with a metaphor to talk about it in performance reviews without making people feel like the critiques are personal.”

Have a Discussion

Difficult conversations aren’t everyone’s idea of fun, but they’re required for a successful team to function.

Keep Yourself on the Internet’s Right Side

“Being an excellent boss is 80 percent having those nice talks.” — Seth Besmertnik, CEO of Conductor, a startup that specializes in search engine optimization.

A willingness to have candid discussions about problems and misconceptions that inevitably happen among coworkers is an important aspect of holding people accountable for their job.

However, most managers go to great lengths to avoid having these “adult dialogues.” It’s very understandable. They can be a pain to deliver, and most individuals would prefer to deliver good news rather than bad. Furthermore, you never know how someone may react to feedback. That is why issues are frequently ignored, only to be addressed months later in an annual performance evaluation.

One of the best pieces of advice for conducting such conversations is to “don’t go over the net.”

It implies that you should never make statements based on assumptions about someone’s motivations. Instead, stay on your side of the internet and discuss only what you’re seeing and your own responses and feelings. People will have a tougher time getting back up if you’re not coming up with rationales to explain someone else’s behavior.

Consider the following paragraph, which shows a slight but significant variation in approaches:

“I’ve observed you’re always 20 minutes late, and you don’t seem to mind.” The boss has gone on the internet and accused the individual of being uncaring.

“I’ve observed you’re always 20 minutes late, and it makes me think you don’t give a damn.” The supervisor is staying on the right side of the net here with just a little linguistic change, and avoiding an intense argument because the employee can’t dispute with how someone feels.

Andrew Thompson, the CEO of Proteus Digital Health, first introduced this method to me, saying that he utilizes it as a counterpoint to a natural human propensity.

Mr. Thompson explained, “People concoct all this fictional rubbish about why the individual is doing this to them when the person may not even realize they’re doing anything.”

Set the bar for feedback.

The frequency with which people provide feedback is just as significant as the manner in which they do so. Some bosses warn their employees up front that they would be giving them feedback on a regular basis. Employees will be less shocked when they receive feedback, and they will be more receptive to hearing it and acting on it.

“A lot of terrible habits develop when you go for long periods of time without providing people feedback and it simply builds up,” said Seth Besmertnik, CEO of Conductor, a search engine optimization firm. “They’re so used to not getting any input that it’s such a big deal when they do.” They’ll become used to it if you get into a feedback routine.”

“Having those terrific interactions is really 80% of being an effective boss,” he noted.

The Risks of Using Email

This last principle may not seem as important as the others, but email has the potential to corrode corporate culture.

The issue arises from the fact that emails frequently lack the tone and context necessary to effectively communicate what the sender is thinking. As a result, a simple email can be misconstrued, causing worry or eliciting an angry response. As a result, email can often degrade rather than strengthen the connective tissue that establishes connections among coworkers.

“You can’t truly resolve a problem in an email because people don’t know tone,” said Nancy Aossey, CEO of the nonprofit International Medical Corps. “They have no concept of expression.” Even if they like and know you, they may not be able to tell if you were upset or joking in an email.”

“Arguing over email is about having the last word,” she noted, describing the problems as “truly beginning when people start an argument through email.” It taps into a potentially harmful aspect of human behavior. You want to be the last one to say something, and nothing brings that out more than email because you can sit there and hit’send,’ and then it just kind of ratchets up without you knowing the tone.”

Many leaders are aware of the perils of email and are clear about the expectations they have for their employees. A quarrel, for example, should never last more than two emails. After that, you must either pick up the phone or do something unusual, such as getting up from your desk and going to speak with your colleague in person.

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