Building a Team that Works

Building the right team is a critical part of leadership. The strengths and weaknesses of your team can set the limits of success and achievement. This is true of project teams and operational teams.

Whilst some leaders are fortunate enough to be able to select and build their own teams (this sometimes happens with projects), others inherit their teams, perhaps by succeeding another manager. Whether you appoint your own team or take over someone else’s, it is important to have the right people onboard.

A good quality team has the people with the right skills, personalities and values.

Appointing someone with technical and specialist skills is important for some roles. Certain jobs may require specific qualifications or experience. Where this is necessary, you may need to invest money in finding the best candidate for the job.

Some skills can be outsourced. For example, you may not need to appoint in-house accountants or Information Technology support when you could pay a third-party organisation for these services

Remember, employees can also learn new skills on the job. Training your team members can help them grow as individuals and make your team develop.

Whilst external appointments are often attractive to employers, it can prove wiser to recruit from within where possible. With internal appointments, you know for sure what the person has achieved and delivered. It is sometimes easy for external candidates to make exaggerated claims about their successes and this can bias a recruiting panel into favouring a new person over an existing member of the team.

A new recruit will take time to settle in and become productive. They will likely need to form new relationships and bonds before they perform effectively within your team. An internal candidate, on the other hand, will already be familiar with the workplace and have developed personal and professional networks that can be applied positively.

When people talk about ‘diversity’, one often thinks about personal characteristics such as gender, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation and disability. However, this is only part of the story – diversity runs deeper than this. It also concerns personality and style.

It is tempting for managers to recruit people who are similar to themselves. To an extent, this brings advantages, as the recruiting manager will have a better understanding of the new starter and how they will approach their work.

Difficulties may arise if there is not enough diversity in a team. For example, a team consisting purely of extraverts may result in a competitive and unfocused workplace whereas a team consisting solely of introverts may mean that the team may lack assertiveness. A team with a mixture and balance of personalities and styles is most likely to be effective.

If you are managing someone with a different personality to yourself, it can be difficult at first to find common ground. Yet, in time and with the right attitude, this can be turned into a productive relationship. This involves spending time with your team members, talking to them and understanding them better. This will allow you to recognise their value and respect their perspective on a situation. Managers will require excellent interpersonal skills to be effective.

Diverse skill-sets and personalities are vital to the success of a team. However, the values that team members have should not be as diverse. If the values of an organisation and its staff are aligned, staff retention rates are likely to be higher as people will believe in what they are doing.

Shared values may include work ethic – i.e. do team members believe in working hard or striving for success, or would they rather do the minimum necessary to get by?

If you listen to your staff, especially when they talk about themselves, you will recognise what is important to them and what drives or motivates them – e.g. do they want to make money? Do they want to make a difference to society?

Team members with values that conflict with those of the team or the organisation are likely to present difficulties. Work with your team to match their values with what the team does and wants to achieve.

Getting the balance right, with a focused team with diverse and relevant skills can help you achieve success in your projects and business operations.

About the author

Nathan joined RWA in 2016 on successfully completing his PhD. He previously worked in the private, public and charitable sectors. Nathan leads the content and professional standards team at RWA and is responsible for managing and curating technical content on the Aviva Development Zone and the award-winning My Development Zone e-learning platforms.

Since joining RWA, Nathan has written hundreds of business skills e-learning modules and assessments on a variety of subjects, including leadership and management, communication skills, human resources, employability, regeneration, citizenship and equalities.

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