So, you are a manager or project lead charged with putting together a new team. If you are lucky, you may get to influence the choice of who makes it onto your team. Often, the decision is not entirely yours. You may even have outside customers or partners who are assigned to the project. How do you get a diverse group of individuals to come together and develop into a high performing team as quickly as possible?
Here are several tips about pulling together a team that will achieve results and come away energized about the whole experience.
- Begin with the end in mind. There are really two main aspects of this golden rule that Stephen R. Covey made famous. First, be clear about the common goal – what you are trying to achieve together. You will really inspire people to engage in the goal if you can express it in ways beyond a simple financial target. Discuss and determine together what success look like for the customers, partners or society in general. Try to inspire! Second, be clear about the team experience itself. What should it feel like and look like to be on this team? As leader, open the dialogue and get consensus on how people expect each other to behave – your group ‘norms’. Don’t skip this step thinking that it’s obvious. It’s not. Write down the norms and communicate them because you will come back to these expectations when discussions get heated or conflicts emerge.
- Clarify leadership and decision-making. Who is the official lead and what powers does he or she have? Who will facilitate meetings? How will you make decisions? Consensus will build commitment but, if things bog down and consensus eludes you, everyone will likely appreciate a good (previously agreed-upon) process for making critical decisions and moving forward.
- Clarify roles and responsibilities of team members. Roles may change and responsibilities may blur with the passage of time, but clarity will reduce conflict and set people at ease.
- Build relationships early on. Get to know one another beyond ‘the work world” by having fun together. Often. Consider structured team building events, a special potluck meal or simple icebreakers before meetings. Do this in the “forming’ stage of team development and continue it on a regular basis.
- Create a safe environment for differences of opinion. Your group ‘norms’ will likely address this. Encourage differences of opinion to surface, rather than ignoring them or glossing them over. On the other hand, don’t let petty, recurring differences dominate the agenda to the point where high performers lose patience.
- Create small successes early on and celebrate them. Break your project down so that people can achieve sub-goals, experience success and get fired up for the next round.
- Build high performance capacity. At the end of every project, take the time to reflect with the team on what they would do the same next time. And, of course, what they might do differently to create an even better team experience.
Don’t leave your team’s performance to chance. Deliberately create the conditions for success in both the task and the relationships. Your organisation and your team will thank you.