Creating a Great Team

Friday, November 15, 2013 - 21:10

By Leon Gettler

Great teams don’t just happen. They are the result of a lot of work from team leaders and team members. Everyone there knows what makes teams work well and at the same time, acknowledge what’s important for individual team members while linking individual aspirations and goals to the remit of the organisation. The manager plays a critical role bringing all that together.

Glenn Llopis at Forbes says managers have to be very much aware of their own individual style and techniques. They have to constantly evaluate themselves and be critical about where they can improve, especially in areas that will benefit those whom they are a leading. They have to get to know the team and know exactly what buttons to push and when to push them. They should also clearly define everyone’s role and responsibility. This is not unlike team sport where everyone plays to a position. Everyone is allocated a role that fits in with their strengths and capabilities.

The managers should also be giving constant feedback. Doing it only when there’s a problem is counter-productive. It has to be proactive and just part of the natural dialogue. And finally, they have to acknowledge and reward and always celebrate the success stories that in many cases required tremendous effort, sacrifice and perseverance.

Writing in Psychology Today, Liane Davey, a Vice President of Knightsbridge Leadership Solutions, compares teams to machines. Just as machines take corn syrup, water, carbon dioxide, and artificial colouring and mix them into a delicious drink, great teams take diverse ideas, information and processes from all the different team members and mix them into new perspectives. That means all teams need diversity.

Just as sophisticated machines use filters to weed out ingredients not required in the end product, managers running teams should have the skill to figure out what not to do and what to do and look at the risks of different approaches and proceeding, or not proceeding, accordingly. And every team member is a cog in the machine. One person starts the idea moving and the added value of the next person gets it moving faster and faster.

The people at Fast Company say size is critical for every team. “What’s the secret to a great team? Think small. Ideally, your team should have 7 to 9 people. If you have more than 15 or 20, you’re dead:

The connections between team members are too hard to make… Size is the key. Have the smallest number of people possible on each team. Another rule: no delegates. You don’t want people who have to take the team’s ideas back to someone else to get authorisation. You want the decision makers.”

And the manager here plays a critical role. “The management challenge is to understand that the people who report to you may get most of their direction from another person or from several other people: their team leaders. And people can be on more than one team, of course. It’s the manager’s job to think about whether this person is being stretched too thin, or whether that person needs some special training.”