“A player who makes a team great is more valuable than a great player.” ~Coach John Wooden
In the sports world, teamwork is everything. Except for maybe tennis and golf, which are individual sports, but that’s another story. A team cannot win with a bunch of individuals who are only out for themselves. While individual goals might be good, team goals are really what matters. That is where you need stellar leadership from the coach or manager, as well as ownership and the front office.
In order to build a successful team, effective leaders know they need to understand the individual strengths, weaknesses and motivation for each team member. Nobody did it better than the late John Wooden, basketball coach at UCLA where he won 10 college basketball championships in a 12-year period. His “Pyramid of Success” was the cornerstone of his achievement, and has helped countless others on their journey to successful leadership.
The same applies to the business world. If a team (or company, division or department) wants to be at the top of their game, they need all-star leadership from managers, supervisors, executives and ownership.
Part of the success of effective team building is making sure everyone knows his or her role within the team, and how their actions affect the rest of the team members. This is also true when working with other teams within the company.
Team building is both an art and science, and each individual is a piece of the puzzle you are trying to create. Whether just starting out building a team, or trying to refine the process, here are nine things to remember that will help along the way:
- Open Communication. This will always be at the top or close to the top of any list. Building great teams starts with open and effective communication. A recent survey of over 1000 US employees found only 15% of employees are very satisfied with workplace communication. The survey also found “81% of employees would rather join a company that values ‘open communication’ than one that offers great perks such as top health plans, free food, and gym memberships.” The survey also found younger employees (Gen-Xers and Millennials) feel they “are not being heard” by older managers and supervisors. Remember—the most important part of communication is listening.
- Define Goals, Roles and Responsibilities. Everyone needs structure in their lives in order to achieve greatness, and employees are no different. Make sure all goals, roles and responsibilities are spelled out clearly to avoid duplication and to maximize time. The more detailed the better and the earlier in the process, the better.
- Guidance and Support. Leadership does not end when goals and responsibilities are defined. Great leaders make sure their teams have the guidance, support and tools needed to meet those goals
- Give and Accept Feedback. Throughout a project, teams need feedback to make sure they are on the right path, meeting all objectives, knowing what worked well, and what didn’t. Constructive feedback will make for a better, well-organized team. Feedback should be individual, as well as team oriented. It is also important to ask for feedback from your team to make sure they are getting the support they need to complete their work. It can pinpoint flaws in the process, and is very important in making sure your employees know they are being heard.
- Show Gratitude and Appreciation. Everyone likes to be appreciated and valued, and your team members are no different. Do not be stingy with showing gratitude for a job well done. Try to let each individual know what they did for the success of the team, as well as the team as a whole.
- Practice Teamwork. Team building is critical for any number of reasons, and team-building exercises can show you how well your employees work together. Be creative in how you get your employees to bond with each other. It could be a catered lunch, or fun team building exercises.
- Get to Know Your Team Members. Great leaders find out personal information (don’t get too personal!) about each team member. Do they have kids, what is their favorite movie or music group, favorite food? You have more in common with your team than you know, and they have more in common with each other as well. Make sure to stay away from sensitive topics such as religion, politics or money matters. Remember, they are not just employees; they are people as well with hopes, dreams and desires.
- Encourage Trust and Cooperation. Relationships among team members are just as important as the relationship they have with you. Encourage open communication, trust, cooperation and respect between team members, and when problems arise, let them try to come up with creative problem solving solutions together.
- Celebrate Success. And when it is all said and done, make sure to celebrate accomplishments and successes. Make sure your people know they are appreciated and valued for their hard work, and they know by working together great things can be achieved. It’s great to take a step back and reflect on what you accomplished.
Creating a great team, especially one that works well with customers in helping to solve any issues and complaints, is a never-ending process. People will come and go all the time, which means you will have different personalities, egos and opinions. Leaders know they are only as good as the teams they lead, so keeping the stability with the right team attitude and dynamics will result in a win-win situation for everyone. Just ask any championship sports team.