Building a kick-ass team is one of the most rewarding experiences for any leader. To see the team YOU established succeed and thrive creates a sense of pride and satisfaction like no other.
Do you remember how it felt to be a part of an awesome team? You were in sync, you had fun, and you were an unstoppable machine. Everyone was connected and continuously driving in the same direction to get stuff done.
This blog marks the beginning of a series of posts that will walk you through the full cycle of not only building a team, but also supercharging it! Today, we start from the beginning, which involves creating your vision, crafting roles and selecting the right members. Over the course of the next few months, I will address other topics such as the settling in period, navigating through difficult times, celebrating successes and preparing for transformative windups.
The “Kick-Ass Team Building From the Ground Up” series will also include tons of practical tips and tricks for boosting your own leadership capabilities, so please follow along for full access to an abundance of insight and advice.
Without further ado, welcome to part one of our series – The Start Up Phase!
There are countless reasons why you may be forming a new team right now. It may be the beginning of a new project or initiative, or there may be an important new business direction underway and you have to pull a group together. Regardless of the reason behind the new team formation, here are your steps to get started:
Let me preface by stressing one thing – do not skip this step! Even if you’ve been handed a group of pre-selected individuals to begin with, I encourage all of my clients to start with a blank slate. Before you go sticking boxes on an org chart, ensure you are crystal clear on your own vision. Grab a whiteboard and consider these key questions:
Having this information readily available will assist you in figuring out which roles are required on the team and what work you’ll be in charge of overall. It will also provide a basis to review the team’s progress once set up.
2. Suss Out The Work
When beginning to build a team, it’s common for leaders to immediately think about managers – how many they need, who they will be etc. But there is a major drawback to this approach. What tends to happen is teams end up with too many people trying to lead without clear and distinct accountabilities – and you know what they say about too many cooks in the kitchen!
Instead of beginning with management, do a bottom-up build. Consider the day-to-day work of your team and allow your structure to fall into place according to what actually needs to get done.
In order to ensure you stack your structure with the right number and level of roles, consider these questions first:
Your answers to the questions above should start to create a picture of how many people you really need to DO the day-to-day work? And in contrast, how many managers are required to manage the people doing the day-to-day.
If you can, quantify the output that will be delivered – you may have to make a few assumptions at this point – and think about the ROI (return on investment) of your resources. You tend to get bigger return with ‘doers’ than with ‘managers’.
Here are some common pitfalls that many leaders face during this step of a new team formation:
3. Map Your Structure
This is when you get to move the boxes around. When creating an organizational structure, I prefer using an accountability-based approach – that is establishing a hierarchy with clarity so everyone will know who is on the hook for what.
Clear accountability is a critical success factor for a smooth running team. Also vital, yet sadly overlooked, is ensuring that each Manager fully understands that their responsibility includes the development of their team members, not just direct reports. This includes formalized succession planning for managers to have replacement plans for their own roles – setting this up in the beginning will make your job a whole lot easier.
Now layout a future focused org structure identifying how each role reports. Every role on the org chart needs a unique and clearly defined accountability in order to reduce confusion and improve self-sufficiency. Notice we haven’t talked about the people yet? This is done on purpose.
Million Dollar Tip: Never design your structure around your people. Big mistake! (Send me a message if you want to know why)
Here is an example of how you might divide work initially in order to support your longer-term structure to ramp up staffing over time:
Org structures evolve due to many variables over time, but having a plan to begin with a ‘target’ operating model (future structure) will help as you begin the hiring/selection process. Look for talent who can grow and be developed over time into expanded roles.
4. Spec Your Jobs
I know this may seem tedious, but believe me, this is worth the investment! Not only will this step get you thinking about what work is needed to be done and the talent you will need, but also the document you create will serve multiple purposes over the life cycle of the team (e.g. sourcing people, evaluating compensation, performance management).
Each role needs its own spec - a profile. Consider all the elements similar to a job posting you would need, which details the skills necessary, the type of characteristics required to be successful and the education or knowledge you feel is a must or nice to have in each job.
If you’ve never done this before, you can cheat by ‘Googling’ similar jobs and reviewing postings for relevant content. They will give you a clue for the type of jobs in the market (no one I know ever got into trouble for using another job posting for inspiration). Just ensure your job spec thoroughly outlines the work duties, tasks, and responsibilities so that a potential employee has an idea of what they’ll be signing up for!
5. Pick Your Talent
Finally, it’s time to talk about people. I could write a whole blog on just this step – I love selecting talent – but I’ll save that for another time! For the sake of moving along, I’ll keep this section brief.
If you already have a pool of people to select from, resist the temptation to simply slot in people you know in the boxes. Do yourself a favour and review them against the job spec for ‘fit’, and ask yourself if they are the right people to do the job. If not, you may need to post the role.
This is the step where it really pays to have objective help in screening candidates and conducting interviews. Having someone to whittle the list of candidates down to a choice few will save you time – they can also be your point person to field follow up calls and emails.
I highly recommend involving several people that you trust in the interview stage to help you screen for ‘fit’. It’s important that anyone new joining the team or business matches both the style and organizational culture of the company. If you have management roles, start with those first and perhaps have them join you in future interviews as you build out the team.
Prepare a series of questions that will help you probe and qualify the candidates until you find the right people to fill your roles. I also recommend considering the use of a comprehensive assessment tool that can give yet another dimension about fit to the team and clues for how best to manage and communicate moving forward.
Dots Leadership Solutions can assist you with crafting your structure, developing job specs, preparing your selection strategy and even screening, assessing and interviewing candidates – it’s kind of our ‘thing’. Give us a call today and let’s chat about the next team you’re building.
Stay tuned for our next blog in the 'Building a Kick-Ass Team' series Part 2 – Team Identity
Where's the Help?
Are you under constraints at work and it’s taking a toll on you as the leader? Do you have more work to do but no additional headcount? Perhaps there is a hiring freeze or you’ve been told you can’t bring in replacements when someone leaves your unit.
Unfortunately, this is how a lot of big companies deal with shrinking market share or downturns in their industry. But what if I told you there might be some resources available that you can’t see yet? In fact, you may be able to recoup a full role or parts of a role, you just need to know where and how to look.
Time to BRAG
There are a variety of strategies you can use to uncover hidden capacity. To help you get started, we’re going to have to BRAG a little bit:
Blow it Up – aka. Process Redesign
You can regain significant efficiencies by revisiting processes and there are many different approaches you can use to redesign them. Here are two methodologies I've found successful for uncovering wasted work efforts that can give you back some of your resource and time:
Focused at the role level, this step involves reviewing the scope and depth of each job in the team to determine what work is critical and what work may be less necessary or could be done differently. Look for odd hand-offs or ‘busy’ work, eliminate this low value work and replace with work that provides a greater contribution for the team. Expand accountabilities and give employees the opportunity to learn new skills; job expansion can also help with raising employee engagement, provided the person is not overworked.
Align the Boxes
Using tools to clarify team member accountabilities provides clarity of purpose and assists the team in fully understanding who does what. Frequently team members are unclear as to each other’s roles, causing confusion, which results in rework or duplication of effort The focus here should be to ensure the right work is being done at the appropriate level, using the skills and capabilities of the correct talent. This will push administrative work down, making for more efficient use of everyone’s skills.
I’ve personally found this to be a rare gem when uncovering hidden talents, and the best part is it’s so simple! How well do you know the talents and passions of who you have working for you? And what team member skills or experience might you be unaware of?
Frequently we find that employees are under-utilized. Assumptions are often made based on job titles or what’s been seen to date, but most people have a kit bag of skills beyond what their job description specifies. For example, some of the greatest Project Managers I know were once Executive Assistants. Think about it, juggling priorities, keeping everyone in the loop, scheduling, organizing…very similar skills!
Did you know, one of the most common reasons for employees to quit a job is the feeling of being under-valued and under-utilized?
Most people want meaningful work that provides an opportunity to grow; get to know what each of your team love to do, what they do in their spare time and what their previous experience is and then look at how you may retool and enrich their work to capitalize on their skill-set.
A great place to start is to use self-assessment tools that will help you and your team understand their unique styles. You never know, you may just find someone who is just itching to take on something more.
Call in Dots to Help!
If you need help crafting a solution to find hidden resources, or to discuss how to clarify team accountabilities, assess your team and design an efficient workflow, please feel free to Contact Us. You can also learn more about Dots by checking out our About page.
What Worked For You?
We'd love to hear from you! What strategies have worked for you to find hidden resources?
Photo used under Creative Commons from Animalparty
‘Oh goody’, we’re going to have a team offsite (which is really onsite in the old boardroom), and ‘oh yay’ we’re going to have sandwiches and maybe even salad.
Everyone wants a free lunch, right?
You’ve all been there. You know what I’m talking about – one of those team-planning sessions where they bring in only two Diet Cokes and three cans of Sprite for a team of 7. The food is the same, boring sandwiches and the last person to arrive always gets stuck with the egg salad…every. single. planning. meeting.
You do your “team building” [sarcastic voice] – “If you were an animal, what kind would you be and why”. And then your manager divvies up the agenda to each team member so that everyone can contribute. Together you wordsmith the team objectives from last year so they sound more like this year. That’s the planning done.
The big crescendo of the day is to all go out to dinner together (even though no one really wants to). Everybody sits with the persons they prefer and make idle chit chat, watching their phones carefully as they don’t want to miss an early train home. And then, everyone is gone promptly by 6pm.
Did you feel the team bond?? Do you feel setup for success for the coming year of challenges? Did they work through challenges they anticipate for the year? Was there candour about process?
Lets Kick That Old Way Up a Few Notches!
I want to amp up your thinking on team building – I want to really elevate and place emphasis on BUILDING a team. Building takes effort. Lets put a stop to meaningless onsite/offsites and start creating momentous building blocks for high performing, productive, ‘kicka$$’ teams!!
Who’s with me?
Definition of High Performing, Productive, 'Kicka$$' Teams:
So, imagine how good a purposefully BUILT team would be?
They do exist, some are in very good shape, but if you’re a leader whose team may not be there right now I have great news, YOU can make it so!! Here are some of the building blocks of success you can use to build your team with purpose.
7 Building Blocks to Strong, High Performing, Productive
1. Create a team credo – Why does this team exist in this company under this department? What do we believe in? What are our shared values? Think about what would be missing if the team did not exist, this will help you and your team members understand why you’re so important. Reviewing this together annually will keep everyone in tune with your stakeholders.
2. Define your deliverables this year – What must this particular team deliver this year? By when? Write down team goals using the SMART principle (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely. Create these together, openly debate and discuss.
3. Know your people – What skills exist in your team? Where did your people come from? What are their goals? What are their strengths and weaknesses? What comes easy and what work makes them most uncomfortable, why? How do they see their work, the company, the department and the team?
4. Design workflow and review structure – Does the work flow easily in and through your team, or is it convoluted, confusing multiple touch points with time wasting as a result? Does each role holder have a reason for being? This should be reviewed whenever work changes.
5. Create clear role clarity – This is a biggie. If I asked each of your team what the other people did, can they answer? Does everyone know what is expected of him or her? Do they know what is within their own control? Do they know when they would come to you or to someone else for decisions? Are they accountable for an output or are they a cog in the wheel? Does everyone understand what part they play to accomplish the overall team deliverables?
6. Play to their strengths – Do they know themselves? Are your people set up to do their best work? Have you matched them to the right level of work? Does the team know about each other’s strengths and know how to leverage them?
7. Provide opportunity to communicate – Do you have regular team meetings to review progress? Do you give time to openly debate and discuss and resolve issues as a team? Do you make time to connect with each person and check in to see what challenges they are experiencing? Do you ask questions to understand? Do you allow them to make mistakes and coach for the learning?
You’ll notice that embedded in each of these building blocks is the key leadership traits of today’s leaders. (Try our free leadership assessment to assess how you measure up). Creating a positive employee experience is one of the main roles you have as a leader, true team building serves as a key to positive employee engagement .
There are any number of fun and interesting team activities you can do as a leader to purposefully build your team using these building blocks – and there is help if you want it!!
If you need help in crafting a solution to set you up for success, or to discuss how we can help you reach leadership and team effectiveness, please feel free to contact us. You can also learn more about the Dots story .
Elaine Adamson is a leadership consultant with Dots Leadership Solutions Inc. A natural dot connector. Passionate about coaching team effectiveness and leadership development she shares over 25+ years of real-life tips and tricks that really work!
Elaine believes you can discover and leverage strengths to forge a strong team dynamic despite business challenges or organizational change.