There are two adages in the world of management and business that relate to this article’s theme.
One states that “a leader is only as good as their team,” while the other maxim holds that “a team is only as good as its leader.”
At first blush, these seem like contradictory sentiments. Is a team defined by its leader, or is the leader defined by their team? But as you wade into building a successful team, you will quickly realize that both of these statements are true simultaneously.
A successful team isn’t a fixed, hierarchical system. Instead, it’s a living, evolving relationship in which each party has the capacity to improve (or detract from) the whole.
If you are building a successful, synergistic team to improve your organization, consider these few tips.
Goals and expectations are the backbone of a successful team.
Take the example of a rowing crew. Every team member in the boat needs to be clear on a) where they are going and b) how to synchronize their oars for maximal speed and efficiency. A crew team splashing their oars unevenly, each trying to steer toward a different dock, is going to sink pretty quickly.
Consider this metaphor as you establish your team. Is everyone clear on their individual and collective goals? And does each team member have the resources and instruction necessary to do what’s expected of them?
“Echo chamber” is a term conventionally used in the media to describe feedback loops of idea reinforcement. It’s “an environment in which a person encounters only beliefs or opinions that coincide with their own, so that their existing views are reinforced and alternative ideas are not considered.”
The term resonates in business and team dynamics as well. If you stack your team with "yes-people '' and individuals who think similarly, you may experience less friction – but you’ll also experience less forward momentum, less innovation. A diversity of ideas, values and skill sets is essential when creating a well-rounded team.
Each member of a team carries the weight and wisdom of their past experiences. While having some "green" team members is acceptable, remember to assemble your team with experience in mind too. Recently, when Regan McGee expanded his leadership team at Nobul, he was clear on these priorities.
Asked about his decision-making process by the Financial Post, McGee was characteristically candid: “They each have proven track records of successfully scaling businesses much smaller than Nobul to multibillion-dollar market caps.”
If clear goals and expectations are the linchpin of a successful team, communication is the grease in the wheels. Without it, things start to break down – accountability suffers, morale plummets, and miscommunication may threaten to derail a project.
From day one, establish open lines of communication. Moreover, establish repeatable communication protocols, so that team members know how, when and who to approach as issues arise. In your capacity as a leader, you can also use these open lines of communication to encourage team members, celebrating their successes and positively reinforcing their work.
Building a successful team shouldn’t feel “out of your control.” Establish clear goals, diverse ideas, past experience and robust communication to ensure that your team works effectively.
Felix is the founder of Society of Speed, an automotive journal covering the unique lifestyle of supercar owners. Alongside automotive journalism, Felix recently graduated from university with a finance degree and enjoys helping students and other young founders grow their projects.