“The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team.” (Phil Jackson)

Good teamwork is essential to success. Building a great team does not only entail hiring the right people who possess the correct credentials, it also involves sacrificing the “me” for the “we.”


How do you build a successful team?

When you bake, you assemble a list of ingredients that, when mixed together, you hope will create a delicious cake. The ingredients on their own – flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar, to name a few, are all unpalatable when eaten by themselves, yet, when mixed together and baked at the right temperature and time, can produce a mouthwatering concoction.
Now, this may be a simplistic analogy for great teams, but, like each team member, the ingredients we use for certain dishes serve a particular purpose that contributes to the overall quality and success of the meal that will be served.

1. It goes beyond hiring the right people.

  1. Great leaders produce great teams.
    To create a great team, you require a great leader who can manage egos, recognize people’s strengths and how it benefits the team, and know how to motivate and fire up people’s enthusiasm to achieve success. It’s not enough for you to identify the skills you need, hire the seeming right people for the job, and throw them together with the expectation they’ll work well together. Leaders create vision, which keeps team members on the right track, remind them to stay focused on their goals, hold himself and the team accountable for their responsibilities, ensure disagreements are constructive and communication occurs to bring out the best ideas.
  2. Roles and responsibilities should be clearly defined and set.
    A team is more than the sum of its members. A good leader will know how to identify a candidate’s fortes and measure them up against the culture and identity of the team, checking not only the skills each individual brings to the table, but also his ability to be a team player. We’ve all worked with someone who seems to have all the knowledge necessary to succeed, but is abrasive, exhibits braggadocio tendencies and puts down other’s contributions. They end up being passed over for promotions, overlooked by management, and are not thought well of by their colleagues. Their presence becomes a detriment, their skills outweighed by their poor people skills.Each team member should know exactly how their skillsets provide value to the team’s overall goals and progress.
  3. Everyone should be accountable to the team.To build a successful team, every member should be held accountable to the same standard, even (and perhaps, especially) the leader who needs to have the self-awareness to realize when something’s not working, correct course and modify what’s needed to make sure he’s leading from a source of strength and respectability.When each person is held accountable, everyone will work harder and better. Each team member knows, even before agreeing to be part of any team, that there are clear expectations regarding their output in exchange for being treated well. Knowing that you can rely and depend on the person next to you to do their part sets a standard and promotes pride in how each person’s output contributes to the team’s success.

2. Goals should be clear and SMART.

Leaders need to provide their team with guidelines – a road map if you will, of how their goals will lead to success, what success means to them, how it will be measured, and the major steps they need to take to ensure they achieve it. Metrics are a great way of making sure each team member is aligned and harmonized over a shared goal.

Set objectives need to be clear, specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-based so you and your team know how to apply your resources and time to chart progress.

3. Create a company culture and abide by it.

Usually, whenever a group gets together, each member brings with him his own specific experiences, beliefs and values. Some leaders put people together and wait for culture to develop as people share their own values and communication styles with the rest. However, in most cases, leaders need to take a hands-on approach, either to dictate the culture themselves or pass the duty forward, so it comes straight from their employees.

Teams work better together when they have guidelines to follow. They’re more motivated when there are shared values, ethics, vision and behavior.

Companies who have great company culture always have highly motivated and engaged employees, which, in turn, impact productivity, retention and sales.

  1. Team members should respect themselves and others.
    Teams are created for a purpose, but teamWORK can only happen when there’s respect among group members, including acceptance of diversity, differences and professional backgrounds.Knowing how vital respect is for teams, leaders must set the tone for how it’s practiced and enforced. Much like how bullying isn’t tolerated in schools, disrespect should be treated the same in the corporate world.At some point in your professional careers, you’ve had leaders who don’t listen, micromanage, take credit for other people’s ideas, discriminate against people, reprimand them in public, or blame others if something goes awry. This type of behavior fosters loss of confidence, and an unwillingness to work or put forth ideas, leading to stagnated progress and an inability to innovate.It can be a tall order, but leaders must have self-respect before they can practice and model respect for others. Having self-respect means confidence and acceptance in the experiences and skills, both good and bad, that have brought you to where you are at present. It means not comparing yourself to others, and thus having the ability to embrace the divergent ideas and views of each team member.
  2. Recognize and reward successes.
    Teams work well when they know their successes, accomplishments and contributions are recognized and rewarded. A company culture that celebrates little successes along with the big, cultivates a culture where employees feel included and valued.Most times, this acknowledgment has deeper meaning when done publicly like during meetings, or company-wide email. When team members know their efforts will be seen and acknowledged, they’ll be encouraged to do the same – knowing that doing so for others doesn’t take away from their own achievements.

4. Communicate and converse effectively.

For a team to work seamlessly, the importance of communication cannot be over-emphasized. It’s important that each member is given a voice – when people are asked for suggestions regarding projects, they take more ownership and feel more invested in the outcome.

Like every situation or group made of diverse individuals, conflict is inevitable. Smoothing out differences is important, even necessary, for teamwork to occur.

  1. Feedback must be effective.
    Giving feedback is a skill, and, like all skills, practice makes perfect. Feedback, when done right, can lead to outstanding performances. Employees need to know what they are doing well, or not well for improvements to be made. For them to understand what you’re trying to communicate and teach them, feedback needs to be given carefully.

    • Before you give feedback, you have to check your motives. If feedback is fair and positive, with a focus on improvement, it’s more likely to be taken in a good way. If you can, provide specific suggestions on how issues can be solved, that way team members will know the focus remains on their growth and development.
    • A good rule of thumb is to start off with the positive – this will help put the person at ease, show them what successes they’ve accomplished and provide them with a picture of how it looks like in the first place.
    • Be short and specific in the constructive criticism you’re giving. Introducing more than two at a time can feel like an attack and come across as demoralizing rather than encouraging.
    • Make sure feedback is given privately and is coming from your perspective. Find a safe place where feedback can be given with no audience and no interruption. Focusing the feedback on you – how the behavior has affected you, your reactions and feelings, can avoid labels and assumptions about people’s motivations. The feedback will become more constructive and may even point out behaviors other people don’t realize they do.
  2. Feedback must be expected and delivered regularly.
    The frequency by which feedback is delivered is just as important as the way it’s delivered. Is there nothing more formidable than hearing the words, “let’s talk” from your boss, especially when you hear it rarely or not at all?A lot of companies systemize feedback giving to the point where it becomes a looming monster – something to be feared instead of welcomed. There’s no need to wait for yearly performance reviews – when feedback doesn’t happen for long stretches, people become defensive when they do receive it. It ceases to become a learning opportunity and becomes something to be dreaded.Giving regular and constant informal feedback helps employees know where they stand and prevents unpleasant surprises during formal performance reviews.

Nowadays, communication is made easier by apps like Slack, which make it almost seamless and automatic. Having systems like this in place helps keep communication lines open and flowing, which can directly impact problem solving and execution.

Emails are also helpful and easily accessible, although caution needs to be taken in ensuring no words will be taken wrongly. Body language, nuances in tone of voice are vital to getting your message across. With the coronavirus limiting face-to-face interactions, video conferences and calls can provide a good secondary mode of communication for teams.

Building a successful team sounds easy but is a lot more challenging given all the factors in play. Different backgrounds, abilities, personalities, experience and opinions need to be juggled with skill and care.

From identifying the right people to recruit, providing a vision for success, setting clear goals, earmarking the skills necessary to achieve them, establishing a group culture of respect and ensuring communication lines are open, for teamwork to make the dream work, great interpersonal relationships between team members are crucial. When each individual member knows his strength and is appreciated for his value, they trust each other and allow individual achievements to take secondary importance to the team’s success.

“Good teams become great ones when the members trust each other enough to surrender the Me for the We.” (Phil Jackson)