4 Do’s and Don’t’s of Team Building

Beth Miller |

When you’re managing a group of people, you can simply… manage a group of people. But the whole of those individuals can be greater than their the sum of their parts, and if you don’t create a team out of a disconnected group, you could be missing out on all the creativity, innovation, and other developments a great team can offer.

Linda Hill, Kent Lineback, and Beth Comstock, who each have blogs at the Harvard Business Review, all have thoughts about how to build winning business teams.

1. DON’T: Manage individuals. Of course, there will be times when you need to have one-on-one management with your employees, but in the course of general business, don’t spend all your time managing one person at a time and neglecting the collective power of the group. When you do that, Linda Hill and Kent Lineback say, you “rarely use [your] groups to diagnose or solve problems. And when issues arise that clearly affect the group as a whole, [you] tend to handle them one on one.”

DO: Use the social dynamic of the team to solve problems. When issues arise, your team can rely on each other, and have confidence in their capabilities because they have someone else they can count on to have the abilities and knowledge they may not have.

2. DON’T: Allow vague boundaries about your team members’ roles and responsibilities. It sounds like something that could allow for greater innovation, not being put in boxes, right? Instead, a lack of clear roles means that each team member spends a great deal of time worrying that they’re in the right place, doing the right thing, and they’re not being productive. Worse, it can lead to team conflicts, as roles overlap and turf wars begin.

DO: Recognize individual roles, contributions, and strengths. Each of your team members are part of something bigger, and when they can be comfortable in the knowledge they are doing the right thing, their skills can shine. When all are doing this together, then they are free to collaborate and create in a meaningful way.

3. DON’T: Succumb to groupthink, Beth Comstock advises, calling it “the creativity-killing phenomenon of too much agreement and too similar perspectives that often paralyzes otherwise great teams.” In a group of similar thinking people who need similar things, and come from similar backgrounds, consensus is easy to gain. But that solution may not be a good one, if it lacks critical input from someone willing to question things taken for granted by everyone who thinks alike.

DO: Utilize diversity of every kind. If your doctor was diagnosing an illness and coming up with a cure, you would want a variety of tests; you wouldn’t want your doctor to just perform one test, no matter how good that test was. It works the same way with teams: what one person misses, another person will already be thinking about, and them bringing it up means that another person may have experience to provide the perfect solution.

Diversity may cause conflict and disagreement. If you manage this disagreement constructively, great things can come out of it, as each team member prods another into thinking their hardest and doing their best. When assembling the best team, you may consider both the types of people who will agree and inspire in all the right ways, as well as the people who will poke each other into action in all the right ways.

4. DON’T: Be unclear about goals and purposes. Life in the office can become dull for employees, and can feel meaningless if they have no clear purpose as to why their presence is required. When no one makes it clear why they are not alone and why the work they do is a valuable contribution, burnout is not far away.

DO: Make your team members feel that a worthwhile purpose unites them. Show them the results your organization has on the world, and how their work is part of that. When your team comes together motivated and with a mission, they are ready to put together the solutions that will make the company much more successful.

Now that you know some do’s and don’t’s of team building, you might be interested in reading about signs that your team members aren’t trusting you.

Your team is important. What plans do you plan on implementing to an existing or future team to improve results?

Photo via Flickr user  CPX Interactive

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Beth Miller

Beth Miller

Beth Armknecht Miller’s passion for learning, and dedication to helping others, are strands woven throughout her distinguished career, which continue to guide her work with Executive Velocity, a top talent and leadership development advisory firm. As a trusted executive consultant, Vistage Chair, and committed volunteer, Beth holds herself to a rigorous standard of excellence, and she encourages her clients to do the same when pursuing their goals.

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