Build Your A-Team With These Tips

Whether you are trying to assemble the perfect team for your own business or within your organization, it can be hard to know what to look for in potential teammates. It might feel natural to gravitate towards the people you usually work with (since you know what to expect) or the people you want to spend time with, like your friends at work. But, are these people really adding the most value to your team? Consider the below when forming your next team:

1. Select Teammates Who Can Add Value: Rather than just focusing on whether everyone will get along or not, find people who will contribute value to the team in unique ways. Try to have at least one person who fulfills aspects of these roles:

  • Experts. All teams benefit from having at least one person who has technical expertise related to the underlying mechanics of the project, such as knowledge and experience that is product- or task-specific. Having a teammate who is experienced in the type of financial analysis relevant to the project is also important to create accurate projections and realistic goals.
  • Socially Powerful. In addition to human capital, finding those who have social capital is also important. These are team members who can influence others within the team or organization and can get things done through their networks. Also, they make great team leaders because of their emotional intelligence and ability to sense when the team needs to be reinvigorated or directed in a certain way. These types of team members may also be financially powerful as well, such as being able to influence the budget for your project with members of management or able to solicit investment from their network if you are a startup that is fundraising.
  • Customer Champions. These team members are experienced in customer relationships and service and can anticipate the concerns, challenges, or objections that your customers may have throughout the stages of your project.
  • Performers. Team members who are skilled at staying organized and implementing tasks are ideal. They will keep your team on top of deadlines, are detailed-oriented, and are proactive in discovering any challenges to implementation.
  • Challengers. These teammates are not scared of conflict and will speak up if they disagree. Also, they are not afraid to play devil’s advocate and challenge others’ ideas and assumptions. While you do not want constant conflict, groupthink and conflict avoidance are detrimental to a team’s success. The ideal challenger is someone who is emotionally intelligent enough to approach conflict in a constructive way, and who is sensitive to the feelings of others when bringing up disagreements and concerns.

2. Choose an Optimal Team Size. The size of your team can have a big impact on its success. A team too small may cause burnout or lack some of the skills needed for the task. On the other hand, a team too large could lead to “social loafing” and disengagement. While the research on team size does not specify an exact number for all situations (since it depends on the task), teams of 5-6 are considered to be optimal within companies.

3. Diversify. Be careful not to choose people for your team who are too similar to you or each other. This can stifle creativity and result in groupthink. However, this does not mean you should not tap your network. Use your existing network to find as many qualified candidates for your team as possible, but make sure you are selecting a diverse group of people who are contributing different skill sets. If you don’t find the skills you’re looking for among the people in your network, ask them for referrals. The effort you’ve put forth to create a strong network pays off in spades when you need to hire. It’s the best and most affordable way to build your team.

4. Establish Values, Norms and Goals. Once you have your dream team, establish your team’s values and norms. In a group session, discuss what everyone values in a team, such as open communication, reliability, and hard work. Determine norms such as how you all will communicate with each other. Some members may prefer to use Slack or group messaging platforms, while others prefer email or in-person meetings. Discussing how you will deal with conflict, failure, or internal disagreements is also important and will help avoid misunderstandings later on. Such discussions will create a sense of safety, which psychologically is very important for teams. Also, establish your team’s goals and metrics to measure those goals to keep you on track and focused.

When selecting your team, focus on the experts you need, people who have social influence, and those who are experienced with the types of customers you are serving. Typically a team of 5-6 people works the best, but it also depends on the task at hand. When assembling the team, start with your network and find those who are the best fit for the project. When you get your team, it is crucial to agree on values, norms, and goals to keep the team feeling psychologically safe, focused, and driven towards your objectives.

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