How to build a team that is effective, empowered and motivated is one of the greatest responsibilities of a leader. But what are the other characteristics of a great team and what steps should you take to build one?

The bottom line is that building a great team doesn’t happen overnight and it’s not always easy to achieve — especially in a short time frame. The good news is that there are a number of tried and tested ways to build a strong team, allowing you and your organisation to reap the rewards associated with doing so.

Here are our top tips on how to build a successful team:

1. Never hire on just skills alone

Whether you’re creating a dream team from scratch, or looking to add a new member to an existing team, it’s so important to consider all of a potential candidate’s plus points. That’s why hiring based on skills and capabilities alone is rarely the best approach.

Attitude is now as important, if not more important, than capabilities. After all, skills and capabilities can be built over time with the right training, guidance and mentorship, but the right attitude cannot.

It’s why many organisations have adopted a ‘hire for attitude, train for skills’ approach to recruitment in recent years, and it’s one that seems to be paying off in most cases.

2. Encourage a culture of openness and honesty

Authenticity and integrity are two of the main foundations for true collaboration — something that is essential in every great team.

One of the best ways to foster authenticity and integrity is to encourage a team culture of openness and honesty. Ask individuals to share their views and opinions, as well as talk about any obstacles they may be facing. You should also encourage people to provide feedback and make a point of actioning any constructive steps you agree.

Most of all you need to ensure your team is comfortable and confident when it comes to being open and honest. Team members need a clear and unobstructed path to your door, which should always be open when your team needs you.

By encouraging team members to be open and honest in all their communications, you will build a mutual understanding and respect for differences in views, interests and needs.

3. Set clear, SMART objectives

While individual objectives will often differ, it’s important that your team is always pulling in the same direction and working towards achieving an overall common goal. Sometimes, it’s not always clear why a team member has been set a particular task and it’s your job as a leader to clarify this.

Each team member should understand how the task they are working on and the objectives they have been set benefit the overall team’s goals. If a team member does not understand or appreciate the purpose of a task, there is a good chance they will not fully buy into achieving it. 

Another way to boost objective buy-in is by letting the team help you define and agree the goals. Teams that have been involved in the objective setting process are always more committed and motivated.

Finally, any objectives you set should follow the SMART criteria. In other words, they need to be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-based. By setting SMART objectives, you will improve your team’s clarity, focus and motivation. In addition, goals will be viewed by team members with higher regard, rather than simply being a box to tick.

4. Encourage team members to problem solve

Instead of rushing to propose solutions and telling your team what to do when faced with a particular challenge, give them the opportunity to problem solve themselves. Encourage the team to collaborate, brainstorm ideas and come up with solutions.

While it might sound simple, by giving your team the space and the encouragement needed to problem solve, you will not only empower them to think creatively and develop confidence, but also instill a sense of ownership.

5. Promote a team culture of learning and mentoring

By promoting a team culture of learning, where every team member is encouraged and supported to continuously grow, you will boost your team’s engagement, motivation and productivity.

With an agreed learning and development plan in place, individuals are far less likely to become complacent or bored in their roles. This in turn creates a stronger team overall, which not only helps with achieving objectives, but also serves to attract more great talent.

While you inevitably need to do both, you should look to emphasise mentorship over management. An easy way to distinguish between the two is to remember that mentors ask questions, while managers give answers. Mentoring elevates human potential and, in turn, performance. 

As a leader, it might seem like you are in a good position to mentor your team, but the reality is you’re probably not the best candidate. A better choice of mentor is someone who is outside of the team or even the organisation. That’s because they have no vested interest in the business itself and can provide a completely different perspective when it comes to mentoring.

6. Celebrate success and learn from shortfalls

Never underestimate the importance and potential of recognising and celebrating success. Whether it’s a simple ‘well done’ or something a little more formal like an email or letter, by recognising and celebrating success, you will breed more success.

Feeling under-appreciated is one of the main reasons why employees leave a job and it’s not surprising when many don’t receive any recognition in their roles. But remember that recognition and celebration shouldn’t follow a one-size-fits-all model. It’s your job as a leader to identify what makes certain team members tick and the kinds of recognition they appreciate. Doing so will make team members feel valued, boosting motivation and productivity in the process.

Finally, it can be too easy to frown upon mistakes and failures. But mistakes provide us with one of the best growth opportunities. That’s why you should always let your team learn from their shortfalls and better themselves as a result. 

So rather than sitting down with an individual and airing your disappointment, instead talk through what went wrong and what they can do to avoid such an outcome next time. Such an approach will decrease the chances of the same mistake happening again and strengthen the team.

Like everything where people and their needs are concerned, building a top-performing team is as much art as science and it takes a great deal of emotional intelligence. Being aware of the above points will stand you in good stead but it’s no road map. Always remember that, like a good parent, there’s no substitute for just being there, in the moment.

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