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Saheed Oladosu
Saheed Oladosu

Posted on • Originally published at Medium

How to Build a Successful Team

In my posts on Top 4 Reasons behind Building a Team and Reasons Why Teams Fail. I discussed reasons why teams are put together and reasons why teams fail respectively. So, how do we build a Successful Team? Before we jump into tactics let’s talk about the definition of success.

These are the questions you can ask to get what success could mean to your team.

· How would you define a successful team? You might measure team success by the cohesiveness of the team.
· Was the team close?
· Are they a tight organization that from now on has one another’s backs?
· Would you measure success based on the culture of the team? Or is the success of the team boiled down to having successful deliverables?
· Was the leader a great leader and therefore made the team successful?
· Was it about the individual willingness?
· Was everybody ready to give it their all and do the best they could for the team?
· Did everybody walk away loving what they did? Or are they kind of resentful about even being on the team in the first place?

Perhaps you measure success by the amount of planning that went into the team projects or clarity of vision or purpose. Maybe you measure success by how well the communication was of the team. Maybe you’re just looking at the leadership of the team. You might measure team success based on the attitude of the team.

Typically, people look at the final deliverable of the team and that’s what determines whether the team was “successful” or not. As a business owner and a manager, there might be other reasons why you put people on this team. It might have a lot more to do with the culture and cohesiveness than a final product, especially if you have a product that’s not that important. You might have seen this in organizations where people were put on a project that didn’t seem to be that important.

The project and the team might have been a vehicle to help pull people together;

· To get a shared vision,
· To develop the culture,
· To build unity in the organization, etc.

Teams are together for more than just getting a final deliverable out. It seems to be a popular idea right now in corporate World that we need to embrace failure. We need to allow failure and not be afraid of failure.

The idea is that failure means that we’re getting closer to a more successful result. I would invite you to think about the teams you’re on or that you’ve ever been on and think about what the feeling of failure is or has been. Can you imagine an R&D department where failure wasn’t an option? Failure’s part of the package. They need to fail in order to get closer to their success.

Now let’s talk about the tactics on how to build a successful team. To build a successful team, you must have an understanding of the following;

A Shared Vision

Something that can help your team be more successful is to make sure that you have a shared vision.

· What is the source of the vision or the result of your team?
· Is the source coming from inside or is it coming from outside?

Let’s explore this a little bit. Imagine that the circle is your team. If your vision comes from within the team you have more buy-in. If people from within the team are creating and defining it they’ll be bought in more to their ideas. One of the problems with this is that the vision might be completely misaligned with the vision of your customers.

Let’s say that the vision comes from the outside. Your customers are now telling you what the vision and the purpose of the team is. One of the benefits is that perhaps your vision will be more aligned with what their vision is. However, if you’ve worked with multiple customers on the same project, you might know that different customers have different visions or ideas of what they want.

If your vision is coming from the outside I encourage you to interview any of the stakeholders or people who have an interest in the final deliverable or the product or project and make sure that you get a comprehensive view of what they all think.

Shared Goals

In addition to having a shared vision, even with the people outside of your team, let’s talk about sharing our goals. Before we do that let me just differentiate vision and goals. The vision is;

· What are we going to have accomplished when we’re done?
· What is a deliverable going to look like?
· What is our team going to look like regarding unity and culture, things that we discussed at the beginning of this course?

Different from that end result, the goals might be defined as things to do along the path to get to the vision, maybe tasks or deliverables. Everybody on the team should understand what the tasks or deliverables or the goals are for them individually, but it’s also very helpful if they understand what the goals are for other people on the team. What are the team level goals or the sub-team level goals or the individual level goals?

Sharing these goals could be just as important as sharing the vision. Somebody might look at the list of goals or tasks and say, you know what, that’s interesting, but it’s not aligned with our vision, it’s not something that will help us get to our vision.

Communication

When you think about communication, various people should get various types of information. You don’t want to leave team members in the dark sharing some things with certain parts of a team and other things with other parts of a team.

That might be appropriate based on the project or the sensitivity to security or the size of the team, but think about who’s on the team and what information they need to know. What you communicate to people in the team might be very different than what you communicate to the customers.

These are the people who are really excited about the final product that you’re going to put in front of them, but they might not need to know about everything that went into making the product or the discussions or maybe arguments that went on behind the scenes to get to the final product. They shouldn’t want to know about any of the drama that might have led up to getting a final product done.

The management outside of the team also needs to know certain things, but just like the customers, they don’t need to know everything that’s happening. They might need to know things that are happening that customers wouldn’t want to know, for example, interpersonal conflicts that might require a change of staffing in the team, but there are certain things that they simply don’t need to know about and might not want to be bothered with.

When you’re talking about communication within a team I got some very sage advice from somebody who was talking to me about gossip. Gossip is the idea that we’re just sharing our feelings or getting something off our chest or just venting. The problem, he said, is that when we talk about others to people who don’t have any authority to make a change, usually that happens when we’re venting to our friends or our coworkers, they can’t necessarily make a change, they don’t have the authority to.

I encourage you to think about who has the authority to make changes and fix problems and make sure that you’re not talking to people who don’t have the authority to very sensitive things.
Another group of people that you might talk to are evangelists and supporters. They’re not necessarily your customers or your management, but some people are excited about what you’re doing and want to spread the word to other people. I found that it’s important to share information with your evangelists and supporters. Not necessarily everything, but just enough to keep them excited and let them know that you’re getting close to your deliverable, that way they can stay excited about what you’re doing, start to talk to people appropriately before your product even delivered.

Decisions

You must understand on your team who has the final say. Here are some questions. Is the team leader’s authority clear? That’s a leadership topic that the team leader needs to understand whether it’s worth it to veto or not.
I’ve worked on teams where the team leader didn’t have the authority. The way I framed that is, the team leader didn’t have any teeth.

They could make certain decisions, but whether anyone actually respected those decisions or followed through with those decisions was questionable. They might have had authority on paper, but people weren’t following them.

What if the team leader gives or bestows the authority to other team members. In other words, they choose a few people on the team who can actually make final decisions on their behalf.

What about when your team meets with other teams? Who has the final say? Do the other teams have more power than your team? If the team leader, who has the authority, doesn’t go to those meetings is it clear that the people who have gone in his or her place have the same authority to make a final decision that the team leader has?

Going into politics, could it be that someone outside of the team is making the decisions? This could be good because people outside of the team might have more authority at the corporate level, but if they’re not involved in the discussions and understand what the problems are, they might make some very poor decisions. So decision making for a team can make or break the team.

These are the four major factors that determine the success rate of the team.

Thanks for reading.

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