“Teamwork” is one of those words that are thrown around constantly in the business world, along with all the other sports metaphors, like “keeping your eye on the ball,” “going for the win” and “knocking it out of the park.” But the fact is, unless you’re a business of one, whom you choose as your partners, colleagues and employees – i.e. your team – may be the single most important factor in whether you can… well… knock it out of the park.
After all, you may have the most ingenious, marketable product, and you may be working out of the ideal executive office space in New York City. But unless you’ve got talented, well-rounded people you know you can depend on to work in harmony with one another, you’ll find it very difficult to reach your business goals. So it’s worthwhile to give serious consideration to what kind of team you want to build.
A truly great team should comprise people of different skills and personality types who can each bring something unique to the table. In a perfect world, you’d find one individual who’s the “idea person,” another who’s great at networking, another who can clearly evaluate the progress of a project, a diplomat or peacemaker who can bind the team together, an individual with specialized skills, a coordinator, an implementer and a finisher. This doesn’t mean, by the way, that your team must have nine people to be successful. Two or three people can play multiple roles and thus fulfill all the needs of the business.
Calling in the Experts
You wouldn’t hire a plumber to do your electrical work, even if he were the greatest plumber on earth. Yet too often in business, we hire hardworking, talented people to work in roles for which they are not suited. Each member of your team should come in on Day One with a proven track record and the knowledge base and experience to be a top performer in his or her specific role. It takes time and effort to find just the right person, but it’s more than worth the trouble.
It’s not enough that your team members be intelligent; they need to be emotionally intelligent. What does that mean? It’s simply the ability to identify, assess and control one’s emotions as well as those of others – especially in a group. Group emotional intelligence allows members of a team to manage emotions and communicate in a healthy, productive way. Or to put it more plainly, you don’t need any trainwrecks on your team.
Having a Plan
Highly effective business teams work with a set of clear and pre-defined goals. The Chief Executive should set the overall agenda for the company, and then individual team members should focus on what role they can play in achieving the common goal. Each goal set should be SMART — Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-Bound. At no point should any team member have to wonder, “What am I contributing here?” Each member must be willing to accept individual and mutual responsibility for all projects and take common ownership of whatever issues may arise.
Diversity is Key
There’s no real value in a team of people who look, act, work and think alike. A diverse team of individuals from a wide range of cultural and professional backgrounds is, quite simply, good for business. It helps encourage innovation and spark debate within a team environment. And it allows for new ways of looking at projects and processes so that the business doesn’t suffer from groupthink. Diversity doesn’t mean that your team never reaches consensus. It means that when the team does arrive at a mutually agreed upon plan, you can feel confident that all angles have been considered. Combined with the other factors above, diversity can create a winning team that’s ready to take on any business challenge and succeed.