Constructing a Team from Scratch

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We talk a lot about leading teams, but what about building them?  There may be several situations where you need to build a team from nothing; a new department, a new project, restructuring.  Below are some pointers on how to build successful teams when you don’t have a platform from where to launch. 

  1. Don’t think about who, think about why.  Structure your team based on the talents and skills you need.  Many people fall into the trap of thinking about the people that are close to them or may be in a similar role already.  You need to think about the talents that will make your team successful before you start fitting people into the role.
  2. Imagine even workloads and staff for it.  It is difficult when you put together a team and create roles and then one person is doing all of the work.  If you need three people in similar roles because of workload then staff appropriately.
  3. Don’t forget the soft skills.  We get hung up on the technical stuff. However, things like “being a team player”, “easy to talk to”, and “a caring person” are just as (if not more) important.  These traits will define the character of your team.
  4. Don’t take on too much yourself.  It is typical to see a leader that will take on so much of the work that they don’t have the time to lead.  Don’t forget what your job is and make sure you give yourself the time and resources to do it.
  5. Don’t think in terms of dollars but in terms of production.  Let the dollars come in to play only after you have created a team that can get the output you need.  Budget is important, but so is not selling yourself short before you even get started.
  6. Place in people you can trust.  Trust is a two way street.  People need to trust you as a leader, but you need to trust people so that you can let them do what they are good at.  Remember, technical skills can usually be taught so plan on doing that at first with really good people to work with.

The above is not intended to be an all-inclusive list, but more of a rough map and thinking points.  I would be interested in your thoughts, so leave a reply if you get the chance.

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2 thoughts on “Constructing a Team from Scratch

  1. Hey Anthony, A day late in reading this but I squeezed a few minutes this morning. My thoughts are more of a question for you. I have my ideas on how I would select my team based on strengths just as you mentioned but my question is how do you actually go about determining what strengths people have especially if you are just meeting them for the first time? People will put on the face you want to see in an interview but do not always stay the track once they are hired. What is your process in pulling out a person’s strengths?

    Thanks,
    Shane

    • Great question. I think that using the behavioral-based interviewing questions are very effective at coaxing out the true nature of a person during the interview process. HR folks can probably comment on this better than I can, but basically you are asking questions that are not leading and ask the interviewer to give specific instances of past situations that apply to the strenght and values they can contribute to the team.

      Example: “Tell me about a time you were forced to work with someone you didn’t necessarily get along with.” Ask for specifics on a project, how they handled it, what the result was. Remember, they should be answering with the STAR method (Situation or Task, Action, Result). Make sure you ask followups to get what you want. If you aren’t satisfied, keep digging.

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