Building a great team is a mixture of people, process and culture. There is a never-ending list of “top tips” for how to make your team successful, so here are a few of my favorites:
1. Hire slowly
You’ve likely heard this before: hire slowly, fire quickly. The first step in building a great team is to not rush to make a hire. Find the right A player to fill every seat. This is difficult as a manager because your natural instinct is to get the resources needed to get the job done. However, you are more likely to win by waiting for the right person and then making them successful.
2. Define roles and responsibilities
As you assemble a team of A players, it’s critical to define what each person’s role is, what they are responsible for and how to avoid overlap with each other. In the early days it can be helpful to hire “generalists” that can jump into any area of the business that needs assistance. However, as the team grows this can quickly lead to team dysfunction by stepping on each other’s toes.
3. Create structure for feedback
High performing teams are constantly making changes to get better. They share feedback on plans, progress and problems in weekly team meetings and written status updates. Managers make themselves available for 1–1 meetings and give quick guidance to unblock issues when needed.
4. Give A players room to succeed
If you are building a great team, you need to avoid micromanagement. That means once the team has collaborated on establishing goals and performance indicators (the “what”), you can step out of the way and let your team figure out the “how.” As a manager, you should still provide plenty of coaching and guidance if a team member is stuck on something challenging.
5. Measure everything
Great teams are grounded in data. Every goal should have a metric that is easy to understand and carefully tracked. Data makes up the building blocks for improvement. The best teams are eager to get better and determine success by hitting metrics rather than gut feel.
6. Remove ambiguity
In order to perform at their best, your team needs crystal clarity on what the goals are, what metrics are being used to measure success and as noted earlier, the details of their role and responsibilities. Often, even well intentioned managers make assumptions about how clear instructions or goals are. Nobody loses points in management for over-explaining and over-documenting.
7. Promote based on success and values
A great team is built by hiring and promoting people who actually achieve results and live the company’s values. By doing this, you will attract and retain more A players. When you do promote someone, make a public announcement and highlight some of their accomplishments and successful traits. This way, you set a model for the rest of the organization.
8. Fire quickly
If things aren’t going well, do not let a poor performer linger. A frequent mistake made by managers (myself included) is to wait too long to let go of a poor performer. The team is often only as strong as it’s weakest link, so be relentless in letting go of people who don’t make sense for your team.