Great Teamwork Starts with a Dream Team, or Does It?

So, are you ready to build that winning team to help you take on that new project? There’s no question that teamwork is an important part of business. Without it, you may have various employees running around in different directions without a common goal. But the tough part is deciding who will be on the team. Maybe you want that all-star player. What about that veteran employee? And don’t forget that highly-energetic new college grad.

But selecting the best team members may not be that easy. And before you start the line up of eligible candidates, you’ll need to make some key decisions about team purpose, budget, project parameters, roles, objectives, team size, and timelines among other things.

Great teams don’t happen by accident.
Okay, so now you have all your ducks in a row and you’re ready to take aim. You’re looking for those key individuals who possess awesome powers so you can eventually tell them to “go work your magic” and then relax as they leap tall buildings. REALLY?

Great teams are not magicians. And that’s actually a good thing! If they were magicians, they’d perform tricks that require that their hand be quicker than the eye to disguise the reality of what they’re really doing. I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t sound like something beneficial for companies with tight deadlines and serious agendas. What you want are true team players united in a common cause who will stay the course and accomplish their goals. If it is teamwork that you’re after and when you’re fortunate enough to assemble the right team, you’ll soon reap the benefits and get more done.

Learn from great teams and their amazing teamwork.
Who remembers the 1992 Olympian Dream Team made up of big name players like Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, Scottie Pippen, and Patrick Ewing? This powerhouse of some of the greatest basketball players of all time soon discovered that if they let their guard down (pun intended), they may just lose the game. And lose they did (for the first time) in a scrimmage to an incredibly motivated college team. Michael Jordan, admitting to defeat, told the LA Times that as a team they lacked continuity, were “out of sync,” and “unsure about things.”

Lesson
: You don’t need an all-star team to win. A solid group of individuals who collaborate together and step up to the challenge can conquer an important agenda or design a new product. You just need to find them.

But to be a successful team doesn’t mean that all members need to practice together on the same court to achieve a win. Collaboration and teamwork can take place just about anywhere and team members do not have to be located in the same workplace. Take for example, Katrin Amunts’ team of researchers who together constructed one of the most detailed 3D maps of the brain in 2013 to help us learn about our behaviors. Amunts described the teams’ long-term collaboration as both interdisciplinary and intercontinental “spanning from Europe to Canada and from neuroanatomy to supercomputing.”

Lesson
: Don’t let perceived limitations cloud your thinking when it comes to selecting potential candidates.

Pick your team.
Assuming you have your preliminary preparations in order (purpose, goals, roles, size, etc.), you’ll need to carefully consider who can fit the bill on your team. In addition to specific talents and skills, here are some considerations to think about when selecting team members:

Passion – Are they passionate about the organization and the team’s vision? Members do well when they have a strong interest and drive to accomplish their goals.

Competent – Do they have the knowledge, skills, or training for their role on the team? The better prepared team members are, the better the results.

Doer – Can they get past the idea phase and get things done? You’ll need movers-and-shakers on your team if you want things to happen on time.

Track Record – Do they have the right experience and have they been consistent in their contributions thus far? Knowing each individual’s capabilities help decide their role on the team.

Communicator – Do they willingly share knowledge and information? Do they actively listen to others? Leaving out details in discussions and leaving room for misunderstandings can be disastrous to team efforts.

Respectful – Are they considerate and work well with others? This is very important to a healthy team synergy and can help thwart unnecessary conflict.

Leader – Can they step into a leadership role, if needed? You never know how far the team may go to reach its goal. Having individuals who can take on added responsibilities will help keep things on track.

Risk taker – Are they open to new ideas? The next new product design or process may come from a new way of thinking or solving a problem.

Visionary – Do they understand the team’s purpose and are they able to see the big picture? It’s important to help the group navigate the path to success but they will have to understand how their role will make a difference.

Flexible – Can they adapt to changing circumstances or roles when called upon? Projects can change quickly and team members must be able to bend with the new challenges.

Supportive – Do they encourage their teammates and pitch in to help? Do they understand the concept of teamwork? Individuals who are known “credit hogs” may not support everyone’s contributions as they hold on to their own ideas and ways of doing things.

Honest – Can they stay true to their convictions? Being honest about their thinking will help advance ideas rather than just following the crowd.

Committed – Will they be in it for the duration? Things are likely to change as the project moves along. Team members need to be willing to stay the course.

Problem solver – Do they have the ability to think critically? Problem solvers consider all aspects of an issue and think logically to find viable solutions. This will be useful when a crisis pops up.

Positive – Are they someone who stays upbeat in spite of obstacles? Staying positive will help keep productive energy flowing throughout the group. Naysayers can put doom and gloom in the air, which can distract from the project at hand.

You’ve selected the right individuals.
Congratulations on selecting your team! But don’t pat yourself on the back just yet. Your chosen team will likely be made up of members with diverse backgrounds and goals that inherently present challenges. That said, it will be the team manager’s responsibility to funnel their energy to stay focused by keeping the lines of communication open and providing a supportive teamwork environment that allows them to work together. Finally, it is highly advised that you develop a system of assessment to be sure your amazing team continues to perform well and stays on track.

Posted by Ephraim Arnstein

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