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9 tips for building and leading new teams
Starting a new job? Taking charge of a new team, or need to build one from scratch? That can be a daunting prospect. You need to understand the strengths, skills and potential challenges that each team member brings, and know how to bring them all together to work towards the same goals in a collaborative way.
Team leadership is a skill. There are definitely good and bad ways of doing things, so it is sensible to read, watch and learn about how to build a successful team so that you are prepared for potential issues, understand how to manage conflict and how to motivate your people to be productive, creative and happy working for you. So here are our 9 top tips for building or leading a new team.
The first thing someone in your team is going to ask you is “What does this team do?” And you need to have a clear answer. If you are taking on an existing team, its purpose may already be defined, and you will need to make sure that the purpose is still current and relevant to the organisation. If you’re creating a brand new team, having a clear purpose will help you bring team members together and also to let the wider organisation know what you’ll be doing.
One of the things that often derails teams is a lack of clarity about how they fit into the wider organisation. Which other teams are doing similar tasks? Which other teams could you collaborate with to achieve better results? How does your team’s work interact with other work to deliver on expectations? Your team will be more effective and more productive if they understand their position in your organisation.
People like to know what is expected of them – both individually and on a corporate level. So it’s important to have a set of expectations – the team culture. By leading from the front, you should demonstrate the positive behaviours and attitudes that will help your people to feel part of the team and know exactly what you are looking for.
Your team is a collection of individuals, all with their own skills, experiences, personalities and working styles. This means talking to your team on an individual basis, getting to know what makes them tick, learning how to motivate and manage them and see where their talents are best applied within the team. It’s also a good opportunity to see where you can offer training and development to your team.
Successful teams work best when relationships are open, built on trust and can manage conflict proactively and positively. This is a real skill and requires investment from team leaders – and often those in more senior leadership roles – to build a culture of open communication, genuine relationship building and taking concerns seriously.
Great teams never stand still – they are always looking for ways to do things better. As a leader, you should be constantly reading, watching videos or webinars and following thought leaders. This will help you to see where you could adapt your thinking, introduce new processes or work in different ways to be more productive and successful. Encourage your team members to do the same – this contributes to their own development as well as the growth of the team.
Goals matter. They give your team targets to work towards and they help you – and your organisation to measure progress. Teams who don’t know what they have to achieve will be less productive, less collaborative and have more conflict. Make sure you set clear, achievable goals, collect regular feedback and introduce agreed accountability to ensure your team succeeds.
There is no substitute for great communication. Every leadership programme, mentoring scheme, education and training places a lot of emphasis on how leaders communicate. Hold regular meetings or briefings, encourage team members to contribute in the way that suits them best, be open and transparent and be available. Successful teams trust each other and communication is at the heart of that.
You should always assume that you can do things better. So build in opportunities to review your people and your progress. Measure what you can, assess what can’t be measured, listen to your team members and take time to reflect before making decisions. This will help you to keep your team moving, keep your work fresh and create an environment where you improve staff retention and achievement.
We regularly work with senior leaders who are coming into an organisation to lead existing teams, or have been recruited specifically to put a new team together. We look for people who have the skills we talk about in this article because we know that these people make effective, successful leaders. These are skills that some people have inherently, but they can all be learned and developed and we find that the best leaders are the ones who are always keen to see how they can do better.