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May 26, 2012

How To Build A Team

I am always asked whenever I am invited to speak in a leadership training or seminar how does one make a group cohesive. Team-building is always a tricky and tedious process and one which does not happen in a day or two. Of course, team-building exercises can help initiate the process but they are not sufficient. For any group or organization to be successful, it is important that the members, and most especially the "leaders", must learn how to understand the dynamics within the group. No one strategy is superior and one may even entail to use many strategies to make the team more united. Be that as it may, there are many ways you can build a team.

1. Acknowledge the fact that there is no two members who are the same. Each member of the team is unique. From personality to styles of learning to sets of skills, every member of the team is unique down to the very tip of his hair. Recognizing this fact enables the team leader to be conscious with his or her dealings with the members. The team leader and the members as a whole must learn how to "switch" styles in dealing with their team-mates. Some team mates require facts before making a decision. Some team mates need more coaxing and motivation than others. Some team mates are quiet while others are more vocal. Being one team does not mean becoming similar and equal in all things. A diversified group of individuals can still create a team and that what makes a team successful.

2. Communication lanes must always be open. Dialogue is the engine that runs the team. When two members of the team stop talking to each other, that is like a crack in the metal armor, a leak in the tub. Dialogue requires that individuals of two different opinions or beliefs discuss and deliberate. Let me clarify: deliberate is different from debate. Deliberate requires clarifications, thus dialogue would entail asking questions from each other, "Why were you angry?" or "How do you think we can do this?". In a dialogue, both opinions are neither right nor wrong. Both opinions and ideas are utilized to come up with a solution or decision agreed by everyone or at least by the majority of the team. Communication can be horizontal or vertical.

3. Share the vision. Make sure that as a team leader, your members are clear with the purpose of the team. "Why are we here?" "What are we supposed to accomplish?" As a team leader, you have to explicitly communicate the mission or purpose of the team. At the same time, the team leader must make sure that everyone shares this vision, that it is not just the vision of the leader but it is a shared vision. To come up with a shared vision, the members of course must be consulted. The shared vision is borne out of the shared values of the members. "What is important for all of us?" From the beginning, the vision must be clear so that everyone is focused on accomplishing the task.

4. Share the responsibility. You cannot do it alone. There are no singular heroes in a team. While there may be individuals who have more responsibilities than the other members, nonetheless there is no one individual who carries the burden of the entire responsibility. Delegate the tasks. Make sure that when you give members responsibilities, these are commensurate of their skills and capacities. Make sure as well that they feel trustworthy of the tasks, that they are given the responsibilities because you trust them as a leader. Make them feel that they are given the tasks because as a team leader you are confident that they are the right person for the job. And since the tasks are shared, it is natural that team members would start working with each other especially with those whose tasks complement theirs.

5. Identify Red Flags ASAP. As a team leader, you must have a keen skill of sensing. Try to feel if the team is already worn out or tired. Try to feel if the team is already demotivated. Try to feel if there are brewing conflicts and tensions between members. You can only do this as a team leader if you are always engaged with your members. Don't just supervise. Work with them. Get to know your team-mates. And if you feel that there is trouble growing, nip it in the bud. Address it right then and there. Do not ignore it. By the time you will notice it again, it will be too late or too complicated to resolve.

6. Affirm each other. In failures and successes, big or small, you must always affirm each other. Take notice of the good things done. And affirm the value and virtue and not just the action. Instead of saying, "You did a good presentation today" you might say, "I love your creativity and self-confidence today during your presentation." Instead of saying, "Thanks for telling me sooner than later about the problem", you might want to say "Thanks for your honesty and courage to tell me about the problem."

7. Always make sure to have fun. Teams work better if the environment is less tensed and pressured. Make sure that your team has sufficient time to rest and relax. Even while doing a task or job, make sure that the environment is light. Appropriate humor, when done in good taste, always perks up the day better than coffee. Make sure your teammates are always comfortable and are enjoying what they do. Of course, as a leader, you may need to be firm but you don't have to be dull, stern and boring.

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