The Purpose of Teams and How to Assemble a Successful One

Take These 6 Steps When Putting a Work Team Together to Ensure Success

A strong work team collaborating around a table.
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The purpose of creating teams is to provide a framework that will increase the ability of employees to participate in planning, problem-solving, and decision-making to better serve customers. Increased participation promotes:

  • A better understanding of decisions
  • More support for and participation in implementation plans
  • Increased contribution to problem-solving and decision making
  • More ownership of decisions, processes, and changes
  • More ability and willingness to participate in performance evaluation and improvement

For teams to fulfill their intended role of improving organizational effectiveness, it is critical that teams develop into working units that are focused on their goal, mission, or reason for existing.

Many times, when you're hired or promoted into a leadership role, the team is already there. You have to adapt your ideas and plans to fit the knowledge, skills, and abilities of the existing team.

But sometimes, you get to create your own team. It can happen on special projects when you're pulling people from different departments, or when you are creating a new department.

If you're in the situation where you get to create a team from scratch (or have the opportunity to add headcount to an existing group), here's how to create the best team possible.

1. Clearly Identify the Task at Hand

If your task is nebulous, you will have a tough time knowing what skills you need to find. You’re likely tempted to jump right in and hire people with the general skills that fit your overall department. (I need marketing people. I need creative people.)

But to paraphrase an adage, hire in haste, repent at leisure. If you start out with the wrong people, you'll regret it. To know who you need, clearly identify the task or goals your team will need to accomplish.

2. Identify the Skills Needed

You need to identify the soft skills as well as the hard skills you need. Will the employee need to communicate results and progress to senior management? Are there skills you need that isn't going to be obvious without hard thought? For instance, if you're putting together a team to implement a new software system, you obviously need programmers.

But you also need a person who can talk to the end-users to get a clear understanding of their true needs. You need a trainer who understands the technical side of the new software system and can explain it to non-techy people.

If you know you need super smart and independent workers, you know that you also need a person who can bring those independent workers together. Of course, you do. (That's generally the manager or team leader's job, but knowing your own limitations is critical to team building success.)

3. Identify the People

If you want to build an internal team, you have advantages and disadvantages. The advantages are that you already know the people from whom you are choosing. You know their strengths and their weaknesses. You know who is good at technical work. You know who is creative. You know who is whiny. You know who can sell ice cubes in a blizzard.

The disadvantages are that you've got to pull the team from your existing staff, so you can't fix any weaknesses that already exist in your potential team members. You have to deal with the politics of pulling someone from another group's staff. You can't ignore the fact that you can damage relationships if you steal too many of the best people from other departments.

Additionally, you may know that John is the best possible person, but John has no interest in being on your team, or John's manager won't let him join. You may find pulling together an internal team super frustrating.

If you have to hire from the outside, you've got to think long and hard about budgets. Sometimes you're tempted to throw all of your money into hiring the superstar, but then you have to hire entry-level people for all of the other positions. They may not balance out your superstar.

Other times, you may think that the best path is to hire cheap help and get as many people as possible for the smallest salaries possible. It doesn't work either.

While you have to work within your budget, you may want to hire a superstar, or you may need a whole bunch of worker bees. Give whoever you hire careful consideration.

4. Hire in the Right Order

Don't hire the administrative assistant first. You may think, “Okay, I'll get this out of the way.” But the administration's job is to help the rest of the team and support them. If you hire this person first, you need to find additional people with whom they can work, instead of the other way around.

Start with your most senior person, or the person you want leading the team, and work down through the rest of the team members from this hire. You want your most senior person to help you with the additional hiring—either internally or externally.

5. Practice Honesty in Your Hiring

Don't just extol the virtues of working on this team. You need to state the challenges honestly to potential employees. For example, you might say: “We'll implement a new software system. You will work hard and put in long hours. We'll experience pushback from senior managers, and I will fight for the team, but it will be difficult.”

This way, you'll get staff members who know what to expect. Don't lie and say the team’s task is a bed of roses unless you really think that is how the team's work will play out. You'll lose your best team members who will feel as if you fooled them.

6. Remember to Manage

Once you get your team together, you've got to run it. Great teams seldom run well without a great leader. That's your job. Make sure that you work to make the team cohesive and hard working. Don't ask more of them than you ask of yourself.

If you are managing the team leader, the same applies. You need to check in on a pre-planned schedule to ensure that the team stays on track. If it's not, work with the team leader to regroup and move forward.

If you carefully approach putting a team together using these six steps, you'll have a great team and a successful project. Your organization will learn from their success, and you'll strengthen your other work teams across your organization. It is the outcome you seek as you put together successful teams.