Team-hack:

23 tips to build a sustainable team

A bad team can ruin a great idea, a good team can chart a great course for a poor idea. A great team exist as a mechanical component rather than organic. 

I have engaged leaders from diverse walks of life in past years. Leaders and youth with great ideas and career plans. These individuals have quaking ideas, plans and structure, but are static due to poor team structure— team members are dead to the purpose of the organisation. Specifically, friends have narrated their experiences with toxic team members, while we all criticise our team members for their poor productivity, leaders must at all time put certain things into context before and after team building.

I have had the opportunity of serving and leading various teams, ranging from NGOs, startups, businesses and events. During those times, I learned. I learned many things about human capacity management, emotional intelligence, team productivity and how poor communication structure can cause internal crisis.

Thankfully, most of the team members I have guided and worked with are currently disrupting and leading their spaces. As a matter of fact, I made sure every member got better during and after their stay. They build capacities, resources and I monitor their development.

There are no tricks to this, but playing your cards right can make all the difference (Organisation politics is inevitable).

How the game works.

Building a team is not a tea party, as a matter of fact it is not for the fragile hearted. It requires proper and consistent planning, painstaking and brainstorming on steps to serve both individual and collective interest with organisation interest in sight and society interest as a whole. That is what the picture looks like. Don't  be sacred, you can grow in it.

Practically, many who gossip about team building don't like to talk about the importance of hard skills (technical skills) in coordinating a team— as a matter of fact that has been my strength. Unlike the proverbial Jack, you need to be a Jack of many trades and master of all— it doesn't have to be perfect but make sure it places you in a comfortable position where you can relate well with every member of the team.

1. Have a prepared structure: one mistake leaders of startups make very often, is bringing in team members without an organisation structure. Many just wake, feel the need to start something and then start by setting up a team, with little or no understanding about the idea they had conceived. For a start, you need to understand that no one understands the bigger picture like you do— don't expect your team to build one for you. It makes you looks unserious and slows down the productivity. Having a structure will make mastering the idea and instilling the vision in the team easy, they will consider you serious and purposeful. 

Don't make that mistake, be smart.

2. Screen and study records of potential team members: when you have what can serve as a blueprint, the next thing is to scan the records of individuals within your network. Be critical of their value and performances on previous projects. Don't make the mistake of making selections based on mere relationship and emotions, no matter how close you are. Remember that the idea is to solve a problem, so avoid creating another.

3. Have a purpose for every member: don't make the mistake of adding team members for no reason. I have seen many highly skilled team fail for this reason— it is possible to have the best hands and still make zero progress. Be intentional about how you want people to come in, but you must first identify the most critical roles needed. Don't force a round peg into a squared hole.

4. Understand and accept everyone's intention: if you don't understand what your team members wants it will be difficult to motivate them. People have their personal lives and  goals before they consent to join your team, when they don't see themselves reaching their targets, two things will happen. They will either quit or frustrate you. By the way it will be unfair not to take this into considerations, know their intentions. 

5. State everyone's role: the importance of role description cannot be overemphasized. A detailed role description will save you the rigour of reminding and complaining. Doing this will help you and your team invest time in other things of importance.

6. Instill collective responsibility: one of the ways to sustain a team is by instilling the value of collective responsibility. Make it clear to your team that the success of one department/individual is success for all— make it known that no department is more important than the other. This can be done by making the contributions of each department known to your team and how each department can work hand in hand to sustain the organisation. This will prevent competition and envy.

7. Be curious and sensitive: the essence of been curious is to update your knowledge on the activities of your team and study extensively on how to infuse trends into your structure. While sensitive will help you apply knowledge gain to reduce stress, understand team difficulties, help the team escape a bad day and keep everyone happy. 

8. Watch out for predators: since it is impossible to have a team with equal knowledge, stature, temperament and exposure, team leaders must put structures in place to contain such act. Domineering members should be check to avoid making the intelligent but reserved ones uncomfortable. This is more serious when it leads to abuse and victimisation. Spend time with your team and study the context of communication among members. While it is good to serve, remember to be the good shepherd.  

9. Your use of words: use more "we and "us" than "I or me". Encourage civil words always.

10. Take chances on team members: don't limit making important decisions to yourself or important team members. Give freedom to team members to carry out assignments and encourage them often. 

11. Give room for error: make it clear that it is okay to commit an error. Share instances when you were a victim and how you overcame. This will make the team more comfortable in trying new things and in turn drive innovation. Set less rules, create more opportunities instead.

12. Communicate effectively and give room for feedback/negotiation: effective group and interpersonal sustains a team. Don't hesitate to share team success, performance, benefits, individual contributions and your plans with every team member. Take note of members who avoid talking in group, meet with them, ask for their contributions in form of a feedback and encourage them to contribute more. Two way communication works great.

Also, don't hesitate to open doors for feedbacks and negotiations on both personal and organisation matters. Be less critical of them, show appreciation and act on them when required.  

13. Be innovative: avoid redundancy as much as possible. Be innovative and new in your approach. When people do the same thing every time, it bores and make them less productive. Present challenges in new and more friendly ways everytime. 

14. Use data, measure individual and collective productivity: be Intentional about gathering data from every of your team member's action and activities. Notice the kind of task they do well with, the time taken to complete a task, how their contributions is affecting organisation growth etc. These intelligence will help you make the most of their talent and keep them happy.

15. Share resources: be willing to share your resources with team members for organisation and their personal benefits. This will enhance productivity and encourage them to do the same among one another and for organisation benefits.

17. Invest in internal trainings: when your team members know you are investing in their personal development they will take your organisation seriously. They will reciprocate (In most cases it makes them feel like they owe the organisation). You can as well include this subtly in your organisation code of conduct. Make it know that skills gained through the organisation will be used to develop the organisation for a certain period of time to avoid been outsmarted.

18. Decentralise your power: divert the spotlight from you. Don't always be the front man or woman, place other people in the picture as well.

19. Checkup on team members: checking up and showing care to your team members aids team bonding and gives everyone a sense of belonging. Be intentional and consistent about it.

20. Have a decision making structure: it is your responsibility to help team member make decisions when they are in a dilemma. You need a structure on what to prioritize when they are faced with such difficulty. E.g it could; safety first, personal wellbeing, team growth, duty and profit (which ever way you choose, just have it).

21. Have a back up: leaving is inevitable. It is okay for a team member to move on when they feel the need to, while most leaders will show great displeasure— it is wrong. Encourage them instead. It is your responsibility to spot potentials and prepare for adequate replacement of a team member either within the same department or recruiting a new one.

22. Be gender sensitive: this is very important. A gender balanced team will out perform one that is not, especially in decision making. According to a study, the presence of women in teams help in making better decisions. Be smart, think equal. 

23. Be the backup: have an idea about the activities of your team members and be willing to lend a hand when the need arises. This is why hard skills are important. 

Having the right team can make all the difference in getting your idea to the next stage. In age where people don't want to work "for," but work with organisations that help them fulfill their purpose, positioning your organisation as one that serves this purpose is key. Choose wise and act with wisdom.


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