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Keys of Collaboration: Building a Strong Team

Something often overlooked when collaborating is the team. We talk a lot about collaborative tools and strategies, but how good are they when you’re part of an ineffective team? Creating a killer team isn’t easy, but it’s an important building-block for future success. So how can you get there? What do successful teams do that others don’t?

Yesterday, I came across a great article from Inc. that talks about the keys of building a great team. Author Jeff Haden makes some great suggestions around team building that are worth sharing.

Decide on one key “must have” characteristic.

In the real world that ideal employee; the well rounded, technically literate, experienced, team player doesn’t really exist. We’re all human and all have faults. So excluding that ideal wild card, it’s important to sit down and think “If you could only pick one attribute what would it be?” It’s a tough question but a necessary one. What’s that single most important skill or quality you believe is a necessity for success in that position?  Haden points out that “Training can fill in the gaps, but this is the attribute almost every employee must possess.”

Figure out what attributes you don’t want.

In my opinion this is equally or more important than discerning what quality every team member must have. Having an understanding of what you can’t work with is important. Not thinking about this can take a great team and turn it on its head. According to Haden, “‘Typically your answer won’t be skills-based; it will be something like terrible interpersonal skills, a horrible work ethic, or a larger than life ego.’”

Determine what you can live with.

Odds are you’re not going to be able to build a team where everyone possesses that single most important attribute. But what’s important is that you determine how many others who lack that essential quality you can have on your team and have it still be successful. Haden drives this point home with an excellent example. “In our case a crew was made up of six operators. We had room for one operator who wasn’t quite as fast on job changeovers but was a great leader…The rest of us bridged his speed gap and we all benefited from his leadership skills.” Similarly, when collaborating with geographically dispersed teams, there’s probably room for one who may not have that single most sought after quality but makes up for it with a different one. So decide how many team members who do not possess your essential skill are OK  to have for your team to still be successful.

Finish the rest of the puzzle.

Haden points out that “Knowing your threshold point frees you up to build a team with complementary skills” and I couldn’t agree more. Much like successful sports teams are built around a core of essential players, you too should do the same when building your team. Don’t be afraid to take someone who is technically weaker, or with limited experience, if it’s replaced with drive and determination.

What are your thoughts? Do you have any tips to create a stronger team? I’d love to hear about them in the comments.

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