If you are a leader in your firm, one of your roles is undoubtedly to create, lead and manage a team. If you are an aspiring team leader or project manager, learning how to create a successful team will be key to your advancement and eventual career success. If you're in a new position and have "inherited" a team, you too will need to know how to build and shape your team for success.

For all of the training or formal coursework you might take in leadership, project management and even team building it is very rare to find someone who knows or talks about how to build successful teams. Based on my experience of building teams from scratch as well as inheriting teams I'll share my top 5 steps to building a successful team. For me, building a successful team mean creating a team that when working together is more productive than the individual working themselves or even collaborating. Please add your own thoughts to the comments.

Top 5 Steps to Building a Successful Team

  1. Understand and Define the Purpose of the Team: Before creating a team, or modifying an existing one as a leader you need to first understand what it is you need from the team. You then need to communicate a common understand of the teams purpose to all of the team members. In fact you might create a team purpose and mission statement and define a common set of team values.
  2. Incorporate Diversity: By "diversity" I mean different personality types (e.g., detailed vs. big picture thinking), ways of thinking, complimentary skill sets and so forth. While racial and ethnic diversity are important as well, if you're focused on the broad set of technical and interpersonal skills you'll find that other diversity measures will take care of themselves. The worst performing teams I have seen are ones where the leader looks only at technical skills and creates essentially a team of "clones".
  3. Foster a Collaborative Environment: It is imperative to create a team environment where everyone works together for the common team goals. While individual achievement is certainly important to foster and recognize, a team that works together achieving goals together will go further as individuals and as a group than the members of a team that are in competition against each other. While there are some business models that thrive on the competition between team members, it would be interesting to see what could be achieved if all of the brain-power and energy were directed at solving problems and providing better customer service rather than trying to out do the person in the next cubicle or office.
  4. Create Opportunities For Emotional Connections: This "warm and fuzzy" goal is perhaps one of the most overlooked, misunderstood and critical components of creating a high performance team. If your team members are emotionally invested in each other they will help each other as needed. They will step up to the plate when needed having the confidence that when they need help other others will be there for them. As part of human nature we're more likely to help people who we know, like and trust. The people your team should know, like and trust most are each other. Also keep in mind that your team probably spends more time with each other than they do with their spouse, family, friends, or anyone else.
  5. Be The Leader and Empower Team Members: Every team needs a leader to set direction and the tone of the team. While it may seem when things are going well that there may not be a need for a leader, it's in those times of stress that everyone needs to know who to turn to for direction. Where the buck stops. Even a leader who empowers people well, needs to know when to step up to the plate and take charge. Equally important for a team leader is to know when to let members of the team take chare of tasks both because the team member may be an expert as well as to allow the team member to grow.

How do you define a successful team?  What are your thoughts and experience with building successful teams?