Assembly Required: The Art Of Building A Team

A Critical Doer attacks problems and creates opportunities from the inside out

“Well begun is half done” …Aristotle


Only a few days removed from the holiday season, I’m sure you can appreciate that one of the most dreaded phrases in our culture is “some assembly required.”  Correct assembly is crucial for the gift to have meaning.  The same is true with building a team…the assembly has everything to do with achieving the intended outcome.

Knute Rockne, fabled football coach of Notre Dame, was once asked how he managed to win so many games.  He said “The secret is to work less as individuals and more as a team. As a coach, I play not my eleven best, but my best eleven.

Knute Rockne was absolutely right; over time, a good team will consistently outperform a collection of talented individuals.  The sports world is rife with examples of teams that lack individual superstars, but collectively have everything needed to win.  The United States 1980 Olympic Hockey Team, “The Miracle On Ice”, is probably the most prominent example.  By contrast, so called “Dream Teams” comprised of individual talent but cobbled together without rhyme, reason, or purpose have sometimes been disappointments.

In building a team for business, civic, or school organizations, here are some guidelines to help you build a winning team versus a dream team (that you may discover is a nightmare when you wake up!)

  1. Establish a vision with a clearly defined purpose. In earlier posts, we’ve discussed the importance of understanding why you’re undertaking a venture. It has everything to do with unlocking creativity and guiding your work.
  2. Establish you culture. In order to achieve success, have you thought through the organizational values and character traits that will be required?  Ideas, beliefs, values, and knowledge define culture…you need to define what yours will be from the start.
  3. Establish the organization. Frank Lloyd Wright famously said in architecture “form follows function.”  When you have figured out your purpose and what your culture should be, you are ready to design an organization optimally suited for the purpose.
  4. Establish the talent. Yes, the actual hiring comes last.  If purpose, culture, and organization are not already set, the only thing you can do is find raw talent which will likely produce a dream team but not a winning team.  In hiring your key folks, remember that you’re hiring a part of a team.  You should:
    1. Know the skills a team member needs to fill a certain position
    2. Make sure the prospective member has that skill
    3. Don’t hire until interviewing all candidates. This is crucial because you’ll want to look for a group that complements each other in skills, temperament, and background.  This will ensure there is always a strength to counter a weakness; someone who is methodical to balance a quick starter; someone to ensure the idealist lives within means; someone who will drive smart risks when the conservative is hesitant; someone who will embrace change when it’s time to diverge from tradition.  With all this in mind, you’ll consistently put the right person in the right place to help the team win.

The next time you have the opportunity to build a team, give this model a try.  You’ll find your team working more effectively through diversity of thought and personality because they are united in common purpose, more than the dream team that is long on talent and short on vision.  Building a team smartly is certainly what a critical doer would…do!



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Updated: January 11, 2015 — 8:29 pm