Secrets to Building a World-Class Team


LOS ANGELES, September 15, 2015 — Remember back in elementary school, when you got assigned to a group project?  You were so excited to work with your classmates.  It was fun, right?
You all got together after school, talked about your project over a few snacks, decided who was going to work on what, and then got to work sharing your ideas and coming to mutual decisions.  But then, a few years go by, your classwork gets harder and harder, and slowly the thrill of teamwork goes out the window.  You begin to realize that it is really difficult to get a group of people to agree on a common goal and actually work well together to achieve it.

Effective, operational teamwork is necessary to compete in the business world.  Real success in any rapidly shifting corporate environment requires learning how to create and lead more effective teams.  Most organizations spend countless hours solely focused on improving their teams. We all want our teams to perform better, resolve issues, innovate more and independently troubleshoot.  So yes, we expect a lot from our teams—and so we should.

Forming a world class team all starts with leadership. The only way to build a successful team is to understand that a world class team rarely occurs naturally and that you must start from the top to create it and then to manage it.

Six Insights for Successful Team Building:

  1. Effective leadership begins and ends with exceptional communication. Excellent communication leads to everyone being on the same page and working toward the same goal. But how?  Keep It Simple, Stupid!  [The KISS principle, coined by Kelly Johnson, a lead engineer in the US Navy] is a well-known and essential notion in building confident and accomplished teams.  Fast, clear, concise and accurate communication results in high levels of team assuredness and peak performance.  It is the arduous, overcomplicated rules, regulations and discussions that aid confusion.  Straight talk will always out-perform complexity.
  2. Team members need to feel that they belong to something that matters. We all can relate to the desire to be a part of something great. Knowing how significant this sense of belongingness is, when building a team, we need to pay close attention to whether or not a person would be a good fit for our corporate culture. If a new hire does not feel that they fit in, they quickly become detached from the overall vision of the company and their daily tasks.  Therefore, we need to create a workplace where people are both motivated by the work they do, and can see how their effort is connected to the big picture.
  3. People need to feel appreciated Leaders of the most effective teams create a culture of recognizing employees performing well and making it a priority to offer specific, genuine praise. Honest gratitude is a substantial motivational tool that is vastly underutilized in most corporations.  People who are appreciated for the tasks they accomplish will significantly outperform those that never hear about their performance.
  4. Gratitude must be combined with accountability. Yes, appreciation is essential in forming a culture of excellence, but so is accountability. Every team member needs to have clear expectations and goals defined, so that they know what they are accountable for.  World class teams have an overarching feeling of mutual responsibility, and regularly quantify their progress towards goals to make sure they are met.  Talented people do not want to be on a mediocre team.
  5. Nurture more top performers. All employees need to be trained and mentored with intermittent refresh sessions. But, to create more top employees, there is one subset that should receive more attention.  And no, it should not be the top ten percent!  Concentrate your energy and training on your B list team members.  By focusing on moving the second tier performers to the top level, you can make vital progress toward building a world class team that effectively executes your first-rate strategies.
  6. Open lines of communication. Excellent communication is the leading and fastest way to create a world class team. In order to formulate an atmosphere of trust, you must open the lines of communication. Creating this kind of environment ensures greater job satisfaction, reduces employee stress, promotes operational team building, increases employee commitment, and fosters mutual respect all throughout the organization.  Consequently, opening communication enables a more productive work environment and a positive, motivated, workplace.  And who doesn’t want that?

Next time you start to create a new work team, or consider team building and collective team work—you can think back to elementary school and remember what made it so fun and easy.  Open and collaborative communication, sharing of ideas, feeling like a part of the group, praise, and of course, snacks, always snacks.

Amanda Keller-Grill directs Global Client Services for Innovate, leading efforts on consistent quality service and results. She has worked in market research and online social media for many years and excels at managing high profile clients, building skilled international teams, and teaching proactive problem solving and communication.  Prior to Innovate, Amanda led global client services for Cint and held senior roles at Toluna. Amanda graduated Cum Laude from UCLA with Bachelor of Arts degrees in both Communication Studies and Political Science.