MPW Insider is an online community where the biggest names in business and beyond answer timely career and leadership questions. Today’s answer for: How do you build a strong team? is written by Melissa Puls, CMO of Progress Software.
What determines a company’s success? This critical business question is asked daily around the world, prompting widely divergent responses. The answer, of course, varies by company and circumstance. However, what does not waver is the need for a strong team to collectively move a business towards its goals. In my experience, strong teams are the result of four factors:
Assembling your A-team
Teams are by definition an assembly of individuals working together for a common purpose. While some prefer a uniform group, I have found that assembling a multidimensional group of colleagues is most successful. Recruit and elevate the best people at what they do, while seeking a mix of personalities: analytical, expressive, driven, amiable, energetic, etc. Together, they’ll be a powerful force to be reckoned with. Also, know your own leadership strengths and weaknesses and choose a team that complements them. Strong, intelligent workers will do great things for the business and reflect well on you as a leader. Follow this recruiting approach yourself, and encourage your managers to hire in the same vein. Bringing together the best and brightest to work for you likely means that one—or more—will be fully capable of assuming your role one day. Don’t be afraid to hire your replacement; it only means you’ve chosen well, and are likely ready for advancement yourself.
Defining the North Star
When goal setting for an organization, it’s critical to first take a step back and reflect. Bring the entire team together as a cohesive whole for some meaningful dialogue. Assess where you came from and review the current landscape. Once you’ve done that, collectively determine the action steps needed to deliver unique value to the organization. This strategic agenda will guide your journey together, providing both clarity and a sense of personal investment in the team vision. Note: it can also be a cathartic experience. Some employees have trouble breaking emotional attachments to “the way we’ve always done things.” This exploratory approach helps acknowledge past successes while freeing people to embrace new solutions going forward.
The best learning is drawn from failure. While I’m not promoting a culture of mistakes, I do want to acknowledge that it’s how you handle and emerge from failure that provides valuable growth. When staff members are empowered to try new ideas and take risks, knowing they have your support come-what-may, it enables their true, authentic selves to emerge. When that happens, you’ll likely have a dedicated employee ready to go the extra mile to achieve business success. It’s certainly an uncomfortable feeling, letting your team tread down questionable paths, but let them tread. Just be ready to mentor and guide them when they fall. Nurture their persistence, and you’ll likely find an intrepid bunch ready for anything.
Personalizing a work environment
Just as your team members have different personalities, they also have individual preferences about their work environment. Do they prefer a very steady routine where they go to the same office daily, drink coffee, chit-chat with coworkers, and then buckle down to a well-defined work day? Or, do they prefer a style where every day is different, sometimes working home/working late and traveling? Employees who need maximum flexibility to fit hectic lives won’t last long in a routinized setting and vice versa. Empower your team with the flexibility they need to be successful. Keep lines of communication open. And let them know you value them enough to give them the space they need to excel. This can save you from unexpected departures. While this isn’t possible in every field, many businesses do have the ability to be more accommodating, especially for valuable employees who have earned the trust.
Read all answers to the MPW Insider question: How do you build a strong team?
The right (and wrong) time to embrace teamwork in the office by Barbara Dyer, president and CEO of The Hitachi Foundation.
How horses taught this CEO to be a better leader by Gay Gaddis, CEO and founder of T3.
Why this CEO thinks making mistakes is admirable by Kristen Hamilton, CEO and co-founder at Koru.
How managers can stay connected to their team by Linda Addison, U.S. managing partner at Norton Rose Fulbright.
The difference between a great leader and a good one by Kerry Healey, president of Babson College.
The easiest way to reduce employee turnover by Kathy Bloomgarden, CEO of Ruder Finn.
3 misconceptions about leading a successful team by Samantha Dwinell, vice president of talent management at Texas Instruments.
How to build a strong team without micromanaging by Sally Blount, Dean of Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.
Here’s the secret to getting better employees by Julia Hartz, co-founder and president of Eventbrite.