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3 misconceptions about leading a successful team

July 30, 2015, 11:30 AM UTC

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 Samantha Dwinell, vice president of talent management at Texas Instruments.

Teamwork is at the heart of any business. We know that innovation happens only when the brightest, most creative minds come together as one. The whole, in other words, is greater than the sum of its parts. But how do you truly build a strong team? And how do you make sure you get more when you come together than you would separately?

Assemble a diverse team
I don’t mean diverse just in terms of demographics, like gender or ethnicity — although that’s a critical component. Look for people from different backgrounds, parts of your organization, and types of leadership style; find people whose path has been different than your own and different from the typical path to leadership; find people with both breadth and depth of expertise; search out people who complement each other. You don’t need 10 people who are the very best at one thing; you need 10 people who, when brought together, give you the thinking power of a dozen or more.

Create an environment of trust and transparency
Just having diversity in the room doesn’t guarantee you’ll reap its benefits. Diverse opinions can fuel innovation, but only if people bring their ideas to the table. As a leader, it’s my role to create an environment that encourages dialogue and healthy debate. Create an environment where employees feel free to raise concerns and bring about challenges. It’s better to know the bad news so you can manage it, than for people to be afraid to tell you what’s really going on. Like the tale of The Emperor’s New Clothes, a leader who doesn’t encourage honest feedback may find herself “caught naked” by a project that failed simply because nobody wanted to endure criticism or be embarrassed.

Leaders should model this idea. If you share the good and bad with your team; if you share what’s working and what’s not; if you share positive and constructive feedback with individuals — your employees are much more likely to be transparent in return.

Coach, don’t just manage
Strong teams have strong coaches. When I talk to prospective managers, I look for leaders who coach team members in how to solve problems, rather than just telling them what to do. I also let them know that our employees are empowered to make active contributions to projects, not just check off tasks.

Coaches motivate, inspire and develop those around them; managers, well, they manage. Strong teams want leaders who share a compelling vision, set high expectations and then partner with them to find the best way forward. Of course, building strong teams is a process that goes beyond a few basic principles — it takes time and hard work.

Read all answers to the MPW Insider question: How do you build a strong team?

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.