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13 Team Building Strategies from Hiring to SMaRT Leadership

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Perhaps the first and best way to build a team is to start from the basics of hiring practices. You can then move on to communicating with your team to meet their needs and the company’s needs and use SMaRT leadership to build and maintain a high-functioning team. Through the use of technology, by asking the right questions at the right time, and by keeping alert for signs of stress and burnout, you can build a team that works at optimum and enjoys a healthy work/life balance.

Hiring the Right Team

Use social media to give you insights into candidates. By trolling professional sites, such as LinkedIn, you may find the perfect active or passive candidate for an empty position, and you will gain realistic information about the types and combinations of skills available in the marketplace. However, be careful not to put too much weight on what you read, as people are seldom perfectly honest in their online persona.

Monitor your company’s and your own social media presence. You are a representative of the company’s expectations, culture, mission, goals, and potential. Social media enables your company to build a reputation as a good place to work and establishes you as a good boss to have. Potential employees will check you out before applying and especially before any interviews.

Know what you are looking for. Every team needs a mix of talents: idea generators, strategists, cheerleaders, implementers, leaders, followers, talkers, and listeners. Study after study has proven that diversity makes for a more effective, innovative team—and that most leaders look instead for clones of themselves. Write a detailed job description that includes hard and soft skills you need in your team; keep it realistic; and keep it in mind all through the hiring process.

Use technology wisely during the application and interview process. Applicant Tracking Software has a good reputation for increasing the speed and quality of hires. Some companies are considering the use of gamification, virtual reality, and talent matching technology in the recruitment process. At the same time, however, candidates have expressed a dislike for gamification and talent matching technology—a preference that is likely to extend to team-building exercises using video gaming.

Conduct interviews as conversations, not interrogations or chances to intimidate. With a clear job description as a basis, the interview consists of questions that hone in on the candidate’s fit in terms of skills, experience, and attitude. By asking the same questions of each candidate and taking notes on the answers, you are better able to compare candidates and control any tendency toward or appearance of discrimination.

TIP: Clear roles make teamwork easier, and that clarity begins with knowing why you want to hire someone for the team.

Communicating with Your Team

Communicate frequently to let your team know they are supported, root out gaps in skills or understanding, and stay on top of problems before they develop in crises that need to be managed. Many studies have proven that the more a team communicates, the higher their performance, regardless of the type of task, although the amount of time spent on talking about the task itself (type, deadlines, roles, etc.), defining the problem, defining the criteria for solving the problem, and then developing and evaluating the solution.

Use technology to keep your team connected and on the same page, even at a distance. Intranets, online scheduling, and team calendars keep work flowing and prevent meetings where half the people cannot attend due to conflicts. Video conferencing allows teams to communicate at a distance and create the possibility for virtual team lunches and celebrations, a necessary part of team building.

Listen. Listening is a vital component of all communication that aids team building. Other important characteristics of good communication, whether face-to-face, written, or electronic, include being thorough, concise, exact, accurate, and respectful.

Answer the “why.” Teams need a common goal; in fact, a team is most often defined as a group with a common goal. As a leader, you need to communicate why the company does what it does, why the team is important in achieving the company’s mission, and why the team needs to meet certain criteria to achieve their own goals. An effective leader makes sure the team has the skills to figure out the “how” and gives them the support they need to accomplish it.

TIP: Instead of becoming the one and only communicator, as a leader, your job is to increase communication throughout the team—look for communication gaps and encourage people to speak directly to each other instead of through you.

SMaRT Leadership Strategies

Treat your current employees well. Various studies have shown that job seekers not only research a company’s brand before applying but trust the reviews of employees more than information from the company. Moreover, referred employees perform up to 15% better than those found through other means. Only team members who like their company and team will encourage others to join.

Avoid stress and burnout in yourself and your team; they interfere with team building and prevent teamwork. By understanding the foundations of stress and asking the right questions, you can recognize when the health of your team or any member (including yourself) is in jeopardy. Make sure you and your team take advantage of SMaRT strategies for avoiding and coping with stress.

Establish psychological safety. Coined by Amy Edmonson, a professor at Harvard Business School, psychological safety enables team members to take risks and make mistakes with the “confidence that the team members will not embarrass, reject, or punish someone for speaking up.” Though the definition and feeling of psychological safety varies from team to team, it is established by access to resources and information (see Communicating with Your Team above), nonauthoritarian and nonpunitive leadership, and supportive coaching. The tenets of psychological safety can be learned and also facilitate learning by, for example, enabling people to accept feedback as a help, not an attack.

Use team-building exercises carefully. Team building exercises should focus on the skills your team actually needs, rather than random skills like keeping a balloon in the air. They should receive positive feedback from the team. Suppose team-building exercises become obstacles interfering with the team’s focus and snatching time. In that case, the team needs to meet deadlines and create a work/life balance, then they are contributing to stress and burnout and need to be re-examined.

TIP: Your skills in conflict management and your appreciation of everyone’s contribution to the team will go a long way to helping create psychological safety.

Key Takeaways

Team building requires more than one-time exercises in trusting each other. It requires sound hiring practices, constant and clear communication, and SMaRT leadership that focuses on avoiding stress and burnout while increasing psychological safety.

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