When discussing building a great team, we can all agree that it’s critically important to find the right people for the right roles and enable them to succeed. What’s often overlooked is the situation in which the team needs to be built (or maintained) which impacts who you hire, the culture, and what you should prioritize. I’ve lived this through each of the situations listed below, with the first two being at DialogTech and the last at VS Networks.
From individual contributor to manager of the team
Most first-time managers are tackling their new role on the heels individual success. While this can create an interesting dynamic with the new manager-employee relationships, the good news is that promoting from within usually signifies that the group is clicking on all cylinders. Upper management has endorsed the direction and wants more of the same. It’s time to maintain the environment, make small iterations and expand as the company grows.
A first-time manager is going to be impatient by default but should refrain from mass change. Changing too much overnight can cause discord in the team and is likely to lead to mistakes, given the lack of experience. The play here is to keep the train on the tracks and foster an environment of professional development. Help those on the team reach their career goals and hire similarly motivated people to backfill them when they are promoted.
From outsider to department head
Whether through voluntary or involuntary turnover, there’s a team that needs a leader. The last person put in place procedures to execute their own vision, which likely don’t entirely align with the new team direction. There’s a natural skepticism among the team members and depending on the inherited situation, there may be a need to reshape the reporting structure. The challenge is determining how to keep the team engaged and aligned with the new vision, which is especially difficult if they were happy with the status quo.
The best thing one can do in this situation is find the rockstar employees and rebuild the team around them. This may sound difficult but they’re actually really easy to identify. The first time meeting with each employee, ask what should change on the team. The ones that give honest, professional and concrete feedback are the rockstars. With the people identified, sell them on the new vision (this will be surprisingly easy as they want change) and they’ll be the ones to eventually get the team onboard.
The Blank Slate
Building the team from the ground up
In what is arguably the most exciting scenario for a teambuilder, the team and the structure are minimally existant. There are bits and pieces of the to-be-created jobs living around the organization and they are usually not a primary focus for whoever currently owns them. The builder needs to simultaneously centralize the disconnected responsibilities and hire a team to own them, all while building a sustainable structure.
Hiring is of the utmost importance here. Bringing in a CSM from a large, well-known company might be tempting but they’re used to functioning in a structured environment. These first hires need to have experience in operating outside their comfort zone and the teambuilder must trust their judgement – without formal procedures the hires will initially be relying on their own intuition. Bring in the people, let them run, and circle back around to set the full structure once everyone has their feet underneath them.
While every situation is unique, most all them can boil down to one of the three scenarios mentioned above. Feel free to take any of these thoughts next time you need to build a team!