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The Fast Company Executive Board is a private, fee-based network of influential leaders, experts, executives, and entrepreneurs who share their insights with our audience.

Five steps to build teams that can accomplish anything

The power of communication cannot be overstated.

Five steps to build teams that can accomplish anything
[image source: Svitlana/ Adobe Stock]

Reid Hoffman, the cofounder of LinkedIn, said it best: “No matter how brilliant your mind or strategy, if you’re playing a solo game, you’ll always lose out to a team.” Indeed, when team members work well together, there is almost nothing they can’t accomplish.

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But building a high-functioning team—one that can conquer all obstacles and beat the competition—is no easy feat. In my career as a manager and leader, this is a lesson I’ve learned well from experience. Here are five strategies I’ve employed over the years to build high-functioning teams capable of achieving any goal.

1. PICK THE RIGHT PEOPLE

I’ve discovered that if you hire the right people and give them the space and opportunity to perform, they will almost always deliver. Start by looking for candidates with the right attitude—proactive people who don’t require micromanagement and love coming up with their own ideas, are not afraid to ask for help when they need it, and are willing to listen and learn.

These abilities are especially important in our current work-from-home environment. I’ve hired people over the last year and half who I’ve met in person maybe once or twice. These are people who, if there were no pandemic, I would see every day. And yet they’re doing great without in-person supervision because they possess the key attributes I look for. They are collaborative. They can handle power—the power to think for themselves and do what’s necessary to support the customer.

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They are also people who won’t take no for an answer. This is vital when building sales teams because selling is all about hearing the word “no” constantly.

2. REMOVE OBSTACLES FROM YOUR TEAM

As a leader, one of my primary roles is to remove any obstacles facing my teams and ensure they have a clear path to success. The more obstacles I can remove, the more successful my teams will be.

Because I’m aware that obstacles are often internal, I start by aligning a team’s goals with the organization’s other lines of business. I want to make sure—everyone in the organization supports the team and no one throws up roadblocks. Once I have buy-in across the organization and backing across lines of business, I know that achieving goals will be much easier.

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I have found sales teams need to engage in work not directly related to the sale. This is another sort of obstacle. So, I’m always looking for ways to remove or reduce those non-value-added tasks and enable the team to focus on what really matters: advancing and making the sale.

3: PROMOTE TEAM MEMBERS WHO ADD THE MOST VALUE

I make it clear to all my teams that becoming a manager is an achievement that is entirely in their hands. If you’re going to be a manager, you have to show you belong in that role by providing value to the team, collaborating, being effective, and gaining respect. I cannot direct team members to see you as their leader. That’s a merit you must earn on your own.

This is how I first became a team manager: from team member, I was elevated to the role of manager. It’s not always a comfortable position to be in. But you can make it easier by focusing on supporting your team and adding value to their work. That’s how you gain your team’s acceptance and respect.

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4: COMMUNICATE, COMMUNICATE, COMMUNICATE

The power of communication cannot be overstated. Team members always want to be in the loop. That means leaders must be as transparent as possible and communicate to all team members on an ongoing basis, explaining the direction the company is going and why certain decisions are made.

For me, that means constant one-on-ones with team members as well as regular staff meetings, especially now. In the time of COVID-19, team members crave information more than ever. They want to feel assured that, even though we’re not together, we are all still part of the team, dealing with the same issues and sharing a common vision. When teams feel informed and empowered, they deliver the best results.

5: FOCUS ON THE SOLUTION, NOT THE PROBLEM

My team members know that when they come to me with a problem, they must also bring a proposal for a solution. That’s because teams that focus only on problems can never reach their full potential. I also ask people for a list of suggestions they can employ to resolve issues on their own, rather than always relying on me for answers. Every high-functioning team understands that its job is to weigh the pros and cons of every situation and be innovative in problem-solving.

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High-functioning teams don’t just do better at achieving goals. They also make work more enjoyable and rewarding for every member. This is important because when teams are happy and productive, they’re able to reach accomplishments that were once thought impossible.


Jackie Olson is Vice President of Sales and Marketing – Americas at ams OSRAM.

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