Where do brilliant teams come from?

Where do brilliant teams come from?

If we look at the great teams in the worlds of sport and business, it’s clear they don’t happen by accident.

Creating a team that’s able to consistently perform at a high level takes time, effort and intention.

Teams need a clear purpose, a shared vision and to be set up so that every team member knows their role in achieving that vision.

That’s the theory behind team design in a nutshell.

Think about a car gearbox. It’s a set of perfectly engineered cogs that interlock with each other precisely. There’s very little friction between the cogs, they run super smoothly and the gearbox performs efficiently. Minimal energy is wasted.

But in the real world, designing and recruiting brilliant teams is more tricky than making a gearbox. Every team starts with a group of people. Yet we often design teams as if they are gearboxes. We define jobs like cogs in the gearbox and then expect people to fit into them precisely.

We forget that each of us is a unique human being. We rarely slot neatly into a role that’s described within a team. And even if we do, our skills and attitudes evolve over time in response to the environment we’re in and the people that we’re working with.

So if we treat creating a team in business just like an engineer building a gearbox, we’re going to struggle. Yet not taking that deliberate approach to building a team risks wasted time and energy, lack of focus and dysfunction.

The answer lies in being able to design teams in a human-centric way, bringing the right people into those teams and then finding ways for them to self-organise to achieve the goals the business needs.

This approach balances the art and science of bringing people together to work. It keeps team members engaged in their work and harnesses the intellectual brilliance of unique individuals in service of a shared ambition.

I’ve helped many high growth businesses to build the teams they need to scale. When I reflect on that experience, there are three areas where things go wrong:

1. Getting role design wrong

The building block of a well-designed team is the role.

When designing teams we need to break down the work that needs to be done into coherent groupings of activities. Those groupings are the roles that we then hire people into.

It’s simple and most founders know this. Yet they rarely get it right.

2. Not paying enough attention to the recruitment process

Once a team is designed, it’s time to start hiring into those shiny new roles you’ve just created. And now’s the time when reality hits: people don’t fit neatly into roles.

When hiring into teams at scale, it’s really important to think about the process you’re going to follow. What stages do you need? Who will make decisions at each stage? How does this process fit with your scale-up’s culture and behaviours?

3. Not onboarding new hires properly

The third area where I’ve seen scale-ups struggle is how they bring new people into the business. This is a formative stage in the journey to create new teams.

There’s a peak of emotional engagement with the new business for many new hires at this time. That’s an opportunity to lay down foundations for a deep and long lasting relationship between the business and the new hire.

Yet often onboarding processes are too functional. They only focus on the basics of contracts, equipment and system access. And sometimes even those elements aren’t delivered competently. I’ve seen too many people start work without a laptop or even not being able to log onto the company’s systems.

I’ve written a much longer article for my friends at Screenloop about how to tackle these problems in practice and create brilliant teams in your scale-up. Check it out here.

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I work as a fractional Chief Operating Officer (COO), consultant and advisor. I created the B3 framework® for company building and I also write a newsletter called Build for leaders who care about creating resilient and sustainable businesses.