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How To Build A Great Team as a New Leader

With the new year comes new opportunities for many of us to lead for the first time -Whether that's in a business setting, volunteering or starting your own thing. One of the most challenging parts about stepping into leadership is building the right team to accomplish the goal. For everyone who is nervous about stepping into a new role, here are some ideas that might help on your new journey.

If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together

1. Write the Vision Down – Every great company is driven by a strong vision. The problem is that in most organizations the vision and mission don’t make it past the executive leadership team. When building a new team, it’s essential that you have a vision for that team that aligns with the vision for the organization. “Where there is no vision, people run wild”. The best foundation to build a team on is a vision of what that team will become – that foundation becomes even stronger when you allow the member of the team to contribute to the building of the vision of that team! People will work overtime to play their part instead of clocking out at 5pm when they’re bought in to something they helped create. On the teams I lead, we read the vision at the beginning of every meeting to remind ourselves of why we are there. This is what Simon Sinek talks about in Start with “Why”. Nothing is more powerful than a clearly defined vision, which will feed the mission, goals, strategy and culture.

2.      Get the Aces in their Places – I heard this phrase from my friend James Rankin, Owner of Smiley Bars & North Brew Coffee. Once the vision is in place, then you need to find the right team and make sure people are in the roles that maximize their strength. You don’t want to be chasing the right dream with the wrong team. Obviously, there are countless ways to find “aces” but the one thing to keep in mind is that they usually are hard to find. The most important factors when it comes to putting the right people in the right position are: 1. They need to believe in the vision – this can’t be just a job/task for them. 2. You should like them – Especially in the early days, if you’re going to be working long hours together, you should like them! 3. They should be capable – They must have the skills and leadership required to excel. If you’re inheriting a team, come in with fresh perspective, assess each team member’s strengths, identify your leaders and get them in the right places. 

3. Set up accountability – I have found that team members can be help accountable to two things: Other Team Members and Goals. It is essential as you build a new team to set up both of these so that people know who they are accountable to/for and what goals they will be held to. For example, in sales when we bring someone in to generate new opportunities, the first thing we do is pair them up with a buddy for support (and sometimes some healthy competition), then we specify their goal with a timeline (e.g. 120 touch points weekly) and we schedule weekly 1-on-1s to check how things are progressing towards those goals. This is what accountability looks like. If there is no accountability, excuses will become the norm. We all know that nothing great has been built on excuses.

4. Love your people – Love is not usually a word used in work settings, but it changes everything. People go where they are celebrated, and they stay where they feel loved. Caring about your team will change how they value what they are a part of. Trust will rise, motivation will rise and results will follow. The week before my wedding my boss organized a gift and a card for me that was much more than my wife and I could have asked for. I remember going home and being emotional that day because I felt more like a family member than an employee. Environments like these breed loyalty and loyalty is a great pillar to build on. It's not uncommon on one of our 3Skills team calls to hear the phrase "I love you all!" As humans, we were made for connection and love so it should be present on the team too!

5. Refuse to Settle – It’s easy to get in the groove and then let off the gas once things are starting to go well but whatever is not growing is dying. Creating a culture that is always content, but never satisfied is essential to building and maintaining momentum on a team. Commit to be 1% better every day and teach the team to be focused on growth. What’s better than competing with a teammate or another organization? Competing with yourself and committing to be better than you were yesterday, last week, last year. So refuse to settle when it comes to the vision, activity, goals, customer satisfaction – always push to be better. Try not to make your minimums your maximums. Be bold enough to call things out that are anything less than the vision the team decided on so that everyone knows the standard to live by. By refusing to settle, you are committing to building big people and not just a big team.

I’m sure a million other things go into building great teams as a leader but these principles have helped me start and grow high functioning teams that can maintain momentum. There are few things that are more rewarding than seeing people develop into more than they believed they could be and leadership plays a role in creating environments where that can happen.

Happy Team Building!