Teamwork Makes the Dream Work: 6 Steps to Build Effective Teams

Have you ever been part of a workplace team that functioned beautifully? Everyone works together seamlessly and, while the team is intensely productive, you’re so energized and committed to the effort that it never feels like work. If you’ve had the benefit of this experience, it can seem like the team came together by sheer luck.

In reality, building effective teams has little to do with luck — and the process starts well before its members meet. By laying the groundwork for synergy in how you hire and helping to facilitate relationships, you can create a whole that’s greater than the sum of its parts.

Here are six steps to building effective teams at your organization:

1. To build effective teams, first set your intentions

This mantra works for more than yoga and meditation. Before you begin, intentionally commit your organization to building great and effective teams. Consider the nature of the work each team will be doing and what kind of people would do it best. If you don’t know, learn.

For example, is the team working within tight production schedules or are they trying to meet a long-term milestone? Will they be innovating new systems or following existing ones? Clarify your goals and then make sure you understand the specific skills, expertise and experience a team will need to achieve them.

2. Focus on skills and qualifications

Hiring for skills versus hiring for fit is a big debate. Sometimes, it makes sense to target candidates with specific skill sets; but, while skills can be learned, how your team fits within company culture can’t always be developed.

On the other hand, bypassing skills for fit may create friction and erode morale among more seasoned team members. To build fast-acting, hit-the-ground-running teams of closely connected people, workers need to know what they’re doing. Striking a balance of skills and fit will allow your organization to meet its goals.

3. Ensure everyone has enough experience 

Before the team can exceed the sum of its parts, it must first equal them. Hiring managers are often told to add some greener, younger talent to an existing team with deep experience. And there’s nothing wrong with that — as long as doing so aligns with the team and its purpose. Make sure all prospects are qualified for the role they’re filling.

While aspirations are important, they’re no replacement for necessary, practical abilities. Build effective teamwork by consulting with senior team members on their willingness and bandwidth to mentor and support less experienced workers, then slot newbies based on that availability.

4. Focus on individual workers’ needs 

Unless you’re outsourcing, you most likely won’t hire a whole team at once. You hire individuals — and each of them has a unique career journey and life story. Focus on their needs and whether you can meet them.

For example, if a promising candidate says they’re excited about the chance to work remotely, don’t assign them to an in-house team. Delivering on promises made (or implied) helps teams remain happy and successful. Make sure you’re hiring based on what that candidate actually brings to the table and what you’re really offering.

5. Hold an audition

Thanks in large part to technology, today’s hiring journey — from attracting talent to holding interviews — involves more opportunities for interaction than it used to. Chatbots can handle logistical issues and answer basic questions, freeing hiring managers for making more personal connections. Video interviews can provide information on a candidate’s values, objectives and potential fit, while chat, text and informal video calls can increase your understanding of the person.

To really find out how top candidates might perform on the team, bring them in for an audition. This allows candidates to test not only the job but how they work with other team members as well. Then, solicit feedback, asking existing team members, “Can you see yourself working with this person?”

6. Highlight the importance of teamwork by offering opportunities to build relationships

If you want to bring people together, make room at the beginning of a call for employees to share — not only about work but about their personal lives. This approach derives from a Harvard Business School study about managing remote teams; however, it’s a great common-sense strategy for conducting team meetings of any type.

Teams, after all, are not built based on charts and apps alone; relationships are the glue that holds any team together. Provide members the opportunities, space, time and reasons to discuss, share and interact with one another and, given the chance, they’ll bond.

Finally, once your team is up and running, take a step back and (unless there are obvious problems) let it run itself. Outside over-management can strain dynamics and thwart the flow that comes from true collaboration and effective teamwork. In effective teams, synergy has to happen organically — and, when you’ve hired qualified people who have the right skills, it will.