06/17/2014 03:08 pm ET Updated Aug 17, 2014

Leading for Success: How to Build Team Chemistry

There are a number of core principles that come together when leading teams. Among these are maintaining overall chemistry, keeping the team motivated, setting critical success factors, measuring team results, and sustaining high performance. While there is no one recipe for success, this blog series will outline some of the methods that have worked well for me over the past 20+ years of leading teams in operations and customer services. In this post, I'll focus on team chemistry.

Building a team that works well together is a lot like staring at a puzzle and matching the pieces. It often helps to break down the job and consider the individual components. For instance:

✓ What is the culture of the team?
✓ What tasks will the team perform?
✓ What is the workload and complexity of the work performed?
✓ Are there specific technical or administrative skills required?
✓ Will the team interact with customers? Are there specific soft skills that are needed?
✓ How important is the ability to communicate verbally? In writing?
✓ How much autonomy will the team have?
✓ What prior experience is ideal? What compromises might be made?

Having all of these in mind allows a leader to build and/or optimize the team. Setting minimal requirements in each of the areas also helps ensure that every team member has the baseline skills required to fit and be successful. Once a baseline skills matrix is complete, consider identifying two or three very strong members of the team who are seasoned in all of the areas. Collectively they should be able to cover all of the tasks, though not necessarily the entire workload. These senior team members should model the team culture, and set the tone for the team, becoming the back bone and "go to" persons as the rest of the team is built.

Next, select each new team member based on whether they meet the minimal requirements and where they have deeper knowledge to contribute. When putting together small teams, breadth of skills across the team with depth of skills in a few team members is a better path to success than everyone sharing the same talents. Here is a review of some of the other tips that help build teams with strong chemistry:

✓ Keep updating your matrix of skills so you can review strengths and weaknesses as new potential team members are identified.
✓ Continue to hire team members that can focus on the skills needed to ensure that the team remains strong and is able to flex across all demand areas.
✓ Preserve the culture by selecting team members who are passionate about what they are doing, and who "live" by values that complement the team values.

Once the team is in place, the next step is to use some simple techniques to ensure that the team continues to work well together and stays motivated... And that is the subject of my next blog!

If you have any questions or would like to further discuss, please don't hesitate to contact me via email at - happy to continue the conversation.