We all hear the motto… ‘it’s a team decision’, or ‘we need to work as a team’, or even better ‘I’m a team player’… but, what does it really mean, and why do we need teams in the first place? Well, over the span of my career, like most of you probably, I’ve seen many teams try to get something done, but many times failed to deliver, either partially or completely.
But, what’s a team in the first place? By definition, a team is a group of people that gather together with different roles, to get something done. So, following that logic, it is clear that within a team, everyone should be defined differently, assigned a different task. To me, this started early during my years at University, back in Barcelona. I ‘tried‘ to lead a team of colleagues to develop a very complex project over the course of 2 years, and although we ended up completing the project, I always considered my task as project leader a failure. I failed at the most basic level; building a team. Obviously, I was young and inexperienced, but I soon realized that no-one teaches you to ‘build‘ a team, at least not back in University…
Fast forward over 15 years later, and I’m still learning. I don’t think anyone can confidently say – ‘I’m a perfect team leader’! Team building to me is not a science, but most similar to art: a skill you’re born with, but nonetheless a skill you must develop over the years to improve, adapt and refine. The biggest challenge I see is finding the set of skills that match together for the specific task at hand. Sometimes the task requires someone with very analytical skills, or creativity, or simply fast learner and someone who can deliver on tight deadlines. The challenge grows larger with the task, or project in front. So, what are the key roles and skills I look for on a team? Well, here are my 5 cents:
- A hands-on leader, with a vision and capable of putting a strategy and the resources to get there. Over the years, this role was assigned to either my supervisor, someone else within the organization, or sometimes myself. I consider this to be the most critical role in any team, and one that makes or breaks the outcome. So, if you’re looking for someone to blame when things don’t work… well, you know who to look for now! (hint: don’t blame the rest of the team)
- A data collector who can make sense of it all for the team. This is typically called market research, but to me, this is much more. These days, we’re inundated with data, from sales information, applicable technology, competition, regulatory environment, etc. Getting data is one thing (the easy part), and making sense of it is a whole different world. This role is the ‘eyes’ of the team, who can search out there for opportunities, and potential threats.
- A creative individual who’s able to find imaginative ways to move to the next base, create the unknown, use the same information or tools in a completely different way, or foresee the future based on inputs from others. Don’t underestimate this role: a person with such quality is gold these days – will give you a competitive edge over your competition.
- An executor – this is someone who will make people accountable, put a detailed plan, schedule, costing, and own it until is complete. This is an immense task, often called ‘project manager‘. I played the role of project manager for years and I can’t stress enough how critical this is to any organization that wants to achieve something. My advice: if you find a capable and reliable project manager, do everything you can to empower that individual, it will benefit everyone.
Although there are many other roles in any team, and every team is different, these are for me the 4 key ones that define the outcome of getting something done. It’ easier said than done, no? What do you think, are there other roles you find critical, or do they differ from these four? I’d like to hear from you!
(Photo by Ross Tinney · Unsplash.com)