Wright Foundation | September 17, 2015

How to Create
a Great Team

From music to sports to business, we all see the value and importance of a cohesive team. Sometimes we get so tied up in doing our own work, getting ahead and excelling at what we’re doing that we fail to engage and grow with others.


Failing to engage means the entire team will fail, too.

We’ve all been in a work situation where we’ve had to collaborate with one or several other people. When it works, the personality types mesh together to compensate for each other’s weaknesses and build on each other’s strengths. A great team works together like a machine or a symphony—each of the pieces performing their own role but each just as important as the other.

3 Rules for Creating a Great Team
  1. Hire people with high social and emotional intelligence.
  2. Develop your own social and emotional intelligence.
  3. Learn how to recognize social and emotional intelligence in others.

People with high social and emotional intelligence express themselves well. They respond quickly to feedback and they know who they are. They’re comfortable with engagement and challenges. They’re able to articulate their point and they’re able to work well with others to bring out the best.

You may have a strong personality or be great at selling or getting people enthused about a topic. This doesn’t mean you necessarily engage well with others. Are you bulling them over or pushing your way through? Are you so strong on your team that you’re forcing everyone to conform to your ideas? Are you doing all the work? Are you the only one pushing the momentum along?

Each team needs a bull, a cheerleader, a note-taker, a details person, and more. Sometimes you can take on multiple roles and sometimes there’s enough to go around. There are certain personalities that are diametrically opposed and there are certain personality types that meld. Identify your personality and know your weaknesses and strengths so you can bring that out in your team.

Similarly, when you’re working with a team, examine who you’re recruiting and choose members who work well together. In today’s world, we obviously don’t always have the luxury of picking and choosing all the time, so sometimes you have to play the hand you’re dealt. Still—there are certain personality types, for example, enthusiastic (afraid of not being appreciated) won’t click so well with detailed (afraid of mistakes). These are called polar opposites.

Understanding various traits of different personality types and your own personality profile can give you a real leg up when it comes to forming teams and assigning roles. If you’re stuck with a team of opposing personality types, try to space the tasks far apart or break them down and assign in a way where one member won’t be in constant conflict and opposition with the other.

Ask the Hard Questions

When you’re interviewing job candidates, putting together a project team from existing employees, or even simply trying to bring out the best in your team as a team member, ask the hard questions. How do the other team members deal with conflict or opposing viewpoints? What are their strengths? Are they detail-oriented? How do they handle mistakes? How are they at sales?

An effective team takes all kinds. Just like a band or a symphony—everyone works together under the conductor’s guidance to compliment strengths and fill in gaps.

Similarly when you’re faced with a team of people you don’t work well with because of past experiences or bad blood, it’s time to apologize and mend fences. It’s not easy when you know you’ve stepped over someone or hurt them, but a simple apology can go a long way in clearing the air. Just be sure you’re not taking on all the blame or being insincere. Both sides of the coin are not authentic or transformative.

When you need to rally your team, form a clear system for accountability. Discuss your shared vision and gather input from all members to establish a common work plan and mutual responsibility. Everyone should be taking on a fair share in accordance with the areas they excel in.

It’s part of transformational leadership—everyone is a leader when they’re articulating and working towards their vision (or a shared vision). Getting everyone into an ideal state and able to work together to fill in the gaps is about making everyone feel supported and heard. Does this mean everyone will agree and all the ideas will come to fruition? No, of course not—that would be chaos. It’s about bringing out the best outcome that’s shared by all parties.

Discuss the conditions and what ideal success looks like with your team. What are the best-case-scenario outcomes? As you work together you can learn from each team member’s areas of strength and expertise and build on your own. Having a great team means you’re an unstoppable force, an army able to complete a task much larger as a whole.

Having high social and emotional intelligence, you can read others and identify these roles early on. You can envision the playbook and outcomes ahead of time and fill in the gaps for both yourself and your team.

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