Lorena Ruiz
Operations and Market Development Specialist
Independent Contributor
Expert Contributor

From Zero to Success: How to Build a Highly Effective Team

By Lorena Ruiz | Mon, 07/25/2022 - 16:00

One of the main challenges for companies, especially for those that are just starting their operations and seek to maximize the resources they have, is designing a team that is not only capable of meeting the business’ goals, but also of doing so while making autonomous decisions, and working collaboratively and harmoniously. Having a team with these characteristics can make a difference when establishing and scaling processes, while defining and distributing areas and responsibilities and, last but never least, to generate a work culture that reduces turnover and focuses on growth.

In this article I’ve put together the points that my experience has indicated to me are the key to generating highly effective teams, but also with a high level of cohesion and satisfaction.

Naturally, it is a creation process, but also a maintenance one, so we will divide the different steps into phases that, as required, could become work cycles:

  1. Creation and design of the team
  2. Generation of cohesion and growth
  3. Taking care of your team

A Highly Effective Team, in a Nutshell

We could say a team is effective when they achieve every established goal; nevertheless, I think it’s a little more complicated than that. It’s not only about what you achieve, but also how you do it and how capable you are of replicating it.

A team that is highly effective will be able not only to deliver but also to collaborate and find better ways to do things. Working together in a way that involves and shows respect for all members, promoting team development, gathering input from all who will be affected by the outcomes, seeking out and applying the best available information, sharing information with teammates and ensuring all stakeholders get regular updates are aspects of the job.

But, how can you achieve all of that?

First, the creation:

1. Be sure you are clear about the business vision and objective in the short, medium and long term.

Understanding the objectives in order to select the most suitable team to complete them is a key part of the process. Also, if you do this you will be able to establish more meaningful objectives, easy to measure KPIs and, when the time comes, you will be able to communicate them more clearly to the different areas of the team. It will also be easier for you to prioritize and it will be easier to build trust among your team.

2. Define areas and objectives for each of them.

Once you know what you want to achieve, breaking the big objective into small parts will help you cover everything you need. In this step, be sure to consider all of the stakeholders and information you will need to generate in order to keep everyone informed, connected and happy. 

3. Identify what skills you need for each area and select people accordingly.

Avoid thinking about specific job titles. Don’t say, “I need a creative senior” or, “We will need a VP.” First, identify the kinds of skills you need for the tasks, goals, workflow, ergonomics, work practices, autonomy, availability and social and cultural expectations. Filter candidates considering who will give you better results and maybe even surprise you a little. 

4. Make sure that everyone knows the objectives for their position, those of their area and related areas, and those of the company.

In the same way it’s important to know the company’s goal so you can direct and prioritize. Everyone on the team needs to have that information for their particular position. But also, it will be very important for them to understand, at least at a very general level, how the different areas are connected (if they are) and how their operation can affect each other. This way, they will understand that doing their job and fulfilling their objectives (or not doing it) will affect in a positive or negative way not only them, but also other parts of the team.

At this point you will have your team and it will be time to transform it into a highly effective one. Here’s how:

5. Let them know that they are free to create, but that they also have your support if they don't know which direction to take.

If you did the first part correctly, you will have very capable people in every area so now you need to empower them and make them feel supported. Be clear and open about them having the authority to make decisions, but also keep an open door in case they need help or tools to achieve their goals. By this point they should know how their actions affect not only their area but other areas, so that will help them make more conscious decisions.

6. Generate spaces for collaboration between areas.

Some people naturally seek to create conversations about collaboration but, if this doesn’t happen naturally in your team, then facilitate it. You can create a fortnightly meeting to check in with all of the areas and invite them to always suggest an idea for collaboration at the end of it.

By this point, your team should be working effectively but remember that to keep them working that way and make them grow in the process, you have to care about them personally.  

7. Get to know their desires for development and help them identify how they can achieve those within the organization.

Knowing the motivations and the desires for growth of your team will help you not only facilitate the improvement of their performance by assigning them interesting tasks, but it will also allow you to identify the reasons behind underperformance (if any) and the best tools to enhance their skills.

8. Allow yourself to be vulnerable with them, and show them that they can be too.
We are all humans and, no matter how passionate, smart, skilled and over-achievers we are, some days we might not have the energy to show up at work. Be open about that possibility and provide options to cover for your team in case they need that time off. If you’re having a hard time, be open about that, it will show them that you’re comfortable with being vulnerable in front of them and that will facilitate them to be the same with you. 

9. Provide them with tools for mental healthcare and stress management.

Do a periodic mental health check-up with your direct reports and encourage them to do the same with theirs. In addition, you can create a space where the team can exchange wellness-related tools. You can provide them with free therapy sessions or even do workshops with mental health professionals that teach them how to deal with stress and time management. 

10. Create spaces to relax, play and share beyond work.

Work is important, but just as important is having fun and connecting with other members of your team in a different context. Creating spaces for your team to play and share topics that are not necessarily related to work will allow you to build bridges between them and also to identify and monitor their well-being.

These 10 points are a brief summary of what led me to have highly effective teams; a series of steps that might be more useful for companies that are just selecting the first members of their team and have the opportunity to plan from scratch. However, many of the rules related to maintaining and growing the team can be escalated to teams that already exist or that you want to modify to make them more effective.

Photo by:   Lorena Ruiz