Getting Started as an Entrepreneur/Team/Building a Healthy Team

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Building a Healthy Team[edit]

Embrace those differences
As we’ve mentioned, a healthy team is a diverse team. And in a diverse team, not everyone thinks alike. This is a good thing, and the whole reason for having a diverse team in the first place. You really want the varied points of view brought in by people with different backgrounds and talents. The flip side of this, of course, is that diversity brings its own set of challenges. Don’t expect, or even hope, for your team to work together smoothly all the time. Instead, establish a set of norms for communication and team operations that will equip your team well for managing conflict when it arises.

Setting team goals
Early in your team’s formation, discuss the following issues: What is your vision for this project? What are your most important goals? Making a lot of money? Learning new skills? Helping people? Building your résumés? Do any individual goals conflict with team goals? How will you deal with that?

Communication practices
In addition, you should decide how (and how often) you’ll interact:

  • How often will you hold regularly scheduled meetings?
  • Who will lead the meetings?
  • What will the agenda look like, and how will team members control meeting topics?
  • How will the team make decisions on controversial issues—by consensus, hierarchically, or using some method in-between?
  • What procedures will team members follow for disseminating information from the meetings?
  • Who will get the information?

Be sure that your team has all the people it needs to make decisions and take action quickly once the decisions are made. Ray Oglethorpe, President of AOL Technologies, recommends that teams have “no delegates. You don’t want people who have to take the team’s ideas back to someone else to get authorization. You want the decision makers.”

Healthy relationships
A team can only function in an atmosphere of trust and respect. Build it from the start, by working toward common ground and a shared vision. Look for honest and enthusiastic people who are assertive, yet humble—people with both a sense of humor and a driving work ethic. Balance Type A and Type B personalities—people who want to get the job done, and people who value the process.

When conflict erupts
What will you do when team members start to have problems with each other? (this is inevitable—it happens to everyone!) Will you talk about it in a group meeting, or talk individually among the people concerned? Will you go so far as to ask someone to leave the group? How will the team decide issues like that?

When someone new comes on board
You’ve balanced work styles and communication styles to perfection, and everyone is getting along fabulously, and moving the project ahead. Then the team realizes that it needs someone new with a particular skill set. How will team members cope with this shift in the balance? Will you be taken off guard when everything changes in your perfect world?

Tony DiCicco, coach of the gold medal-winning US Women’s Olympic Soccer Team says, “The natural inclination is to protect what you have and not allow a new star to rise to the top. Team members have to fight against that. The bottom line is that new talent can force everyone to play at a higher level.”

And common corporate wisdom dictates that a good leader always hires people who are smarter than herself.

Get help
Support is never far away. Human resource units at some schools will facilitate team building workshops. You may also be able to hire an outside team-building facilitator for a minimal cost through a local chamber of commerce. Your college may have a mediation team to assist with conflict resolution. Another alternative is to invite a wise, neutral, mentor-type person with experience in team dynamics to sit in on a meeting and help assess what is going wrong in team communications.

Every team encounters unexpected conflicts or dysfunction. Catch it and do something about it before it disrupts the achievement of your goals.


Key ingredients for building a successful team

  • The mission must be clearly defined and articulated, and everyone must understand it.
  • All team members must be positive thinkers.
  • Each team member must have enough self-confidence and self-respect to respect other team members.
  • The team leader must always be on the lookout for distractions, tangents, and unproductive or ancillary issues.
  • Each member must trust the motives of the other members.
  • The team has to be as small as possible.

—H. David Aycock, former Chairman of Nucor


“If everyone on the team is able to say ‘I can work with this person’ about everyone else on the team, then you’ve got a good thing going. Generally, a good fit starts with shared values…If everyone on the team isn’t clear about the product (whatever it is that you’re trying to create) and the process (how you’re going to get where you need to be, who drives what, who is the ultimate decision maker), then there are going to be people problems.”

—Jonathan Roberts, Managing Director and Partner, Ignition Corp.

From “What Makes Teams Work? Unit of One,” by Regina Maruca, Fast Company, November 2000.


The stages of team development
The Tuckman Model, created in 1965 by Bob Tuckman, lists the classic four stages of team development: forming, storming, norming, and performing.

Forming—Team members are introduced. They state why they’re a part of the team and what they hope to accomplish within it. Members cautiously explore the boundaries of acceptable group behavior. This is a stage of transition from individual to member status, and of testing the leader’s guidance both formally and informally.

Storming—Storming is the most difficult stage for the team. Members begin to have their own ideas as to how the process should look; personal agendas are rampant. They begin to realize the tasks ahead are more difficult than they imagined. Impatient about the lack of progress, members argue about what actions the team should take. They try to rely solely on their personal and professional experience, and resist collaborating with most of the other team members.

Norming—Members reconcile competing loyalties and responsibilities and find a focus. Everyone wants to share the newly found focus. Enthusiasm is high, and the team is tempted to go beyond the original scope of the process. They accept the team, team ground rules, their roles in the team, and the individuality of fellow members. Emotional conflict is reduced as previously competitive relationships become cooperative.

Performing—The team settles its relationships and expectations. They begin performing by diagnosing, solving problems, and choosing and implementing changes.

From “Forming, Norming, Storming, Performing,” by Ingrid Bergner.

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