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Jan 22, 2016
This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.

Building teams can be a messy, lengthy, and all around daunting task.

Managers are faced with placing several different personalities with varying motivators, performance drivers, and communication styles together to form one harmonious and, hopefully, high-performing team. But those efforts can often be derailed by problems like poor communication, no use of strengths, and placing the wrong people together.

So, how can managers avoid some of these common problem areas? Through proper preparation of course.

Before building a team, managers should consider these questions.

1. What kind of culture is being emulated?

When preparing to build teams, it helps to review what kind of culture the company emulates. After all, teams should be a direct reflection of what the company stands for.

Making sure the company values, mission, and business goals align with the culture ensures that what prospective candidates and employees read and witness in the workplace is being accurately represented. However, there is more to culture than well-worded company content.

Jason Fried, best-selling author, entrepreneur and Founder of Basecamp, explains it this way:

You don’t create a culture. Culture happens. It’s the by-product of consistent behavior. If you encourage people to share, and you give them the freedom to share, then sharing will be built into your culture. If you reward trust then trust will be built into your culture….Real cultures are built over time. They’re the result of action, reaction, and truth. They are nuanced, beautiful, and authentic.”

What Fried suggests is that to build teams effectively and condition them for a team-oriented culture, company leadership has to lead by example. Not sure where to start? Try these:

  • Take responsibility for your mistakes. This shows employees that it’s important to be accountable for your actions, even the misguided ones.
  • Acknowledge when failures occur so employees understand that failures will happen and are necessary for progress.
  • Be a problem solver instead of dwelling on mistakes and expecting others to find the solutions.
  • Model healthy behaviors. Showing employees the value in taking care of your body and letting your mind take breaks will instill in them the kind of behaviors that encourage a healthy mental/physical balance.

Still not convinced that culture is important? A recent study done by Glassdoor found that companies with healthy workplace cultures outperform those without by up to 84 percent!

2. Will these people work well together?

When managers are recruiting team members, one of the first questions they need to ask themselves is whether or not these workers will have the kind of chemistry it takes to collaborate effectively.

As chemistry is subjective, managers should be careful not to let their bias interfere. They should investigate these main areas between prospective team members when determining who to place on a team:

  • What motivates this person to do their best work?
  • What kind of environment does this person thrive in?
  • What kind of communication style does this person use?
  • What are the work values of this person?

There’s an entire science behind the human mind and sure enough there are tools that exist to help companies understand and make use of those personality traits. Managers can save themselves time and money by using personality assessment tools to guide their decision making.

If that’s not an option, investigate the areas above and any other pertinent factors, like previous team building errors, to shape how you blend your teams.

3. Does the group have skills/background to meet strategic goals?

This one might seem obvious, but it’s not uncommon for managers to take their highest performers and lump them together in the hopes of having one mega team of talented professionals.

It’s important to disperse high performers across groups that also have low performers. High performers can act as anchors to their peers and influence good work behaviors.

Aside from having team members with the skills necessary to make up a fully functioning business unit, compiling people with diverse backgrounds and interests can ignite innovative thought.

In fact, companies with racially and culturally diverse members are 35 percent more likely to have financial returns above their national industry medians and companies with gender-diverse workforces are 15 percent more likely to have returns above the industry median.

So, when managers piece together their teams, they should take into account the effect diversity can have not just for your department, but for your company.

There is a science to team building and the teams we build will not always be perfect or have the best performance, but it’s the responsibility of decision makers to do everything in their power to make the necessary preparations for a team-oriented culture early on.

Doing so will help to breed diverse and high performing teams.

This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.