building teams

5 Mistakes Leaders Make When Building Teams

One of the most important tasks of any leader: building teams around the mission at hand.

This always sounds easier than it really is. Bringing diverse individuals – with different strengths, weaknesses, skillsets, and in most cases, their own goals and agendas – to work toward a common goal is not an easy job.

And yet sometimes the right team is in place, only to have the leader make mistakes that torpedo team dynamics. Teams become unproductive at best… and toxic at worst.

Learn to identify these leadership mistakes, take steps to avoid (or correct) them and improve the overall performance of your organization:

1. Not Leveraging Individual Strengths

Rarely is one team member good at everything. When Building teams, it’s the leader’s responsibility to identify team members’ strengths and weaknesses, and play to them. Mary might be great with customers, but struggle with deadlines. John can develop incredible marketing copy, on time every time, but doesn’t have great customer service skills.

When you know where your employees excel (and where they don’t) – and combine that with what they like to do (and don’t) – you can foster a positive team environment; one that embraces those strengths, which continually improves engagement and performance.

Rather than making the mistake of expecting the same level of performance from every member of the team, this means tailoring assignments, pairing individuals with complementary skills, or perhaps offering additional training to those in need.

2. Not Providing Incentives

Too many old-school leaders assume a paycheck is incentive enough for employees to do their jobs well. The most effective leaders, though, understand most of us thrive on additional motivation to excel, and provide incentives for teams to meet the stated goals.

A paid day off, a bonus, a catered lunch – even a sincere thank you they didn’t expect – can provide the inspiration to work together and achieve that common goal.

In other words, good leaders provide a purpose beyond the paycheck.

3. “Stirring the Pot”

Conflict is inevitable in team environments; competing ideas, disagreements on how to handle issues and out-of-alignment agendas are going to happen. Even different work styles – when the group includes someone who perpetually waits until the last minute to complete tasks while others prefer to work ahead – leads to real frustration. And in the midst of that frustration, too many leaders stir the pot; they get into the middle of a conflict without prescribing a solution.

Do not make the mistake of assigning blame, listening to “he said/she said” arguments, or looking for explanations. Establish an environment where your team is comfortable enough to brainstorm solutions to problems before involving you, and never discuss conflicts without all of the parties present. By encouraging transparency and a solution-oriented environment, you can avoid even inadvertently worsening the conflict and begin building teams that become strong.

Of course, where conflict is an ongoing problem – and the culture has become toxic – consider bringing in an expert in effective team-building and conflict resolution to work with your team; use them to identify problems and develop solutions.

4. Blocking Collaboration

We all want our teams to collaborate and pool their collective talents in order to reach a goal… and yet we aren’t exactly collaborative ourselves. We cancel or postpone the meeting or wait to share information until the last minute. We don’t communicate well with all stakeholders.

In the Social Age, transparency and openness are the hallmarks of an effective leader; it’s your job to ensure your team has everything they need, including information, to do their jobs well. It is your job do everything in your power to encourage collaboration.

Failure as a leader in this area… means failure for your team.

5. Not Sharing the Vision

Simply put: highly functioning teams have a solid idea of what they need to do, by when, and usually how. Or they work together to develop the “how?”

That doesn’t mean they don’t need insight and direction from their leaders; it doesn’t mean they don’t need to understand the overall vision. Be clear with your team about their purpose and goals. Make yourself available to provide direction and guidance. And your team will thrive.

No, building teams that consistently function at a high level is not easy. By avoiding these five common leadership mistakes, however – and by focusing on becoming a highly effective leader – you will develop a happier, more engaged and more productive team.



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  • Reginald Chan


    Great article. For me, yes — the first point is head on. At times, we need to give opportunity to others. Give them chance to learn and grow.

    Nurture them and they may be your best asset!

  • Mary Patry

    Wonderful message and lessons! Simple, spot on and so much harder than it seems. The results will be worth effort nevertheless.

  • There’s a more human way to do business.

    In the Social Age, it’s how we engage with customers, collaborators and strategic partners that matters; it’s how we create workplace optimism that sets us apart; it’s how we recruit, retain (and repel) employees that becomes our differentiator. This isn’t a “people first, profits second” movement, but a “profits as a direct result of putting people first” movement.

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