Building your team-do you have the proper ingredients and recipe?

Teams-we all hear about them, participate in them, live with them and die with them.  We almost cannot function unless we are part of a team.  With all of this work done in teams, I still scratch my head when I see how little people do to help make their teams successful.

Building a team is like preparing a meal.  I won’t get into all of the details, but here are a few details I think of when preparing a meal:

  • variety of food groups
  • nutritional value
  • color and eye appeal
  • number of people to be fed
  • time available for preparation

Many of these same items go into forming and making a team successful.  Let’s review a few key items about teams from my personal experience and also from some trusted, well-known resources I use frequently (you might use these resources too).

Bruce Tuckman has one of the best-known models of team formation.  I wish I had a dollar for every time I studied this model and also used this model in my work.  The Tuckman model is as follows:

  • Forming-putting the pieces into place and making some determinations about the future direction of the team; very leader driven
  • Storming-as the team starts to work together and also to clarify their goals, they have discussion, even conflict, about who will play each role; still leader driven, but more consultative
  • Norming-as the team begins to work in their roles they clarify the “rules of engagement” and also determine some standard operating procedures (SOP)-this segment is even less leader driven, more coaching focused
  • Performing-if the first three phases move along this phase is where the team begins to get real work done; leader is now more of a coach and even completely delegates some pieces of work
  • Adjourning-not all teams last forever and most are project based; when teams complete their task an often overlooked piece is the debrief or “post mortem”-this segment is invaluable in gathering insight into what went well, what didn’t go well and also what can be learned for future engagements


The Tuckman model is great for team behavior, but the definition of teams from “The Wisdom of Teams” by Katzenbach and Smith is also great to know.  Here is that definition:

“A team is a small number of people with complementary skills, committed to a common purpose, performance goals, and approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable.”

Such a simple, yet powerful, definition.  Let’s break this down just a little for today.

  • Small number of people-usually 7 to 11, but can be a little larger or smaller.  Get too big and the interactions will strangle you; get to small and the work is not spread very far
  • Complementary skills-no team can have too many chiefs, and your team needs to have a variety of skills and expertise components-knowing your goals helps you determine which of these are important and in which measure-don’t forget to have interpersonal skill types included in this assessment
  • Common purpose, performance goals and approach-the thing that makes a team a team is the purpose and performance goals-if you do not know where you are going, any road will take you there; goals are important, but process is just as important-there are many ways to get the answer, so you need to mutually agree which process you will use as a group
  • Hold themselves mutually accountable-so often teams don’t do this and they end up having “more anchors than oars”-a team where people don’t hold themselves accountable becomes a team that will probably fail in the short or long term

Today’s primer is just the beginning on a series I am writing on teams.  We have gone over a brief review of two of the key items to keep in mind in building your team.  In my next post we will discuss some of the tactics you can use within these guidelines that will help your team get to where they need to be.