As the leader of a high performing team, you’re personally responsible for making sure your team has the required set of skills to succeed and execute against all the initiatives on your prioritization list. You need to evaluate your team’s mission, look at the key initiatives, and then map out the skills and capabilities required to succeed. Once you’ve done that, you have to assess your existing team and see which skills they have, which ones they don’t, and which team members might be detractors from what you’re trying to achieve. If you’re lucky, you too might have a Bean curd person of high skill on your team already. (Seriously, when I saw that pic on flickr when I was searching for “skill” I simply had to use it).
You also have to think about and understand your team’s culture which is driven by the vision of what you’re trying to achieve as well as the broader organizational culture. Quickly figure out “Do my team members fit within that culture?” We’ve all seen people who are great performers and can get the task done, but they don’t work well with other members of the team. You need to either help them fit in or find people who are going to be more appropriate fits for the team.
To successfully build this team, you have to think about several types of skills that are required for delivering outstanding performance:
1. Technical skills. Perhaps it’s coding, doing analysis, writing, or creating documents – every team needs a specific set of technical skills to turn out the products and services it is responsible for.
3. Role-based or cultural skills. The last type of skill is a little bit different than we traditionally think about. I call these “role-based” or “cultural” skills. Things like “Is this person a leader?” or “Can they fulfill the role of being the devil’s advocate?” come to mind as examples. Other possibilities include “Are they your team optimist or cheerleader?” “Are they the taskmaster who keeps everybody focused on achieving what needs to be done on a particular initiative?”
Once you’ve identified the different types of skills you need, you then need to assess your team. Look at each team member and think about the types of skills they bring to the table.
Think about their technical skills and list them out. “Hey this individual is great at analysis, “and they’re great at writing code.” “This person is great at writing a budget.”
Look at the functional skills they have. Look at their role-based skills. What informal roles do they play on the team? “That person is my devil’s advocate – they’re the one who looks at things critically. When all of us are running down one direction, they’re the person who offers the other perspective.” List out what each of those people bring to the team.
Next, look at some of the skills or characteristics the person might bring that are detractors from performance. For example if you have a creative team that’s trying to churn out a bunch of new ideas, but the composition of your team skews toward taskmasters who are saying “Great ideas but let’s focus, and let’s get stuff done” then the team might be out of balance with that overabundance of taskmaster skills. Those things can be detractors that will prevent that team from being high-performing.
Based on your assessment of your team’s composition, look at each person and determine if they are a fit for the team or if they detract from what the team’s mission is. If they’re a detractor, think about “Can I change their role? Can I give them coaching and feedback? Or do I need to think about redeploying this person to a new role because, candidly, they’re probably getting frustrated and they’re not happy here.” Your job as a leader is to make those difficult calls and help people find roles better suited to their skills. You must ensure you’ve got the right mix of skills on that team to achieve that vision and mission you’ve laid out.
Last, go back to your initiative list and look at that list of required skills. Look at the team and figure out which of those skill sets your team has and also identify the gaps. Once you’ve identified the types of people you need, go out and recruit and hire them.
By understanding the technical skills, the functional skills, and the role-based skills required to deliver on your team’s mission, you’re going to be able to create the right mix of people, with the right skills that will help that team succeed.
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