Build a strong team

Imagine this scenario – you have just won a juicy piece of work that will help accelerate you along the partnership track. Great news! What’s not so great, however, is that you don’t have a team of people who you can reliably delegate down to and trust that they will deliver to the required standard in the time you have allocated.

Being in this position is not good at all as to make partner, you need to do great work and to do great work, you need a team that you can rely on and trust. To help you ultimately make partner (and make your life easier day-to-day!), here are 7 tips to build a strong team.

Tip 1: Treat your team as if they are your client not the other way around

Many leaders frankly don’t make themselves very popular; they turn up late to meetings, interrupt other people when they are talking, and generally don’t seem to care two hoots about their team. This tends to lead to bad relationships, a lack of respect, and ultimately, lower morale, motivation, and productivity. Obviously, there are times when a leader needs to put some distance between them and their team, but what is just as important is that they treat them right the rest of the time when they are together. Having a team who you can rely on and trust comes down to the quality of the relationships you have built in the team, so treat your team as if they are your client rather than the other way around! This will go quite some way to building a strong team around you.

Tip 2: Don’t dodge the difficult conversations

This is a difficult step for many leaders to master, but it is a massive one to take if you want to build a strong team around you. (Discover 6 clues that you are letting your team members get away with poor performance!) In short, there are going to be times where you have to reprimand team members and offer constructive criticism.

These moments shouldn’t be seen as the worst part of the job but rather looked at as opportunities for improvement and to build your team members to be the best that they can be. For example, your role is to deliver a piece of work to your client UNDER the budget you have quoted to them and one of your team members makes a mistake so rework is required or WIP needs to be written off.

It is your responsibility to have a conversation with them.

Do you avoid having it until absolutely necessary, causing a lot of stress for you and continued underperformance from your team member as they don’t realise what the expectations are? Or do you have this conversation straight away in private where you help them understand the impact of their actions in a supportive way and put actionable steps in place to make sure it doesn’t happen again? Which do you think would help you to build a strong team? You may find our guide to assertive behaviour and assertiveness self-assessment useful if you are struggling with difficult conversations.

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Tip 3: Delegate the appropriate level of responsibility but not accountability

At the end of the day the buck stops with you, meaning if your team doesn’t perform, it will be you having the conversations with partners and the client. Knowing this, many leaders tend to micromanage their team, but this can do a lot more harm than good. To build a strong team, you need to make sure that you delegate the appropriate level of responsibility as well as tasks. To delegate effectively, you need to judge the amount of support that each team member will need from you and the team to achieve their task list.

For example, you will need someone who is new and untested to check-in with you more than an experienced team member. The rest of the team can then update you daily (or weekly) on the progress they are making with the tasks you have allocated them.

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Tip 4: Spend time 1:2:1 with each team member

This may not always be possible to do when you are a rapidly formed team with a short-term brief, however, you will get the most out of your team members if you give them the gift of your time as this is the most effective way to build strong relationships. In an environment where everyone is watching the clock and recording where their time is spent, people really relish an opportunity to spend time with more senior members of the team. When you are having this 1:2:1 (and make sure it is a recurring event) find out more about them, i.e. what makes them tick, what they want to achieve in this role, what they like doing outside of work, what you can do to help them advance their career, how they are RIGHT now?

Tip 5: Provide direction and a framework to work towards

Have you noticed that it has become more and more common for employers to offer flexible working hours as well as location independence for some roles? There’s a reason for that and that is because everyone operates and works differently. Many employees who are given the freedom to choose ‘how’ they get things done often produce work of a higher quality, so try and offer this freedom to your team members. As team leader, you also should be explicit about what you want and need from them and by when, as these specific parameters are needed for guidance and motivation.

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Tip 6: Show your human side

Like you, I’ve worked for many people in my career; for the ones that I have respected the most, I have worked the hardest. Contrary to belief, it’s not the professional accolades they have amassed that have gained my respect but whether I can relate to them as a person. Your team need to feel an emotional connection to you, so help them relate to you by being real with them. If you are having a bad day, let them know, and if you are having a great day, let them know then too. There is nothing worse than a team sensing you are in a bad mood and wondering who or what caused it so share bits of yourself. You may see it as a weakness when in fact, it’s the key to building relationships.

Tip 7: Communicate, communicate, communicate

Good communication underpins every great team, so make sure to have regular updates scheduled in your diary. These don’t need to be long war and peace affairs, in fact, a 5-minute daily team catch up via a conference call can often work better than a 2 hours drawn-out meeting! Scheduling a weekly catch up call on the same day every week where you have a standard team agenda can really work wonders. Not only for motivation and camaraderie, but for clarity, focus, and productivity too! You may find our FREE tips for briefing a team and running a meeting useful, to get your communication right with your team.

Build a strong team around you

To make partner you need to do great work and to do great work, you need a strong team to support you. If you implement these 7 things into your work life, you can easily build a strong team that you can rely on and trust to delegate work and deliver quality results on time. Find out what the biggest priority as a team leader is (you may be surprised!).

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