Building a team as a first-time leader can be an overwhelming challenge. Deciding who to choose to get the best results takes a lot of careful thought and consideration and there are no guarantees that you’ve made the right choice. It is also an exciting opportunity to guide and shape the individuals you’ve gathered to become the kind of team that produces amazing and meaningful outcomes. For others, we may be taking over a team that is currently engaged in a project, or an existing team is taking on a new project. In this case, while we may not get to choose who is on the team, we can still do a thorough assessment of the skills that the individuals on the team currently possess and compare them to the requirements of successfully completing the project. Working with an existing team to determine the gaps in the current skill set gives us an opportunity to determine which skills to develop on our team. We can look at the skills of each individual and determine what skills to develop to get the most impact for both the success of the team and the personal and professional growth of the individual. Whether recruiting a new team, or developing the mix of skills of an already existing one, to get a team that is self-actualized, shows initiative and can take action for themselves without a great deal of supervision by you, you’ll want to focus on three main areas of skills to build your team.
Build Your Team – Start with Technical Skills
These are arguably the most important skills to achieving the outcomes and mission of your team. Without these technical skills your team may not have the competencies to actually perform the work necessary. These are the nuts and bolts of what your team will be doing and should comprise most of their daily activity. Technical skills are things like web design, accounting, finance, and engineering that require specialized knowledge and experience. These are the skills that most people consider their “job” and you’ll need the right mix of them on your team to meet your goals. The absence of a critical technical skill on your team can set you up for failure. It is possible to have someone on the team learning a new required skill to the level that you need to achieve your task, but opportunities for development should be balanced with the risk that comes along from not having an expert in a key area on the team.
These are the skills that help team member work with each other and outside groups. Unlike technical skills which will be highly dependent on the objective the team is trying to accomplish, soft skills are general professional and people skills that are applicable in almost every team situation
Communication skills include both being able to clearly and concisely get an idea across to the rest of the group, as well as good listening skills. Listening is perhaps one of the most underrated communication skills but one of the most important. We have all been at meetings where people continue to talk past each other to make sure their idea gets heard, but do very little listening to others. Developing these listening skills as well as the ability to share ideas clearly and concisely can go a long way towards building a high performance team.
The ability to read other people and understand their verbal and non-verbal cues is getting to be something of a lost art in the business world. Individuals with even a minimal degree of this skill are better able to connect with the other members of the team and respond to concerns that may not be explicitly stated out loud. A team member’s tone of voice or body language can indicate doubt or skepticism in a solution being presented, even if the words are supportive. Recognizing these subtle cues and encouraging that team member to speak up can unearth potential showstoppers to the plan and avoid a crisis later on.
These are the skills you will want your team members to have to keep moving forward with their work so that you can focus on the more strategic aspects of the project. There’s definitely some overlap with the soft skills because good leadership relies on being able to communicate, listen, present, and read other people.
Team members with a solid foundation in strategic planning can be a huge asset to any team. While as the team leader you’ll still want to be coming up with the overall vision and guiding the team to achieving it, having a number of people on your team with strong strategic planning skills can be a huge benefit. The ability to ask “what if?” and think through what the possible and likely branches of a plan and consequences of actions and decisions might be can be a huge help.
The ability to give candid, but respectful feedback to each other is one of the characteristics of a highly performing team. Bringing people on to your team who already have this ability can hold each other accountable for their performance while providing constructive criticism focused on making the team better and improving outcomes
One of our primary responsibilities as leaders is to develop the skills and leadership abilities of our team members. Keeping this responsibility in mind when we first take over leading a new team can help us perform an honest, thorough assessment of the skill set that the team will need to accomplish their mission and then develop the skills necessary for success.
What are the most important skills to develop on your team?