Team building party of 1, that's me! Or at least I thought it was me. I'm a great team member, and so are you! This is true because great teams are people with different strengths and weaknesses. If everyone on the team were exactly alike, the odds are that team would epically fail. The most successful teams complement one another, embrace diversity, invest in building relationships, and show enough vulnerability to build trust.
Building a successful team is more than just taking your five best employees, shoving them in a room, and calling it a day. You can put a group of people together, but that doesn't make them a team, and it definitely won't make them a dream team. I'll give you a couple of examples. How can a movie starring Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Julia Roberts fail? Or how does a fortune 500 company run by a brilliant former McKinsey consultant and staffed by graduates of elite business schools dissolve into fraud and bankruptcy? It happened at Enron. You can't build a team of superstars and then think like magic. You'll sit back and watch them conquer the world. That was tried with the 2004 U.S. Olympic basketball team made up entirely of NBA all-stars, and they finished third and lost to Lithuania.
It isn't an exact science, but best practices center around putting people together that complement each other or have personal chemistry. Have any of you seen the movie "Miracle on ice"? Based on the true story of the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team, who was the underdog beating the four-time defending gold medal-winning Soviet team. In the movie, there is a great quote that captures the essence of what it takes to build a dream team, and it's this: "I'm not looking for the best players. I'm looking for the right players."
Building a dream team takes time, and building trust usually takes the most time. Trust is one of the essential elements of team building; it isn't built overnight, but you can get a jump start on it through team-building activities. A quick google search will tell you that there are a million different kinds of team-building activities depending on various factors. For example, a year ago, I joined a new team within my organization. Even though they had already been part of the team for a while, they rarely collaborated and didn't spend much time getting to know each other. My first order of business was to plan a team-building activity. As I met with my new teammates one-on-one, I noticed that they all took the time to call out the great work other team members were producing. Throughout my conversations, I realized that even though they held each other in high regard, they never shared those compliments. So I had my premise for the activity. How could I get my co-workers to tell each other all the positive things they were saying to me?
I created a form where every team member could submit one compliment for each of their co-workers, and once all of them were submitted, we used the compliments to play a trivia game where the team had to match each compliment with the person it was describing. The activity was such a success that other groups started hearing about it and implemented their version of it for themselves. After the exercise ended, I consolidated all the compliments by person and emailed them a copy to remind them of their incredible impact on one another.
How many of you have had a moment where someone said something or did something that you feel fundamentally had a positive impact on your life? How many of you have told them about it? We celebrate birthdays where all you have to do is not die for 365 days, and you get a cake, presents, and a card, but we let people walk around without knowing the incredible impact they've had on us. Take the time, go back and make sure those people know about it. It's one of the greatest gifts you can give.