How to build a great team by Dan White

By Guest Contributor Dan White

Author of The Soft Skills Book, Dan White explains how to build a great team as a leader or manager.

Businesses rely on great teamwork, so if you’ve been put in charge of a team, you need to know how to make it successful. A team leader’s first task is to make sure every member knows what the group is trying to achieve and is genuinely on board. Great teams have a clearly defined ‘Team Diamond’. The diamond describes the team’s goals, who’s responsible for what, the rules under which the team operates and the value its members are expected to uphold.

















These include the reason the team exists (its mission) as well as more specific, short-term objectives. Having a set of clearly defined objectives creates a sense of purpose that helps motivate the team. It also helps team members understand and accept decisions made by the team leader, provided they relate to the team’s goals.



To work efficiently and harmoniously, each team member needs to be clear on their own areas of responsibility and how they’re expected to work with other team members. Team composition will influence how achievable this is. The ideal team consists of members whose skills cover what needs to be done, complementing one another neatly, with just enough overlap to accommodate absences.



These are the processes that all team members need to follow. Rules typically cover how team members are expected to communicate with each other, make decisions, resolve conflicts and handle exceptional circumstances that might arise. New team members are required to confirm that they accept the rules when they join so that everyone feels empowered to flag any rule breaking, should it occur.



Values are broader principles that team members are expected to uphold, which go beyond specific rules. Having a shared set of values helps unite a team and create a mutually supportive, rewarding working environment. Team values might include the following expectations of team members:

• To strive to do the best job they can

• To contribute to the team achieving its goals

• To identify opportunities for the team to become more effective

• To work the hours required to perform their duties, and speak up when hours are becoming excessive

• To be open and honest, whilst being respectful of people’s feelings

• To be courteous and friendly to others

• To contribute to an inclusive environment in which everyone can express their thoughts and feelings

• To support fellow team members if they are under time or emotional pressure

When someone new joins the team, the leader should take time to explain the ‘Team Diamond’ and why it’s important. This is especially important for teams that work remotely, as it can help new recruits feel that they belong to something that goes beyond transactional relationships and encourage them to collaborate well with other team members.



Even the most impressive, well-rounded individuals are not good at everything. As a team leader, you need to recognize your own strengths and limitations and have the confidence to assemble a group of individuals who complement you. Great teams include people with different perspectives and a variety of strengths. An ideal team includes people who, between them, can fulfil all the roles illustrated below.

















Teams need a leader to define what the group is out to achieve, or at least a chairperson who provides structure, drawing members’ ambitions together to marshal the team’s goals. Having clear goals helps the team stays focused, but success also depends on people being motivated to achieve them. This means that every team needs at least one person who instills belief and inspires the others — someone who makes the team blossom. This could be the leader or another charismatic team member who others look up to. People with the ‘Get Somewhere New’ tendency (see Section 2.1) are often good at this.



To achieve its objectives, a team needs at least one or two people who can think creatively, to help move the thinking on and come up with potential ways of solving problems. They provide the team with intellectual nourishment. To flourish, most teams benefit from having someone who considers the wider context and uses this to challenge the group’s thinking and assumptions. They also won’t shy away from standing up to the leader when they feel it’s necessary.



To avoid risking failure, teams also need someone able to weigh up the pros and cons of major decisions in an objective way. This person’s role is to make sure all potential consequences are taken into consideration before the team finalizes a decision. People with the ‘Get It Right’ tendency are usually best suited to this role. Once a decision has been made, the team needs someone with the practical skills necessary to develop a workable plan and keep track of progress, to ensure that costs and schedules are adhered to.



Even a team that has clear goals and effective plans is likely to fail if it isn’t stable. At the root of any strong team is a harmonious way of working. Other team members may be able to provide direction and ambition that help unite the group, but it’s often helpful to have one individual who fosters a collaborative team spirit. People with the ‘Get on Well’ tendency are ideal for this role. They may also play a role in ensuring that everyone remains grounded — clear about what the team has to achieve and how everyone needs to work together.

As team leader, it’s your job to build a team that’s able to fulfil all these roles, even if some members need to wear multiple hats.


DAN WHITE is a marketing and insights innovator. His frameworks and visualizations have influenced generations of marketers via the methodologies they have informed, including the world’s leading brand measurement, media evaluation and copy-testing systems. This unique blend of expertise ensures that every piece of advice offered in The Smart Marketing Book and The Soft Skills Book is based on robust evidence and a wealth of practical experience.




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