Last week we talked about how your Goal determines the types of people you would want on your team. Your players will look much different if your goal is to build a mountainside resort than if your goal is to block the development of that mountainside.

Now that you have your goal, you must break it down into tasks and get people to fill those slots. Your team might need an engineer, an accountant, a publicist, and a writer along with ten other things. Spend some time and write down the structure of your ideal team.

When management first brings you a project, make sure you have the resources to complete your mission. Spend a few hours or even a couple of days before you start recruiting Team Members. Even with the best team in the world, if you have no resources, your project won’t come to pass. Remember, you have more influence with your boss than you know.

Negotiate hard for enough budget and number and types of people you need. Management chose you for a reason, so don’t hesitate to go back to them and ask for the resources you need whether it is money or personnel. Get your bet in early, because you will look incompetent if you go to management halfway through and say, “I need more funds and people to finish.”

Even if senior management has assigned you a group, you still have to form them into a team. Research the personnel assigned to you and visit each one. If they are distant, phone if you must, but never start your team relationship with an email or memo.

Recruitment

Even if management has assigned certain people to your team, you must recruit them. Too many team leaders think recruitment means convincing someone to join the team. But for our discussion, recruitment is about catching “The Vision.”

By the way, if you, the team builder, don’t have “The Vision,” you will never be able to truly recruit a team. You will get a group going through the motions to get their paycheck. But there will be no magic and none of the synergism that brings forth dynamic results.

People are motivated by many things. Companies make a huge mistake by ruling over employees using only the reward of pay and the threat of firing. Managers dull these tools by overuse. Your best performers seek fulfillment in their work. They want to make the world a better place, or grow in their field, or gain respect. And for the most part, your best employees don’t fear being fired because they have other offers in their pocket.

Instead, appeal to your prospective team members with the romance and excitement of “The Vision.” Each member has a button you can push to light up their life, to appeal to their desire to accomplish something greater than themselves. Let them see your enthusiasm. If your project is mundane, then you might inspire your players with the thought that the team will surprise everyone with the quality and usefulness of the new product or procedure.

First Team Meeting

After you have met individually with each of your key team members, it is time for the First Meeting. Pick a location having to do with the goal of the project. For me, in the aviation business, the hangar floor where we were going to convert the aircraft became the perfect place for our first meeting. We placed chairs in a circle under the right wing of the aircraft. Use your imagination. Don’t use the conference room just because it’s convenient.

More important than the location is the structure of this first meeting. If you, as the team builder, plan and execute this meeting well, you bring your team to life. If you flub it, there is still room to recover, but you have put yourself behind.

The central purpose of this meeting is to make introductions and preliminary assignments.

If you are not going to be the team leader, anointing the “honcho” will be your priority. Introduce the leader. Tell the team why you picked this person. Praise their abilities and accomplishments, focusing on how these characteristics will propel the team toward “The Vision.” Of course, you should have worked on this intro with the new leader. Together, you also should have crafted his speech (no more than five minutes).

This Leader’s Speech must infect the group with “The Vision.” Don’t expect your private meetings to do this. Group dynamics are an art, but don’t dismiss them. The infection starts with the group.

Then introduce each key member. If you have a large team, you won’t have time to introduce each member. Your group will be subdivided along technical or functional lines. You will then be able to introduce the chief accountant, the chief of engineering, and the maintenance director, for example.

Praise your players. Tell short stories that place them in the best light. Explain why each member was selected.

End this first meeting by communicating your expectations of excellence. Good people rise to the leader’s expectations. Communicate how high you are placing the bar. Don’t make it a comfortable level. Give your team a lofty goal. Inspire and motivate. Close the meeting. Total time should not be more than 30 minutes.

Give Your Team a Token of Membership

Within the next week, name your team. Make this a contest for your members. See if one of your team members can put together a patch/logo. Don’t get a slick patch put together by a professional. Even if it is a little crude, a drawing by a team member has so much more power. Put that logo on your emails and memos. Don’t underestimate the power of these physical proofs of team membership.

Remember Lockheed’s Skunkworks. This team came up with the revolutionary designs of the U-2 and SR-71 spy planes in record time, under budget, and even today nothing can replace them. This is their logo today.


At first, it was just a drawing, then a patch some engineers wore. Most folks in the company didn’t even know what it stood for. It represented everything a team needs: Identification, exclusivity, and fun.

Depending on your budget, give out some form of identification showing that these individuals now belong to your team. The military has used this method for centuries. A soldier will go to the ends of the earth before he muddies the reputation of his unit, represented by a two dollar patch on his shoulder.

Give each team member something that designates him as special. A leather jacket with a patch you’ve had designed is probably the top end. A nice shirt embroidered with your team designation is next. A special hat is probably the least effective.

Team dynamics begin with you as the team builder. After you have a goal and identify the players you want, meet with them individually to bring them on board. At the first meeting, infect them with “The Vision” and develop mutual respect through introductions.

Lastly, name your team and encourage them to come up with a fun logo to show membership. You still have the project to work on, but you have started the bonding process.

This blog has been about building a team in a corporate setting. Next time we’ll talk about building your team if you are a one person company. The difference is that this team will probably never meet together and see all the other players. Being on your team may not even make them any money. But you can still build an effective team that no one will ever see. I call this a Ghost Team.