Here is the great paradox of team building: A great team is one in which the group is stronger than the sum of its members. At the same time, a team cannot succeed unless all of the individuals that comprise it are dedicated to the team’s vision and to its success.

To put all of that another way: Team building requires you to look at the big picture, but you can’t neglect all of the individual parts—all of the individual gifts, talents, and attitudes that paint that big picture.

Team building requires some group exercises, bonding, and communication, then, but also some focus paid to individuals. As the leader of the team, you have to invest time in each member of your team, helping him or her to develop the necessary skills and the right attitude for your team dynamic.

When should you begin this work of individual investment? There’s no time like now. You should start it as soon as possible, if you haven’t already—and in fact, the work of assembling a strong team, comprised of strong individual players, begins not with your corporate retreat or your team building exercise, but during the hiring process.

Yes, assembling your dream team means paying attention to the folks who interview with you, and ensuring that you’re hiring not just on the basis of their skills or their resume accomplishments, but also on the basis of how they fit into your team and compliment your other players.

Some tips:

  • For each person you hire, make sure there is a detailed job description. Don’t hire for generalities! Hire for a specific set of tasks, responsibilities, and functions, and make sure you can identify how all of those things support the overall vision/mission of your team.
  • Always look for compliments. You don’t build a good team by hiring a bunch of people who all act and think like each other. You also don’t build a good team by hiring a bunch of people who all act and think like you do. Always hire for fresh perspectives and skillsets.
  • You don’t want to hire solely on the basis of personality, but neither do you want to avoid thinking about personality. An applicant may have all the technical skills you need, but what if he or she simply won’t mesh well with the other team members? Skills you can teach, but basic personality you can’t—and a clash of personalities could prove disruptive to the team dynamic.
  • Don’t be afraid to solicit input from your team! Ask what kind of player they think you need to hire—what skills are needed in the office, what personality traits to look out for, and so forth.
  • Be clear in communicating your team’s purpose and vision during the interview process. Make sure the applicant is on board with it, even enthusiastic about it. Don’t wait until the onboarding process begins to talk about important, big-picture matters of company culture.

Remember: A great team doesn’t happen by accident. You have to build it. And that building process begins with hiring!

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