Business Management: Designing Your Team

When it comes to putting together your team, one of the most critical resources you will need will be personnel. Certainly, you will need to have sufficient numbers of personnel to accomplish your goal. For a sports team, it should be fairly simple to determine how many players you will need to have; for other types of teams, such as many in the business community, it is not necessarily quite so easy to determine. Obviously, finances are a consideration when it comes to determining how many team members you can afford to have. Of course, as always, you must remember that it is damaging to your long term success if you try to achieve certain goals that may be unrealistic based upon the team you can afford to have. If necessary, shorten or lessen your goals in a way that will make them achievable for the team that you wish to develop. Long term growth will allow you to achieve bigger goals once you can afford more team members.

However, the size of your team is only one element of evaluating your personnel needs when it comes to building your team. In many situations, the number of people on your team may often be less important than the quality, experience, and education of the members of your team. Again, assessing the types of team members that you need goes back to examining your goals for the team. If you are directing a crew to paint a building, the size of your team is likely to be more of a consideration than the individual qualities of each team member (assuming of course that they are all physically capable of painting a building, a relatively simple task). Alternatively, if you are directing a SWAT team, the individual skills of each team member is highly relevant as you will, no doubt, have a need for someone trained as a sniper, a negotiator, people who are very fast, people who are very strong, and so forth. While all team members will receive some of the same training and be expected to achieve some of the same goals as each of the others, there will also most definitely be a need for specific personnel.

If you are starting your team from scratch, make a list of the qualities that you will need for your team members to achieve your goals for the team. Some of these characteristics may apply to everyone on the team while some of them may only apply to one or two members of the team. A SWAT team will determine one or two individuals who will be the primary and secondary negotiators; while all members of the team are likely to receive some training in case they need to step in and negotiate, the reality is that they will not all be equally suited to the task. This is the case for many specialized fields. The more niches a position has, the more likely it is that you will have limited resources for that position. Consequently, you need to define how many people you need and can reasonably expect to find that will fulfill the requirements of each position that you determine to be necessary to the success of your team.

Determining how many and what types of team members that you will need may require some input from others in your field or help from a consultant. There may be some considerations that you have not given any thought to but may be critical for the success of your team. Consider a nonprofit organization operating a homeless shelter. The people designing the organization understand that they will need direct service staff that actually maintain the shelter and interact regularly with those living in the shelter. They may also understand the need for administrative staff to do things like answer phones, plan fundraisers, manage payroll, and so forth. One day the executive director of the organization sees that there is money available for homeless shelters who receive a grant from HUD. The executive director invests considerable time writing the grant, which is then submitted and awarded. The executive director is thrilled and the organization has the money it needs to continue operating a shelter. Unfortunately, the executive director never considered the amount of time and effort that would be needed to administer the grant and write reports back to HUD about how the money is being used. They also have to supply HUD with all relevant data and statistics that unfortunately no one in the organization is even keeping track of. Because it has not been administered in accordance with HUD policies, not only is the grant canceled, but all monies that have been spent have to be paid back to the government and the homeless shelter, unable to recover from the loss, is forced to shut down.

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In the above scenario, every member of the team directly working for the shelter did what they were supposed to do and worked well as a cohesive team. Unfortunately, a mistake made by one member of the team who either had unrealistic expectations of the team or simply was painfully unaware of the resources it would require to achieve success for the team, cause the downfall of the entire operation. That team needed a team member who had the knowledge and ability to successfully administer a grant in accordance with grantor guidelines and unfortunately, this lack of knowledge destroyed the team.

So once you know how many members of your team are required to achieve your goals as well as all of the positions necessary to achieve team success, you can move forward with the team building process, ensuring that each of those positions is filled with the right individuals for each job. In the above scenario, it would not have been enough for the executive director to realize that a grant administrator would be required; the director would also need to ensure that an administrator was experienced with a specific kind of work and grant that they were dealing with, as federal grants are notoriously detailed and challenging to administer. Having a person in each position does not mean much if it is not the right person.

In addition to the skills, education, and experience of your staff, there is yet another element to consider when building a team from scratch or when replacing a team member or expanding a team. In an ideal world, we would all be able to interact professionally all of the time, regardless of differences of opinion or even personality. In reality, that is a pipe dream. To achieve the most success from your team, you need to have a team dynamic that works. This means that all of the team members need to be able to get along with each other and interact in a productive, effective, and efficient way. This does not mean that all team members need to be alike. In fact, sometimes what a team needs most is someone who will come from a completely different perspective, or who has a different method of communicating, or brings some other needed jolt to the existing members of the team. It does mean, however, that when building the team you will need to consider compatible characteristics, personality traits, communication styles, and so on. Team members do not all need to be the same but if you know that the team as a whole will not respond positively to certain styles or individuals, that should play a role in how you decide to bring new members into the team.

When interviewing or screening for potential members of a team, have a list of not only the skills and expertise that you will need the person to bring but also what type of personality or style will work well with your existing team. There are likely to be some growing pains any time a new team member is brought on and that is perfectly acceptable. However, if you know that a particular individual you are considering to fill a position is likely to be met with long term or considerable resistance, it does not do anyone any favors for you to try to force them into the existing team. Of course, it is always worth considering if that is the case, you may have some issues worth addressing with your existing team.

Now it comes down to finding and recruiting members of your team. You know what you are looking for and what you do not want, so it is time to find it. Depending upon your goals for the team, the specialty of the position, and so forth, you may be able to find the team member that you are looking for rapidly or it may take longer. Again, if you are looking for an additional team member to be part of your crew painting houses, your needs should be easier to fill and placing a job listing in the local newspaper will likely be all that is required. Alternatively, if you are looking for someone experienced and trained in hostage release, you are likely to have to go another route. A recruiter may be required and you will have to consider what on your ideal list of qualities the person should have might be negotiable to fill the position. Even when the time constraint is an issue, it is critical to fill important positions with the right person, even if it takes longer to find.