Building a Team from Scratch


The opportunity to build a team from scratch does not happen very often, but the success of the team will probably be proportional to the effort made at the start.  You may not have had much say in the make-up of your team but here are some general points to consider followed by some helpful hints.

Building a Successful Team
  • Don’t panic – not everything will go according to plan – treat this as a learning opportunity – you are not on your own
  • Establish clear achievable goals -make sure team members clearly understand why the team was established and what it was established to do
  • Define roles clearly – ensure that everyone knows what they have to do by when and how it fits into the bigger picture
  • Promulgate the structure – make sure team members clearly understand who they report to and who reports to them
  • Set clear boundaries – agree on decision-making procedures -make sure each team member knows the limits of their authority
  • Set a clear plan – jointly determine what advice, training, assistance, materials, references, delegations and other resources are required
  • Delegate effectively and fairly – you may not be responsible for everything but you are accountable
  • Communicate clearly – teams are interdependent – ensure that team members share required information with each other, and listen actively
  • Know your team members – have a clear idea of their background, skills, strengths, weaknesses and aspirations – look out for opportunities for team members to shine or to grow
Helpful Hints
  • Celebrate diversity – your team members will come with different backgrounds, attitudes and beliefs – this can be a management challenge but it can be a significant advantage if managed well
  • Be aware of team dynamics – it’s not just what the team does but how the team does it that ensures success – model the preferred behaviours
  • Establish ground rules – ensure team members know what behaviours are acceptable and what behaviours are not acceptable – acknowledge and reward the right behaviours but crack down on bad behaviours so they don’t develop into a habit
  • Encourage team behaviours – in effective teams, group cooperation is far more important than competition or individual performance
  • Reward and recognise team members for performance beyond the call of duty – public recognition, morning teas, thank-you notes, etc
  • Expect participation – team members are paid for their professional contribution, so expect them to contribute professionally to the team
  • Be supportive – provide visible support to your team and its members – seek visible meaningful commitment from your organisation
  • Consider team-building activities carefully – some will enjoy them, others will cringe – make sure they are context-specific and outcome-oriented
  • Be flexible – some will enjoy working in a team, others won’t – make sure you know who’s who, and adapt your behaviours accordingly
  • You won’t click with everybody, but you still need to do your job – for those with whom you don’t click, look for ways to ensure that both of you can do your best
  • Not all team members will click with each other – encourage staff to appropriately raise concerns with you or their colleagues in a professional manner
  • Provide opportunities to socialise –but do not allow a choice not to participate to be seen as a reflection on the team member or the team – some people don’t enjoy drinks after work
  • Plan for team improvement – identify barriers to or opportunities for better performance – reduce or eliminate bureaucratic regulations, – confront problems head-on when they arise – develop and implement improvement plans
  • Plan for personal improvement –allocate resources to your development as a manager – as your career progresses, this skill will become increasingly important
  • If in doubt, seek help from the people around you – all the organisation wants is for you and your team to perform to the best of your abilities
  • And finally, enjoy yourself – create a fun environment while making sure that people are doing what is required of them – although coming to work may not be the most enjoyable thing we do, we should still look forward to it
References & Acknowledgements
  • The Management Bible (Flanagan & Finger)
  • The Team Building Tool Kit (Harrington-Mackin)
  • The input of the ACT Shared Services Establishment Team during the development of this document is gratefully acknowledged.