IT leadership: 4 team-building tips for the next normal

Maintaining a strong, connected team is paramount to building relationships, scaling businesses, and recruiting top talent. Consider these real-world lessons on how to build a solid team
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These days, enterprise executives are pondering many questions around hybrid and remote work models: When should they bring their teams back to the office – if at all? How will they onboard new hires in a remote or hybrid environment? The list goes on.

At the same time, employees are still experiencing the ripple effects of disruptions brought on by COVID-19. Digital burnout, feeling disconnected and overworked, and general exhaustion are among employee complaints in the 2021 Work Trend Index by Microsoft. Additionally, the report anticipates a mass exodus of team members in search of roles that better align with their priorities, predicting that 41 percent of the workforce is likely to consider leaving their current employer by the end of the year.

4 lessons on team-building

Whether you are opting for a full return to the office, a hybrid model, or completely remote, the strength of your teams can have a direct and measurable impact on the success of your business in 2022 and beyond. My years as a leader have taught me that maintaining a strong, connected team is paramount to building relationships, scaling businesses, and recruiting and retaining top talent.

[ Want more real-world advice? Read also: IT leadership: 4 ways to find opportunities for improvement. ] 

Here are four lessons on how to build a rock-solid team:

1. Understand capabilities and set expectations

Whether you are building a team from the ground up or looking to restructure as you round out the year, it is important to understand what your team members are capable of and how they will contribute to your business objectives. Making it clear what is expected of each team member sets the foundation for honest and efficient collaboration.

Give your team the right resources to operate efficiently, set expectations that align their talent with the problem to be solved, and offer the right incentives, and you’ll be on your way to success.

[ How can leaders shape an equitable hybrid work experience for all? Read also: Hybrid work: 4 best practices for fairness. ]

2. Help your team understand – and fall in love with – the problems they're solving

After you set a strong foundation, the next and most important step to scale your business is ensuring that everyone understands the problem they are solving. All team members must identify and agree on a single solution. When you scale a company from five people to 10, 50, and beyond, team members often become alienated from the core problems, instead focusing narrowly on their work. Your company’s culture should counter this tendency.

The second part of building that culture is helping your team fall in love with the problem. Jeff Bezos said, “Don’t fall in love with a solution – only fall in love with a problem.” Keep your team focused on your product’s users and their problems, and the product will evolve as it needs to. If you fall in love with the product or a particular solution, you won’t notice when the problem evolves, and with it, your users’ needs.

3. Ensure that your team feels like a team

Team building is more than simply placing people in roles and assigning them tasks. It is about integrating a quality that uplifts and inspires your talent to do the work. Make sure your team feels like a team. Celebrating victories big and small should feel like taking home the rec league trophy at the end of the season – everyone should feel proud that you accomplished it together.

This requires a culture of collaborative problem-solving. Environments that energize everyone almost always bring the best solutions, but they can be challenging to achieve when your teams are remote. 

A curious, creative team comprised of individuals with diverse talents who enjoy figuring things out together is capable of great things.

Remember that we’re all human, and it’s been a hard year. Tolerance and empathy go a long way every day, not just during rough times. Everyone has good days and bad days, along with moments of insight and boredom. A strong remote team culture shares many of the same elements as a strong in-person culture: Do people feel free and relaxed when they work together? Do they feel confident enough to say, “I don’t know, but here is something we could try” or “I have a hunch it’s true, but how can we test that?” Is there an openness in interactions, and a healthy combination of scheduled and impromptu collaboration? A curious, creative team comprised of individuals with diverse talents who enjoy figuring things out together is capable of great things.

4. Consider character when hiring

As people transition into new roles and you hire new talent, be mindful that you are hiring not only for the necessary skills to advance your business goals, but for someone who is dynamic, forward-thinking, and open to continuous learning.

When evaluating potential candidates, look for character traits such as curiosity and humor as well as core competencies. For entry- and mid-level positions, follow the methodology of “hire character and train skill.” You can often get a sense of a person’s character by how they present themselves and the type of questions they ask, not just their answers to your questions.

[ Get exercises and approaches that make disparate teams stronger. Read the digital transformation ebook: Transformation Takes Practice. ]

Adam Riggs
Adam Riggs is Frameable's Chief Executive Officer, and an experienced executive and investor in e-commerce, finance, and media companies. Prior to Frameable, Adam was a Presidential Innovation Fellow at the Treasury Dept. and a subject matter expert at the State Dept. on a variety of open data and knowledge management challenges.

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