Build Up Your Team the Way You’d Build a Jigsaw Puzzle

What it Means to Build a Team from the Ground Up

There’s a saying in Chinese, 新官上任三把火. It roughly translates to “the three fires of a new official”. This idiom is commonly used to describe newly appointed leaders’ tendency to wipe out entire establishments to start over. 

The saying seems to paint a vivid image of a tyrant but perhaps the more interesting implication here is how hard it is to inherit a team. One of the main challenges in team building is poor dynamics. In many cases, people have a difficult time working with each other.

When putting a team together the first thing most people look at is skills. And it makes sense, it’s the “safest” option after all. While many leaders will be more than ready to jump to agree that character fit is important, the consideration of skill often outweighs the others.

Undoubtedly, skill-based team building has its merits. However, if we’re to look only at skills, we’re missing the point and disregarding the interpersonal element in the team. In fact, we argue that in order to build a solid team in the workplace, leaders should instead focus on chemistry and character fit. 

Building Your Team For the Bigger Picture

Chemistry, like character fit, puts emphasis on individuals and how compatible they are with the company’s vision and objectives. Character, chemistry, and skill each correspond with a different element of the business.

Character = Core Values

One’s character is tied to each individual’s being and sense of self. It determines one’s behaviour and attitudes and is not easily changed. As such, this should correspond to a company’s vision and long term goals.

Chemistry = Ambitions

This is basically one’s motivations and ambitions. They are more seasonable and can change according to their stage in life. They should correspond with a company’s medium-term goals.

Skills= Aptitude

Skills are the expertise and talents readily available to any given individual. They are more easily attainable and can be developed and should correspond with a company’s tasks and short term goals

The key to building healthy team dynamics is to play to people’s natural strengths. By clearly examining the current needs of the company, and tying them with individual ambitions, leaders can build better team dynamics.

In researching for this article, we talked to Sin Chi, Chief Corporate Officer at Noble Vici Group, Inc. who raises an invaluable point.

“As the company grows, there may be some people who can no longer fit in. They may not have grown with the company or they may have different aspirations and motivations that no longer align.

You can’t expect people to always be a fit for where the company is heading and we should accept that as part of healthy team dynamics.”

Sin Chi Yip

Chief Corporate Officer at Noble Vici Group, Inc.

Determining Fit:
Ambitions + Attitude > Aptitude

Building a team is very much like putting together a puzzle.  When putting together a puzzle you first …

  1. Make sure the pieces belong to the set.
  2. Group pieces based on their characteristics and determine where they’ll potentially fit.
  3. Piece individual pieces in from each segment together.

Teams should be built in a similar manner, to start by determining whether they are fundamentally a fit for the company, then drilling down on the details. Doing it this way, leaders can more effectively build teams aligned with the company’s big picture.

“There is always room for people to grow into a role. You can’t control their attitude and motivations at work but knowledge is something people can learn and attain. Having someone with the right attitude is more important than aptitude.”

Sin Chi Yip
Chief Corporate Officer at Noble Vici Group, Inc.

A question we commonly ask candidates is “What are your plans 5 years from now?” The idea is not to have a detailed roadmap of what they want to do and how they plan to get there but to have a feel for their motivations and approach. 

What you’ll find is that most times people don’t even know what it is they want themselves. But in listening to the way they answer, you’re able to have a clearer understanding of what urges them and their natural tendencies.

4 Steps to Building and Maintaining Healthy Team Dynamics

1. Practice Openness & Find Common Ground

Good leaders know to communicate with their people. Not just because it’s a nice thing to do but because there’s a lot you can glean from regular conversations. 

One of the easiest ways to determine if team dynamics is healthy is to look at people’s willingness to speak out.

According to a survey by Salesforce, 90% of employees believe that decision-makers should seek others’ opinions before making a final decision, yet 40% of employees believe that decision-makers “consistently fail” to do so.

“I want to constantly talk with my team, to know what they’re thinking. What are their plans? What are their goals? 

Then from there, I can have an idea of how to manage individuals.

Of course, you can never have 100%, some people will be reserved and not want to share. But as a leader, I want to at least give them the comfort and support they need.”

Sin Chi Yip
Chief Corporate Officer at Noble Vici Group, Inc.

As a leader, you want to create a platform that allows for discussion. This means not penalizing individuals for holding different views but actively incorporating different opinions and finding common ground.

2. Clear Communication of Goals & Progress

In order for each person to play their part, they first need to have a clear understanding of the goals. 97% of employees and executives agree and believe that a lack of alignment within the team impacts the project outcomes (TinyPulse). 

In fact, 71% of employees feel that their leaders are not spending enough time to communicate goals and plans(Ving). 

This can be a huge problem for team dynamics as poor communication increases misconduct, especially in the case of organisational change. According to Business Works, failing to communicate such changes in advance can increase employee misconduct by 42%.

3. Practically Optimising the Team Structure

We now have concrete evidence that motivated and engaged employees produce better results. As a matter of fact, engaged employees outperform by a whopping 202% (Dale Carnegie). That’s double a load of someone who’s unengaged!

“Nobody can do 100% of what they enjoy. That’s life. But each of us has certain tendencies and preferences. 

So I always try to understand from the team, “What is it you like, what is it you don’t like? What is it you hate?” 

And I’ll try to remove the things they hate, enhance the things they like and mix in the things that are neutral, that way everyone can work better.”

Sin Chi Yip
Chief Corporate Officer at Noble Vici Group, Inc.

Leaders can actually play an active role in optimising the team. While some tasks are unavoidable, a larger part of what employees have to deal with is determined by the leader. 

By structuring the team so people engage in more of what they like to do and are good at and minimise tasks they hate, leaders can effectively build more collaborative and engaged teams.

4. Holding Each Team Member Accountable for Results

To help each member grow, leaders need to effectively communicate progress. This means holding members accountable and giving both credit and constructive feedback when necessary. 

While many find performance reviews problematic, a study by Facebook actually found that 87% of people prefer to keep performance ratings at work. This implies the need for corporate validation. As such, it is important for business leaders to hold team members accountable by consistently providing feedback and giving credit where credit is due.

How to Foster Trust and Continual Growth in the Team

People working in teams with healthy dynamics are more likely to stay. According to research from Gusto, 37% of employees say “working with a great team” is their primary reason for staying.

Despite higher retention rates, at some point someone will leave and how leaders handle shifts in personnel is also crucial. 

Openness and transparency is a result of mutual respect. If an employee has plans to leave the company, they should not be afraid to share the news with their managers. However, this is only possible if leaders act in a supportive manner and also for each individual’s best interest.

“I always tell my team, “Look, it’s okay to let me know when you think it’s time for you to start looking around. In fact, I can help ask around and see if my friends are looking for someone like you.”

If the individual needs to move on for personal development, it’s always good. Everyone needs growth, right? So if the existing organisation can’t give the growth opportunity and the individual has plans to leave then I would want to help smooth it out for everyone.”

Sin Chi Yip
Chief Corporate Officer at Noble Vici Group, Inc.

Good leaders bring the best out of people. When employees believe you have their best interest in mind, they will respond accordingly. If you found this article helpful you can also look into our previous leadership article: “How To Be a Leader at Work – 4 Leadership Skills to Have”. 

Alternatively, if you’re looking to build your team, you may visit our recruitment homepage to get in touch with one of our leading consultants.

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