Building a Successful Team – the Importance of Getting it Right

By: Laura Lofthouse, Senior Vice President, Media Delivery Team, Valassis
Published Thursday, Oct 5, 2017

Building a Successful Team – the Importance of Getting it Right

It sounds simple. To maximize productivity, a business needs to capitalize on our most precious resource, our people. Yet, I find that we are often so focused on results, numbers and outputs that our people get lost in the shuffle.  How do we get it right? For me, it is a simple formula….

Right Talent + Right Skill Set + Right Place = Successful Team

Let’s break it down.

The right talent can be difficult to find, particularly with unemployment rates hovering near a 16-year low.  When attracting talent, focus on understanding what experience and knowledge you are truly seeking – what a future employee needs to know prior to being hired, versus what can be taught. I have found that we get fixated on what we believe are minimum qualifications, however these have become so inflated that it is impossible to find the “right” candidate with the necessary credentials.  Instead of hiring someone who has A, B, C qualifications, consider hiring someone who has demonstrated the capability to learn and can easily adapt to the unknown task that may be required in the future.  

Identifying and building the right skill set is also imperative to success. The initial focus should be developing and training your team on job-required skills and responsibilities.  Start with the basics, but don’t stop there. Understand where your team, regardless of tenure, has skill gaps and then develop those gaps through ongoing training and personal development plans. Don’t get caught in the all too common trap where the gap is recognized, training is taken and then the materials are shoved in the drawer to collect dust. Ensure action, application and accountability. In addition to identifying and addressing gaps, don’t take for granted the employee’s strengths. I have been guilty of trying to put the round peg in a square hole when I have a square peg ready, willing and able.  I am also a staunch supporter of lateral movement. Every new opportunity should offer an opportunity to expand one’s skill set, learn something new and create value not only for the organization but for the employee. 

And the third part of the equation – evaluate your resource pool to make sure they are in the right place.  In the immediate sense of the word, this means the seating location within a building. Consciously consider the following: Should employees in the same role be near one another to share ideas and best practices? Or is it more beneficial to have a client or sales support team together, regardless of role? Does an employee need to be near any specific equipment or their leader? Determine the most valuable common denominator. 

On a more global scale, the right place also means considering office locations (think time zones, labor laws, efficiencies, etc.), what roles are within each location, as well as the ideal number of locations. Even in this time of increased tools and technology as well as work flexibility, I am a believer that centralizing teams is most beneficial. While perhaps controversial, in my mind, nothing outweighs the benefits that come from unplanned collaboration, the informative “hallway meeting,” or the overheard conversation that sparks an idea or leads to a better, faster outcome. Problems are able to be more quickly resolved, collective alignment more quickly gained and camaraderie more easily built.

The combination of the right talent, skills and location leads to increased success and a team that contributes and feels valued by the organization – a win-win.