They say ignorance is bliss, but I found out last week that this is definitely wrong. No doubt about it.

What you don’t know can kill you. The same is true for teams.

My wife and I started our Spring cleaning for the year, beginning with the upstairs offices and rooms. Recently, I had been using a vacuum we picked up super cheap online thinking to myself, “Man, this is great! Clean carpets.” We have also spent much of the winter fighting sickness. This past week, I got my hands on a much better vacuum than the one I had been using, and started vacuuming our upstairs carpets. The amount of dust I collected was unbelievable. It turns out that what you don’t know can kill you, or at least make you sick.

The same is true for teams!

This past week I also took part in a Kolbi analysis. I’ve done the Myers-Briggs testing before but Kolbi was new to me. Kolbi measures how you work. It’s not so much about character traits or analysis as it is about learning how you work best.

I think that as leaders, we need to know how we work; our strengths and weaknesses. We also have to consistently be looking at how our teams work; understanding their strengths and weaknesses and hiring accordingly. Building a great team is not simply about having the right people in the mix, it’s about having the right people doing the right things.

In his book Good to Great, Jim Collins puts it this way, “…leaders of companies that go from good to great start not with “where” but with “who.” They start by getting the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats. And they stick with that discipline—first the people, then the direction—no matter how dire the circumstances.”

The right people on the bus, and the right people in the right seats. I like that. It’s not simply about having the best people, it’s about having the right people. In order to do that, you need to know how your teams works.

Not everyone works the same way. Some are self starters, some are visionaries, and some are great at planning and execution. Teams must be made up of all of these “players,” in order to function well.

As a leader, here are two things you can do to start building a great team today!

Know How You Work

It’s important to be self aware as a leader. Partially, because you need to know your strengths, but mainly, because you need to know your weaknesses. Nobody is great at everything and that’s ok. What is not ok, is pretending that you are great at everything.

All the tests I’ve ever taken, plus some good life experience has taught me that I’m a visionary leader. I love casting vision, dreaming big dreams and thinking about where we need to be in three to five years. However, I need certain people around me who can think in terms of tangible steps in order to get there. I need someone who is wired to execute.

The first step in building a great team is knowing where you as a leader are lacking, and what types of people you need to surround yourself with in order to be successful.

Know How Your Team Members Work

Knowledge doesn’t end with you, the leader. We all need to know how our teams work. We need to know their skills, strengths, and weaknesses. We also need to know their optimal working style. Some people collaborate, others don’t. So in order to build the best team you need to know exactly what style of work suits each team member best, including what motivates them.

Building a complementary team doesn’t necessarily mean picking the smartest or best people in general, it requires picking the best people for the given task or goal. Teams need people who can think in terms of steps, people who can think outside the box, and people who can follow orders and get stuff done.

Success looks like all of these strengths coming together to achieve the common goal at hand. It begins with the leader putting in the time to consider these questions;

What is the win / goal?
What is it going to take to get there?
What different skill-sets will we need along the way?
Who is best suited to make it all happen?

Bonus

A big part of putting together a great team is being comfortable with who you are, and who you aren’t. Be ok, not being the smartest person in the room. If you need to be the smartest person in the room, or are afraid to hire people who are smarter than you, you may also need check your heart and your ego. Great leaders surround themselves with people who challenge them and make them think differently.

What about you? What do you look for when building teams?