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Posted by Eric Murphy, Senior Recruiter, Professional Search Division

Many managers underestimate the power of teamwork in the hiring and retention process. A team-driven environment is what attracts the most qualified people and prevents them from looking elsewhere. So what are some key elements of building an effective team?

At the top of the list is creating a clear focus or mission for the team. Ideally, the purpose of the team lines up with the personal goals and desires of the team members and will contribute to their long-term career goals while still maintaining congruency with the company or department mission. One idea may be to put the team in a room and brainstorm a mission or focus statement that takes everybody’s goals into account and gives all the team-members motivation to contribute on an on-going basis.

Teams work best when there is a challenging environment. Goals that are challenging provide focus and purpose, but also a sense of accomplishment when the goal is met. Start by identifying a problem and a reasonable solution. The solution should be tied to some measurable number, like client satisfaction (internal or external), revenue generated or costs saved.

You may be able to brainstorm for a solution and create a sense of ownership with it. However, this is important: The solution (goal) must be challenging, but achievable. Unachievable goals cause frustration and lethargy. After identifying the gap, assess the team and assign reasonable steps to team members that are skilled in that area. Teams are not frequently presented with stimulating challenges every day, so you may need to be innovative and creative to challenge them at frequent intervals.

Give each team member an opportunity to learn new things, processes, concepts and think outside the box. How do you know what things to give team members to stretch them? Here’s a novel idea; ask them. Remember this; the professional growth of each team member will grow and strengthen the entire team. Why? Because the team will only be as effective as the weakest member. So no one can be ignored when it comes to development and growth. The capability of the weakest member is the maximum potential the team will reach.

Create opportunities for all members of the team to not only learn new things, but also to develop leadership skills. Even when there is a defined manager or team leader, it is important to give each member a project or responsibility that requires accountability, ownership, assertiveness, and pro-activeness with other team members or departments. On-going coaching and mentoring is critical in developing leadership. Provide an environment of encouragement, public recognition of positive results and camaraderie. Giving team members small projects to lead and the latitude to make mistakes is an excellent way to build effective leaders at all levels of the team.

Using the above, you will create an environment that is attractive, fun and difficult to leave. As a bonus, you will be able to attract the best talent in the marketplace instead of “settling” for a warm body to fill a chair.

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