Episode 128: What are the best types of people for a team?

Episode 128: What are the best types of people for a team?

In a recent post on LinkedIn I talked about the 5 People to kick off your team– NOW! The post talked about the five types of people who you probably don’t want on your team if the team is to reach its objectives. Each of the five, either reduced the effectiveness of the whole of derails the mission of the team. Hopefully you did not see yourself on this list. If you did, take time to fix those bad habits.

This time, I though we should look at the satiation from the other side. Taking a slightly more positive view: who are the five types of people we want on our team. Hopefully you will find yourself on this list and if not, that’s something to work towards.

The Gatekeeping

If you look up the definition of the ‘gate-keeper’ you will see it talk about “a person in charge of a gate, usually to identify, count, supervise, etc., the traffic or flow through it.” On every good team you will find someone who is acting as the ‘gate-keeper.’ It is important to separate out this from from the Team Leader as they may not be the same person. But more on The Leader later.

Our gate-keeper is vital become they are the person on the team that keep the processes of the team moving forward. They ensure there are agendas for meetings, they can be counted on to get the people there on time and they help the meetings end of time. Often and sometimes more importantly, in a project with multiple deliverables on multiple dates, they help us get the right stuff done at the right times.

The skill of the gate keeper isn’t only managing the flow of work and people but doing it in an unobtrusive way. A good gate-keeper is neither bossy nor rude. The best are sometimes almost invisible. Sometimes they only get noticed at the end of a project when you look back and wonder how it all went so well.

If you worked on a project and it was successful, you probably need to thank the gate-keeper.

The Foot-soldiers

While history has a habit of crediting the Generals, most wars are won by the infantry or foot-soldiers. The brave men, and now women, who are the first line of defense are often the first line on offense in any battle. It is their victory and their loss, that most defines success or failure in war. In business the foot-soldier is as critical to an organizations success as the CEO.

This is true in our teams as well.

If we are to be more than just ‘talking shops’ then real work will need to get done. That real work requires people who are able and willing to do it. We need people to do the research, build the prototypes, test the hypothesis, to sell the solution and on and on. We all believe that “too many cooks spoil the broth” and in team, “too leaders get nothing done.” Without The Foot Soldiers there is no team work.

Understand who your foot-soldiers are and what skills they have is essential to any successful team. Not having people to do the work is an obvious failure, but just as bad can be giving the wrong job to the wrong person. Match the jobs to the people and work will progress much faster and with less errors.

The Note Takers

We have all been in workshops or group break-outs where great, if not brilliant, ideas have been generated. We are all very impressed with our broad and strategic thinking. Around two minute before we have to the ‘read-back’ we stare at the empty flip-chart and say “who’s going to write something?” We are now about to risk all our good thinking being lost to our bad note taking.

I can never understand the people who volunteer to take the notes or be The Secretary of our clubs. I can not understand but I am always very grateful for them. With their good hand-writing and clear note-taking we get minutes and charts. A good Note-taker can do more that just capture the ideas.

When you take good and accurate notes, you often need to ask for clarifications.  Our Note-takers will be heard say, “what did you mean by that?” While some might find that question aggressive and even painful it is often required to accurately record the idea. No point looking at the notes a week later and asking “what did we mean by that?” In this respect the Note-taker can often be a huge influence in helping to focus any discussion.

If the success of your team is to be judged on its output, then having something to submit will be critical. Where would we be without our Note-takers?

The Simplifier and Communicator

Confucius tell us that “life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” The opposite is often true of our projects. They can be very, very complicated. Multi-dimensional, multi-phased and multi-national.

Often we spend weeks working on a solution or project. We consider alternatives and debate options. Then despite our desire to explain intricate and subtle brilliance of our idea, we are given 5 minutes to explain it. This is when the Simplifier or Communicator is most needed. While they maybe two different people but both are vital and they often come in the same person.

Their skill is to take our ‘intricate and subtle brilliance’ and quickly explain it to someone else. Either through story telling or analogies they get the basic point across and sell our solution. The senior manager or ‘buyer’ can quickly get the idea and becomes engaged to find out more.

As team members we are often horrified that all our work over weeks or months can be so simply summed up into a few sentences but without their work, our ideas may go unsold and unimplemented.

The Leader

Finally, I would like to talk about the role of the The Leader. Finally, because while every team needs a leader they don’t define the success of the team. In fact, the role of leader can become too important and their ego can get in the way.

The traditional view of a leader tends toward a Henry V type figure, waving his standard and shouting “Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more.” Clearly there is a time and a place for that type of leader but it’s not always needed. Good leaders need to be flexible in their approach to building and running the team’s they lead.

Mostly, a good leader needs to be like a good manager: hire a great team and get out of the way!

When people ask me about my management style I often say, I think a good manager only really does three things. They make a team member think more broadly than the want to, move faster than they want to and helps them by moving obstacles out of the way. In our teams, a good team leader does the same for their team.

There is an old computer joke about the 6 phases of an IT project. It describes the last three of these as: search for the guilty, punishment of the innocent, and praise and honor for the nonparticipants. The last major role of the leader is to ensure this does not happen. They need to make sure the right people get the credit and rewards.

Bottom Line

Teams need to made up of lots of different types of people with lots of different skills. While we tend to look for a to the leader, they will not guarantee success. As with like, diversity of people with diversity of skills we always a good idea.

Let me know what you think.