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Building off team chemistry

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Business owners and entrepreneurs often need to be team builders as well. It might be a project-based team, a team of advisers, employees or problem-solving group. Whatever the team purpose, it’s essential to build it well to achieve the best results.

Here’s some savvy team-building advice from Rich Karlgaard, author of “The Soft Edge: Where Great Companies Find Lasting Success,” and publisher of Forbes magazine.

• Choose passionate people. These are the ones who will spend extra hours on a project, will think about that problem or product on weekends and wherever they go. You can recognize passionate people by what they do, not what they say. Consider the approach taken by Mike Sinyard, founder of Specialized Bicycles. Sinyard hires only employees who love biking and watches to see who does lunchtime group rides to separate the “talkers” from the “riders.” Is this fair? Why not? It’s a bike company!

• Look for grit, too. Grit is the ability to overcome adversity. Look for individuals who have proven they can do so – those who don’t shy away from a challenge. Avoid those whose first move is to look around for someone to help them when they’re in a jam.

• Avoid prima donnas. Yes, “team players” has become a business buzzword, but there’s a good reason for that. You really do want to build your team with individuals who are willing to share, serve and give credit where credit is due.

• Aim for cognitive diversity. In other words, go beyond “shallow, legalistic” definitions of diversity. Cognitive diversity encompasses a broad range of variables – generational differences, educational and skill variation, and social and cultural elements, including, of course, race and gender. Cognitively diverse teams will come up with ideas and tackle problems in a variety of ways.

• Set high expectations. Don’t be afraid to drive people and push them to find that last ounce of performance. This motivates them far more than vague or easily met goals. When a team leader has high expectations, he or she is paying the team members a compliment.

• Be clear on goals and boundaries. Leave no room for doubt. Don’t be passive-aggressive. When team leaders are as clear as possible in setting boundaries, people actually feel freer to express thoughts or make mistakes than when boundaries are vague.

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