March Madness is almost upon us, and I feel like I’m missing out.

My wife is a huge basketball fan and loves to watch games with her sports fanatic mom. But I was never good at hoops as a kid, and the strategy of the game is a mystery to me.

That’s how some leaders feel about how to build a high performance team—it’s a mystery.

They know how to build and run a good business, but they can’t really articulate their strategy for building a strong team. Instead of explaining their game plan for team-building, I regularly hear leaders talk about their best people and say things like, “I just got lucky with him/her.”

Read on to learn my do-able 3-step strategy for building a high performance team with the players you already have.

Step 1: Talk about HOW you communicate

A friend of mine and veteran team-builder always says, “The 3 pillars of a good team are communication, communication, and communication.” Really good teams are always talking to each other (not just in meetings or on email), and their communication is effective.

You already knew that, but it’s not enough just to know that communication is important or to try to do it more. If you want a stronger team, you have to start talking about how you communicate.

One of our best clients takes 15-30 minutes of his monthly team meeting to talk about the team itself. A perennial topic is “Do’s and Don’ts for communication.” They go around the room, and each person shares how they prefer to be communicated with. They also share what will push their buttons and set them off. It’s not uncommon for people to express surprise and say, “I had no idea you wanted that! I have been trying to communicate with you this other way.”

When you talk about the how of communication, you give everyone some emotional distance to bring up patterns that are not working. The next time that unhealthy pattern starts to emerge, you can re-direct based on what you’ve learned.

Step 2: Reveal a few of your weaknesses

Yes, revealing weaknesses is actually a strategy for building a better team. Here’s how it works:

High-performance teams run on the rocket fuel of trust. Two things inspire trust: integrity and vulnerability. If you want to quickly build a bridge of trust, be vulnerable and open about your own weaknesses and limitations. When you lower your defenses, you extend the first gesture of trust and show others that they are safe to do the same.

Secondly, sharing weaknesses with teammates lets people know that they are needed. Yes, I’m sure you are a superhero leader, but you can’t do everything (and you are not good at everything). So ‘fess up and invite your people to step into the gap to do what you can’t. A powerful leadership statement you can make to an employee is, “You should be doing this, because you are better at it than I am.”

Step 3: Align yourself and your people with their strengths

Now that you’ve led your team members in being open about your weaknesses, take steps to align everyone’s work with their strengths. In the budding climate of trust you are building, people will be a little less territorial and a little more willing to step up and use their strengths for the team.

Leaders go first, and your first step is to ask for help in one of your weak areas (and truly delegate that responsibility). Then help your people to evaluate their own work in light of their strengths and make some adjustments.

It really helps to have an objective tool to determine strengths. I personally prefer the DISC assessment, but I’ve used several others (such as Myers-Briggs and Strengthsfinder). If you already have a tool you like, then pull it out and start using it with your team. If you don’t have a good tool, we can help you get the right one for your needs. (After 25 years, we know almost every assessment on the market and are licensed to distribute the best.)

Because the best teams are not always the ones with the greatest players, but they are always the ones who truly function as a team.

Click to get a free test drive of our Team Building Assessment. Or you can start by downloading a sample report.

Comment below to share your best team-building tip for making the most of what you’ve already got.

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Dr. Shero believes that leadership can be learned and that the best organizations intentionally develop leadership at every level. Leaders have the privilege of influencing other human lives for the better. That's why Phillip cares so much about learning to lead well and helping others do the same.
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