How to Build A New Team from Scratch

how to build a successful team

7 Steps to Building a Successful Team: People, Purpose, Performance


The opportunity doesn’t come often for us, but getting the chance to build a brand new team from scratch is one of the most enjoyable experiences a manager will ever have.  After all, building a successful organization requires planning, creativity, execution and oversight…all at once.  For me, the first such opportunity came several years ago, when my firm opened up a new office in Shanghai.  I was tasked with building an entire department from the ground up.  From hiring, to selecting the software, to training the employees, to eventually delivering results, I started with a clean slate, few rules and only an endgame in mind: build the team.

Developing a successful new team from scratch is not easy and can be intimidating if you stop to think that about what it is you’ve been asked to do.  It took two years, some ups and downs, and countless frequent flyer miles for me and my team, but the organization we built in China was fantastic.  Fortunately, the same model we used to build the team in Shanghai has worked for me a few times since those days.  Here are my 7 steps to building a successful new team:


Step 1: A One Brick At a Time Mentality

Building a good team takes patience, thorough planning, and the discipline and willingness to not take on everything at once.  Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither should your new team.  It’s perfectly acceptable (and recommended) to start with the basics, and grow the infrastructure and processes as you grow the team.  If you try to do it all at once, you run the risk of creating too many distractions that take away focus from the core mission.  Focus more on establishing a strong foundation and adding to it brick by brick, and less on speed and instant perfection.  This allows you to modify and shift the direction as you grow.


Step 2:  Create a Team Charter

Early on, take a little time to create a team charter, even if it’s just for yourself as the only team member.  There is nothing that says your team charter can’t be tweaked and modified down the road, but the process of creating one helps you narrow focus to what’s really important.


How to Create a Team Charter:

A team charter should outline a high level objective, and should answer three key questions:

  1. What is the team’s central purpose?
  2. What is the desired outcome for the team’s activities?
  3. How will results be achieved?


As you encounter challenges and uncertainties along the way, your team charter can help you and your employees refocus as needed.  One final management tip:  print out the charter and put it on everyone’s desk as a reminder.  If you file it away electronically, it will be as if you didn’t create one to begin with.


Step 3: Hire the Right People

Hiring is among the most important and strategic decisions managers will ever make.  Why?  Ultimately, the people you employ to do the work will make all the difference in the results your achieve.

Building great team chemistry starts by recruiting candidates based on their drive and motivation, and who can adapt to the job and can learn the necessary skills.  In other words, hire for will, and train for skill.  Avoid quick hires simply based on credentials.  Take the time to make sure the people you bring on to the team are interested and enthusiastic about being part of the team and seeing it succeed.  Recruiting a group of people who are motivated to do their part to see the team succeed will certainly get things going in the right direction.

RELATED: How Hiring the Right People Leads to Profit


Step 4: Set Goals That People Understand

Setting goals for a team may sounds like a fluffy management concept, but is actually a critical step in building a new team.  The reason: like your charter, by setting goals for a new team, you are establishing a shared and central purpose for everything the team does.  And since many of the team members are working together for the first time, it creates an instant commonality.

The key is to set goals that are meaningful and specific enough that the team can measure and appreciate the results.  For example, “Grow the sales of the business” is not effective because there is no way to really say how the team performed.  Instead, a goal like “Achieve $100k of sales in the first 12 months” is specific enough and tangible such that your employees can appreciate the objective and can identify a clear target.

The caveat: goals need to be agreed upon, consistent throughout the organization, focused, and valuable.  Numerous goals lead to multiple agendas and harm progress because there is too broad a focus.  Goals need to be centralized, so take this into account when building a brand new team.


Step 5: Hold a Manager Assimilation

Now that you’ve constructed the right team and have set goals and objectives, make sure the team knows who you are, your expectations and how you like to work.  A manager assimilation is a great way to do this as it is goes through a number of topics that will help your new employees and new team members get to know you as their manager.  A team’s unity starts with the leader, so making the effort to hold such an event is time well spent.  Don’t be a stranger.


Step 6: Focus on the Relationships

Aside from the right people and a clear objective, another key ingredient to building successful teams is an environment of co-dependence and shared winning.  That is, the best results come from a teams whose players hold a sense of collective success.  Think about the most successful sports team you know, and you will no doubt recognize that the individuals work together and trust one another to achieve the desired result.  Building a successful team in the workplace requires a similar dynamic.

To help build trust between employees and team members, you need to create an environment where relationships can be forged.  Keep the work setting casual, allowing people to be relaxed and to communicate openly.  Sponsor a team happy hour where employees can get to know one another outside the workplace.  Particularly when you have a new team with many new hires, investing in informal time as a team will pay you dividends in the office.

RELATED: 6 Great Ice Breakers for New Managers

Step 7: Create a Place Where People Want to Be

Having spent so much time and effort building the team, you will want retain employees for the long haul.  Employee retention can be swayed by a number of factors, both internal and external.  While you cannot influence the outside factors (i.e. an employee’s spouse takes a job in another city), you CAN do something about the inside factors.

Particularly when a team is new and still being establish, you want to create an environment where people want to be.  From a management perspective, this means creating an environment where people’s work is valued, where sufficient rewards and recognition are in place to acknowledge performance, and where opportunities for advancement exist.  After spending so much time hiring and building relationships with employees, the last thing you want to do is work them into the ground and motivate them to leave.  Building a new team is not just about the hiring process, but about holding onto the team for years to come.


Ultimately, the key to building a successful team is to get the right people, set a clear course, and build a strong unit that mutually works towards the end goal.  It’s about people, purpose and performance.


Looking for more? Try these:

6 Great New Manager Ice Breakers

How to Manage Like Bobby Fischer

Martial Arts Management

How to Give Your Team a Morale Boost



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