It’s time to check your team vitals

Team Health

Without a healthy team, you’re never gonna build great stuff.  

At least, that’s what Louise Bernstein, director of product at Hubspot thinks. In a recent episode of Dublin Tech Talks, Louise made it clear that team health comes before teamwork.  

We know those first 30 hires are critical, but just getting them on the payroll isn’t enough. Creating balanced teams and fostering psychological safety is the only way you’re going to achieve effective collaboration. It’s no use hiring 20 engineers if you don’t have the analysts to go with them. 

As Louise pointed out, a good team doesn’t rely on a few stand-out superstars. You need a group of great people who actually communicate with each other. So when it comes to assessing candidates on their aptitude, perhaps we should spend less time tallying up their personal achievements, and more time looking at how they contribute to the bigger picture.  

Obviously technical skills are important. No one’s questioning the need for experienced, intelligent people. But team skills are what’s going to get those technical people working together. Capable people, without the means to express their ability, are pretty useless in the grand scheme of things.  

It’s not their fault, though. It’s your responsibility to make space for that collaboration.  The speed of innovation is multiplied when teams feel safe to contribute to discussions, raise concerns, and make mistakes. Your company culture is what dictates their willingness to collaborate. 

Healthy teams start with healthy leaders. Are you demonstrating the attributes you’re seeking from the talent pool? New recruits are likely to model the behaviours they see from their superiors, particularly while they’re still learning the ropes. Would you hire an army of fellow yous? 

It takes all types to build a good team. Diversity of thought will help you meet the needs of your customers and come up with new ways to delight them. Those varied perspectives will come in handy when you’re trying to see things from all angles. Just make sure you have the inclusive structures in place so that every individual feels valued enough to want to voice their opinion.  

The consequence of not cultivating an environment that inspires collaboration is that your team is ineffective. And in hard times they’re likely going to drift apart, instead of knuckle down. According to Louise, what you need is a human operating system. Something that guides how your team thinks, communicates, and creates together.  

A sort of strategy for teamwork, if you will. Just like how you have an operating system on your computer that dictates how programs run.  

Contrary to popular belief, people hate surprises. Don’t leave your employees guessing as to how they’ll be treated when they make mistakes. Map out what discussions and creative sessions should look like. In return, ask them what they need from a team dynamic to inspire their best work.  

Still struggling to conceptualise the impact of unhealthy teams? Harvard Business Review states that every team member actually has two roles in a working environment. The functional role, which is where you use your technical skills, and the psychological role which is guided by who you are as a person.  

Teamwork demands individuals’ tap into their functional and psychological roles. In a collaborative situation, your team will identify how their skills fit into a solution, and how they communicate this will be dictated by their psychological role.  

Foster a culture of competitive one-upmanship, and psychological roles will be suppressed.  

Things got heavy there for a second, so let’s bring it back down to real-world impact.  

As your start-up or scale-up grows, new hires aren’t just contributing to the company knowledge pool. You’re adding to the culture, the collective mentality, and the emotional environment of your business. 

Pick the wrong person, and their impact is going to resonate through your entire business. It’s like accidentally swearing in front of your child – it only needs to happen once, but you know it won’t be long until their sibling is saying it too.  

Check your team vitals. Talk to your people. Find out whether your existing team feels like they can fully contribute to your company. Because if they don’t, you need to fix it before you add more people to the mix.