How to Build a "Dream Team" in 5 Steps

November 12, 2018

Learn how to build a dream team from LinkedIn Influencer Shane Snow.

Recently, I watched a (free) course from LinkedIn Influencer Shane Snow on building a “dream team” – i.e., a truly innovative team that’ll drastically outperform a normal one.

And, well, it was fascinating. In just 21 minutes, Snow explained what a “dream team” looks like and the steps you need to build one.

Honestly, I recommending watching the course for yourself. But here was my biggest takeaway from it: the five steps to follow to build a “dream team” of your own, according to Snow.

1. Building a great team starts by hiring counterintuitively.

Our instinct is to be around people who are like us – who look like us, who think like us, who act like us. So, when we hire, we tend to prefer people who are like us in one way or another.

Yet, to build a dream team, you need to do the exact opposite. To build a dream team, you need to fight your own instinct and hire those who aren’t like you.

A group of people that all think the same are only going to be as smart as the smartest person in the group,” Snow said in the course. “So, if you want a team that can solve problems, that can make breakthroughs and be smarter than whoever is the smartest person, you need people with different things in their heads.

Recommended Course: Managing a Diverse Team

2. Creating an inclusive culture is paramount. Storytelling and playing game can help.

The whole point of having a diverse team is for each member to share their diverse opinions and perspectives, so you reach a better outcome. But this won’t happen if it isn’t an inclusive team and if members don't feel like they can’t be themselves.

So, you need to foster inclusiveness. Easier said than done – but Snow has uncovered two “hacks” that help.

The first is storytelling. Having people share stories about their lives and how they got to the position they have builds empathy.

It turns out that teams that share more about their own personal story with each other tend to feel more safe around each other," Snow said. "They have more empathy and they can have those harder conversations.”

Playing a game has a similar effect. A game has low stakes, so people tend to work together with less filters and speak in more direct language. This is good – it's the exact same environment you want to create when taking on work-related problems.

“When you're playing a game, your brain knows that there's no real danger and so you simulate this anxiety, but actually everything's fine,” Snow said. “When you play a game or when you joke around, you can depressurize tense situations and you leave the game feeling a little bit better about everyone who participated in it.”

Recommended Course: Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging

3. Unite people around a shared purpose.

Making people feel safe is important. But so is keeping them feeling united and motivated.

The best way to do that – purpose. The ideal team would have people of very diverse backgrounds and very diverse perspectives all working toward one shared purpose.

“That's very powerful,” Snow said. “It allows you to have something where you're connected, a touchstone, so-to-speak; but you also are able to be optimally distinct and bring that other thing.”

Recommended Course: Leading with Vision

4. Have your team spend some time considering ideas and projects not related to their direct work.

To make your team more productive, you should encourage them to spend time thinking about things that aren’t directly related to their direct work, Snow said. The reason – it expands their mind and opens the door for more creativity.

A group of people that's exploring other things has more potential than that group that's fixed,” Snow said.

How do you do this? There are a few ways.

You can bring in outside speakers to talk about different subjects – this includes people working on other teams. You can conduct practice exercises where you have your team solve scenarios outside their normal jobs. You can encourage learning – and learning beyond just what’s directly applicable to the day-to-day.

“Everything is worth considering and worth exploring, because you never know either that idea will be actually useful or if just looking in that direction will point you towards something no one has thought of,” Snow said.

Recommended Course: Creativity Bootcamp

5. Accept that it isn’t always going to be perfect. But focus on improving the skill of teamwork.

“Most of the time, teamwork is harder than we think it's gonna be,” Snow said. “You get a lot of people working together, the bigger the group, the slower we tend to get, the harder it is to communicate. But we work together because we can do more together. And we need each other.”

Snow’s right – teamwork is a skill, and a skill many of us are weak in. So, it’s essential for you as a leader to foster that skill and provide learning for that skill, so it gets stronger over time.

“The bottom line is that being a good team player is a skill,” Snow said. “Not just being good at your craft or your individual skill, but actually working together is one of those meta-skills that can make everything better.”

Recommended Course: Being an Effective Team Member

Want to learn more? Watch Shane Snow’s free 21-minute course today on building a dream team.

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