How to make a team: tips for building a team
In the past year I was part of a team in the Shell Eco-marathon. We designed and built a real, running prototype car, one that forced us to go beyond anything we had ever encountered in school or real life, broadening our imaginations into the non-failing belief that anything is possible. We had no previous knowledge. We were young. We were all girls, and together, as a team, we performed the impossible.
However, the hardest part was not, as you might believe, correctly aligning the engine, welding the chassis to precision, those countless hours spent sanding our bodywork, or even figuring out our NuVinci Continuously Variable Transmission Hub, but instead, it was teamwork. That and our lack of organization. Along the way however, we met with a professional motivator and team builder who was friends with our adviser. He taught us all a lot about teamwork and without this knowledge we might not have succeeded. Here are a few of the important aspects of having a successful team. And though I learned these while on a car-building team, it can apply for pretty much any team.
- Recruitment. Spread the word of your team: post signs, give out fliers or brochures, hold meetings and events explaining what you are trying to do. If you can, have a booth at your local fair, parade, or any other city event. Once you have people signed up, try to make everyone feel welcome and included. Make sure everyone feels like they are part of the group. But no matter what you do, be prepared for people to quit and depending on how demanding your team requirements are, you may have a lot of people who decide the team is not for them. Also, you should elect a team leader and any other titles you feel necessary.
- Money and Sponsorship. Depending on what type of team you are building or continuing, you may need money. The best ways I found to raise money are to hold car washes, apply for grants, accept donations, and most of all acquire sponsorships. These sponsors can be people or companies donating money, materials, or services to your team. When you are trying to acquire new sponsorships appear friendly and clearly explain what is it you are trying to achieve. Show drawings or pictures, along with a flier of what you are trying to do. Treat your sponsors like gods for it is them who are probably fueling your project. Once you have acquired sponsors, even if it was a one time donation, it is good to send them a newsletter every few months. Sponsors like to know what they are actually paying for and it's a good way to convince them to come back the following year. Also be sure not to bombard your sponsors with news because no one likes to be spammed. If possible put your sponsor's logo on you finished product (if you have one), otherwise simply put it on your brochure or flier.
- Have a plan. First off, discuss and agree on a common goal for your team, one that outlines your plan to success and on that you can envision in our mind. You should all have a clear picture of what you want to achieve. Make sure to make an achievable goal. It is very easy to be too ambitious for the resources you possess.
- Get organized fast. Unfortunately my team learned this the hard way as we wasted away a few precious months as our deadline loomed closer. A big part of this was having no common goal, no idea how even to began, and not realizing how much time and effort this project consumed. Split your own plan into smaller goals or jobs and assign them to people or groups. Also, set down ground rules for how often you meet and what is required of the team.
- Communicate: Our lack of communication was very time-consuming and I cannot stress the importance of this enough. Often times I would be working on part of our car using dimensions that changed without my knowledge. Because of this, I had to redo entire sketches, detailed designs, and sometimes even parts. This was probably the single most frustrating part of being on this team. Communication is absolutely crucial between not only different groups and people, but between your team leader and your team. Also, try to have set meetings, maybe once a week, where everyone shares what they have accomplished and what they are going to do in the upcoming week. this also helps people to see what else is going on. make sure to tell your team when you have made changes that might affect them. Also, it might be a good idea, especially if you don't know your teammates very well, to have bonding times not related to your team's focus. This will help people communicate more naturally and openly. An important aspect of communication is listening. Take into account what others are saying and even if you may not like someone, focus on the problems. Be open to criticism and try not to take it too harshly.
- Frustration. At moments you are probably going to be stressed, overworked, and frustrated. There's not much I can say, especially when you have conflicting personalities on your team or a tough team leader. Just know that no matter how hard they may make it for you, they too are thriving for the same goal. Find ways to motivate you and your team, take a break if you need to and just relax and have fun with your team, and most of all keep your eyes on the goal.
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