How to: build a team like the Avengers

Did you see the Avengers? Incredible movie. Incredible cast. When I started reading this post called “How to Build A Great Team Like The Avengers” I thought, would I want a team like the Avengers?  Think back to the movie- each member was highly skilled in a very specific area. They knew how to do “what they knew how to do” but little else. Each was powerful and influential in his (or her) own right, but working together? They totally sucked. The key component of having a team of “big personalities” is having the one true leader who knows how to put them all together (which we also see in the movie). Without this key person, the “team” is destined for failure. YOU need to be that key person. Below are the highlights on how to do it:

If you’d like to read the article in it’s entirety, it was a good one: http://www.thoughtleadersllc.com/2012/06/how-to-build-a-great-team-like-the-avengers/

1.) Let them be individuals

Nick Fury understands the strengths and weaknesses of his team members.  He celebrates those skills, quirks, and capabilities.  Instead of asking everyone to do things his way, he provides broad guidance on what needs done (in some cases letting the team members decide what needs done and giving them the freedom to operate).  He doesn’t ask anyone (other than Captain America) to put on a uniform and be a good soldier (and Cap does that because it’s who he truly is).

If you have a team of high performers (or if you’re currently building one), ask yourself if you’re letting them run things and operate the way they’re most comfortable doing it or the way you’re most comfortable doing it.  If it’s the latter, give up some control.  Let your people be themselves.  They’ll give you a lot more than if you try to get them to conform to some arbitrary standards because you’re not comfortable with the chaos and unpredictability.

2.) Unite your team around a goal

It wasn’t enough for Nick Fury to say “Loki and the Chitauri are bad.  Go beat them.”  Nope.  The members of the Avengers knew that doing good was a good idea but their hearts weren’t in it.  Each of them had their own agenda.  Only when Agent Coulson was killed (I’ve got fifty bucks that says they revive him in the next movie) does the team unite around kicking Loki’s ass.  Why?  Because things got personal.  The goal of defeating Loki hit home for the team.  They understood, at a personal level what would happen if they didn’t.

Have you set out goals for your team?  Do they truly care about them on a personal level?  Have you rallied not their minds but their hearts around that measure of success?  If not, get cracking.

3.) Trust in their judgment and abilities

All of Nick Fury’s stars had amazing powers and had been through their share of scrapes before.  He deliberately brought together a volatile group of individuals with incredible abilities and unleashed them on a colossal problem.  He didn’t give them directions or plans.  He didn’t give them rules of engagement.  He simply knew what they were capable of, what their intentions were, and the strength of character and values underlying their powers.  Launching a force like that required the ultimate in trust in their abilities and intentions.

Do you trust your people?  Do they trust you (take this quick little assessment to see how trusted of a leader you are)?  Are you confident in your team members’ abilities?  If not, understand the source of your discomfort and get it resolved fast if you want to get the best out of them.

4.) Expect conflict

There was no way everyone on the team would see eye to eye with each other or Fury himself (especially since Fury only has one eye).  Everyone had a different view of the problem, the solution, and how to work together.  It wasn’t all peaches and cream when the team discussed how to work together.  Remember the scene where Dr. Banner picks up the scepter and everyone is arguing?  Yeah.  THAT is going to happen on your team.  Expecting everyone to get along and sing kumbaya is a pipe dream.

Do you welcome conflict on your team or do you try to eliminate it?  Are team members free to air their opinions or do you try to manage the conversation?  Do you not only tolerate but encourage dissent or do you want everyone to fall in line?  Do the latter and your high performers will seek other opportunities.

5.) Let them hash out their own differences

When there is conflict, you can’t play mediator.  Sometimes you need to let the inevitable slug-fest happen.  How awesome was it when Iron Man and Thor were beating the hell out of each other and then Captain America joined the fray?  That was one of the battles for all time.  Once the arguing/pummeling was over, though, the three of them saw they all had a common enemy and their powers were best exercised elsewhere.

Do you coddle your team and negotiate the peace?  Are you comfortable with your team members sometimes getting into shouting matches or do you try to defuse things quickly?  If you mediate too much, all you’re doing is pushing that conflict below the surface where it’ll turn into other dysfunctional passive-aggressive behaviors.  Let them duke it out every once in a while.  It will clear the air and help them achieve a shared understanding of direction.

6.) Cover their backs

Perhaps Nick Fury’s greatest line in the movie is when higher headquarters (the World Security Council) makes a decision to nuke New York to defeat Loki and his army.  Fury says “I recognize the council has made a decision, but given that it’s a stupid-assed decision, I’ve elected to ignore it. “  He was backing the Avengers and their ability to win the day.  He stood up for his team and protected them from undue interference.