TeamIn the past few weeks, I’ve gotten a slew of inquiries on how to hire, interview and set appropriate expectations for the people who assist us in daily life– be that an assistant, a bookkeeper, or a nanny.

In other words, I’ve had a lot people asking how to build and be a part of an effective team.

We all need a good team around us to make our lives function according to plan. From stay-at-home parents to the most senior corporate executives, our teams of support can make or break us.

Needless to say, I am a HUGE fan of effective team building.

I am privileged to work with the most awesome team imaginable as a part of my business and life (more on that in a minute). One of the things that I’m the most proud of in my work and life is this amazing team of people who surround me and bring their best to the table every day.

My team, both personal and professional, is made up entirely of people that I trust, resonate with, and, to tell you the truth, LOVE. They are all absolute rockstars in their spheres of influence, and they never let me down.

So how did I build this formidable team of shining stars?

Before I tell you that, I’ve got to let you in on one over-arching secret for team building, and it’s a big one.

It is impossible to build an effective team unless you know what you want, and ask for it. (Tweet it out!)

Let me say that again just so I’m sure you hear me: to build a great team that works for and with you, you must know what you want, and you must ask for it.

Over the years, I have become an absolute PRO at asking for what I want, and I’ve also become ever-more courageous about gracefully expressing when my desires are not met.

This does not mean I cut people off at the knees to get what I want. Rather, I set the bar high, and I trust implicitly that others will meet it– even if the first time isn’t a total success.

This is a great way of being in the world, honestly. I believe in everyone around me, and in their inherent capacities, talents, and unique gifts. I see the light of inspiration in every single one of them. And I also believe that pretty much anyone in the world really will rise to the occasion if given the opportunity to shine. Get with this way of being, and it will change your life.

And now, without further ado, here, from start to finish, is my short instruction manual on how to build a great team

1) Vet your people very, very well.

What does this mean in practical terms? It means two things: when interviewing anyone for a role on your team, you must: 1) ask questions designed to elicit informative responses, and 2) state your expectations for the role explicitly, and ask if they can be met.

Yes, this means you have to do some prep work. Before interviewing anyone, you need to sit down and write up what your needs and wants are for the role, and set out your vision for the ideal person to fill it.

It may seem like busy-work, but trust me, not doing this will tank your ability to build a team you love.

Once you’ve identified your needs and wants, and set the intention for your ideal candidate, you need to craft some really good questions to ask that will get you the information you need to determine if your prospective team member fits the bill.

So, for instance, when my husband and I hired the amazing woman who serves as our part-time nanny, we asked her some really pointed, notably open-ended, non-yes-or-no questions that were designed to elicit responses that would tell us a lot about whether we’d be comfortable with this person taking care of our kids.

Because we are attachment parenting people and don’t conform to cry-it-out, we asked: “what are your views on how to handle a child who is screaming in her crib after being put to bed?”

Because we believe that physical discipline of children is never okay, we asked: “What are your views on physical discipline for children?”

Because our daughter responds well to gentle instruction and kindness more than strict instruction, we asked the following: “Our daughter is a sensitive soul. How might that impact any decisions you might make on potty training if we were to hire you?”

We were not afraid to ask hard questions— we even asked about her views on diapering practices, appropriate food for children, and how she doles out affection. We also plainly conveyed our expectations, e.g., “we expect you to show up at this time, is that ok with you?”; “We’d like our kids to have active outdoor playtime every day, weather permitting. Are you cool with that?” And so on.

By thoroughly thinking through the questions in advance, and asking them without hesitation, we landed on a nanny who our entire family, and most notably our children, absolutely adores– to the point that my daughter refers to her with the same term she uses for her grandmother.

2) Trust your intuition.

This may be the best advice I can give on how to know if a person is right for your team.

A quick example: my web designer Zsofi Koller (more on her below) is an absolute genius at what she does. Her sites are professional, beautiful, and truly convey the essence of her clients’ businesses. And she runs a kick-ass business: she has a detailed intake process, she communicates effectively, and she has killer customer service.

But none of those were what sold me on her. Nope, what sold me on her is this: she designs from a place of intuition.

Now that may sound a little vague to you, but to me, it was web design gold. Why? Because the first time I got on the phone with Zsofi, I knew she “got” me, mind, business and soul.

And my intuition told me that that alone made her right for the job.

Zsofi and I are now on our second collaboration together, and not only do I adore her work, I adore working with her. My gut never lies, and chances are yours doesn’t either.

3) Promptly and constructively address any concerns that arise.

If someone on your team fails to meet expectations, it’s important to clearly communicate the issues around that with kindness, clarity and an expectation that you will be heard, and to do so as soon as the issue arises.

However, I’ll tell you a little secret: before you critique the performance of someone else on your team, you need to first ask yourself whether you had anything to do with it.

For example, did you fail to communicate a desired deadline? Did you fail to communicate your expectations for work product? Did you fail to mention that you needed a particular document to look a particular way?

In my experience, failures to meet expectations often originate with the person setting those expectations, not the person trying to meet them.

If that sounds like you, you need to start your conversation with your failing team member by apologizing to them for failing to adequately convey what you wanted in the first place.

Then, and only then, can you set about constructively criticizing the work product you’ve received.

I’m living proof that this methodology works to get your team performing to your standards. Indeed, some of the best working relationships I have started out with errors or hiccups that were easily corrected when I took the initiative to clarify what I wanted.

By promptly and clearly raising concerns, and taking responsibility for your role in any errors, you give your team member the opportunity to truly rise to the occasion and show you what they can do to meet you at your highest place. Only then is failure not an option.

4) Treat everyone on your team with respect.

We’ve all heard the expression that “there is no I in TEAM.” Quite a few of the executives I work with forget this on a regular basis, however.

Unfortunately, some of the worst working relationships I’ve witnessed via my coaching practice result from one person believing they are better, smarter, wiser, or more entitled than x person on their team. There is no better way to alienate someone who you rely upon for help than by treating them as if they are less-than.

What does this mean in practice? That your team members have families, relationships, skills, challenges and ambitions just like the rest of us, and above all are human. Your compassion, understanding, clear communication, and love will go a long way toward creating relationships with your team that serve everyone involved.

Give presents. Say thanks. Be understanding. Share your awe at a job completed above and beyond your expectations.

And then, rest assured that you can expect more of the same.

5) Remember that great teams are built over the long haul.

Your relationship with every member of your team is just that: a relationship.

And as with any relationship, if you neglect your relationship with your team, it will wither and die.

Every member of your team deserves your attention, your care and your active communication at every bend and turn. Tend the garden of your team, and great things will grow from it.

And EVERYONE on your team will benefit as a result.

. . . which brings me to a much deserved moment of praise and gratitude.

You are probably aware that I’m in the process of launching an awesome online course called The Ultimate Job Seeker’s Toolkit, which drops on April 2nd.

My team for that project, and indeed for everything I do, are, as I mentioned, a pack of rockstars who happen to be absolutely working their butts off for me at the present time.

I would be a total moron if I didn’t realize that I wouldn’t be anywhere near what I am today without any single one of them.

So without further ado, I present to you the fine, fine folks of Team ECM.

Zsofi Koller, of Zsofi Koller Design. Zsofi is so gifted at what she does I’m almost at a loss for words. She has met every single design desire I’ve ever had for my web presence and my upcoming launch of The Ultimate Job Seeker’s Toolkit, and she is the consummate professional. She’s also the mother of two young kids and a kick-ass businesswoman. I adore her.

Michelle Panulla, of Michelle Panulla Web Services. Michelle is a web programmer who works closely with Zsofi and I to meet every single programming challenge that we encounter in our daily work, and to figure out how to not only meet those challenges, but fly. I have a sneaking suspicion that this woman could figure out how to kickstart a ’57 chevy over the internet with the right line of code. I adore her.

Justine Lackey, of Good Cents Bookkeeping. Justine has been my bookkeeper for a number of years now, and she’s probably the only woman I know who could make bookkeeping sexy. She is a master at taming paper, compiling Profit & Loss statements, getting me ready for tax season, and keeping my financial ass in line. She’s also just a blast to work with. And yep, you guessed it: I adore her.

D’Arcy Benincosa, of D’Arcy Benincosa Photography and Film. This woman is a powerhouse of gorgeous, meaningful art. She’s recently made national news with a film she shot on the first day that gay marriage was legal in her home state of Utah, which included shout-outs from Macklemore and Ryan Lewis in recognition of her work. Her shots of me have been uniformly beautiful– even the ones taken when I was huge at seven months pregnant. Uh-huh: I adore her.

Rita, our nanny, who has the kindest and most generous heart, and loves our children almost as much as we do. I adore her with every bone in my body.

And lastly, Joe McLaughlin, without whom nothing is possible. Yep, you heard me, I adore that man in every fiber of my meaning, and have so much gratitude for the life we share– the good and the bad, the brilliant and the beautiful, the challenged and the perfect.

It is my highest wish for all of you that you surround yourself with people who make your world wonderful with their presence, their support and their gifts.

Go build a team you love. It will change your life.

Have a great week.


PS!!!!! Early bird pricing for The Ultimate Job Seeker’s Toolkit starts two weeks from today! Are you on the list? Click here to make sure you’re in the loop.

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