Essential leadership skills: Building your team

When you become a leader, your first priority is to build a strong team, says Gavin Patterson, Chief Executive at BT Retail.
In this 50Lessons video he talks about his personal experience of creating an unbalanced team, with disastrous consequences.

Finding the right combination of people can be a challenge, he says: “How do you find the right combination of skills to make a great team? Critical to that is diversity, and it’s diversity of thinking styles primarily. How do you get people who will look at a problem from a different perspective, bring different experience to bear on the problem and be prepared to debate and open up their mind to different solutions?”

“One of the things that distinguishes your effectiveness as a leader is your ability to get results through other people. The key to that is being able to find the best possible people and pull them together in a team and to do that you have to be prepared to forever be on the lookout for talent,” he says.

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Team building checklist

Here’s a practical checklist to help you meet the leadership challenge of building a strong team:

  • When you show favouritism to someone on the team, you sabotage your efforts to build a strong and unified team. It can be especially tempting to show favouritism early on, so be sure to resist this temptation
  • As you assume a new leadership role, move wisely but quickly to assemble your team. This is a time of change, and the quicker you stabilise things, the better. Just don’t sacrifice good judgment for speed.
  • When assembling a team, look to diversify it in terms of bringing in people with skills that complement one another. It’s important to have people who have different thinking styles and who can assess issues from different perspectives.
  • As you continue your career, build a network of talent. Know that a leader’s effectiveness hinges on the ability to get results through other people. Create the strongest team you can and constantly be on the lookout for new talent.

Questions to ask:

  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of your current team?
  • As a group, how diverse are you as thinkers? Do you all come at an issue from the same vantage point or are there differing views?
  • How can a leader best build a team
  • How can leaders find new talent

Ideas for action:

  • Assess your current team for strengths and weaknesses, including diversity in terms of background, experience, and thinking styles. Determine what areas need shoring up and how that needs to take place, and begin making changes immediately.
  • Meet with other executives within your company to discuss your team. Get their opinions and advice on your current team, and factor that into any decisions that you make
  • If you believe your team is not diverse enough in experience and in thinking styles, determine what types of experience and thinking styles are lacking. Then begin a search for talented people that can enhance your team

50 Lessons is an online library of more than 1,000 inspiring videos demonstrating memorable and powerful storytelling, from over 200 of the world’s most respected business leaders. Find out more from leadership and management online learning specialists LMMatters at



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