Five universal Ingredients Needed for Team Building

Five universal Ingredients Needed for Team Building

By Dan Bobinski

In some ways, building strong, effective teams is like being a gourmet chef. The core recipe for any dish must be followed. Extra spices added by the chef can create a signature dish, but without the core ingredients, the dish won’t turn out right. The same is true of those in charge of building teams. No matter how much charisma, sparkle or spices one incorporates, certain core ingredients are necessary for a team to function effectively.

As an employer, I have certain spices I add to my team to keep things engaging, but I know those won’t work with every team. Thankfully, as a consultant and workplace learning strategist, I have the benefit of having worked with hundreds of teams over the past 25 years, in a wide spectrum of industries. As someone not in the political loop of my clients’ organizations, I’m often treated as a confidant to whom workers will share their concerns without fear of retribution.

Medical Dealer Magazine | Slice of Life | Five universal ingredients needed for team buildingWhat I’ve learned over the decades is that team leaders in all industries are forgetting some of the necessary ingredients for team building. When one sees the five ingredients listed below, a common response is often “no kidding – that’s a no-brainer.” Yet with the frequency that people tell me these aspects are missing from their teams, I’m inclined to think that too many team leaders aren’t getting their team building recipe right.

Therefore, if you’re a supervisor, manager or leader and you perceive any of the following ingredients to be obvious, please don’t skip over them. It’s quite possible you think you’re providing these things, but you’re not. Or, it may be that you are providing them, but your teams aren’t seeing it. If the latter is true, it’s not your team members’ problem, it’s yours. It is almost always the team leader’s responsibility to ensure the necessary factors of a team environment are realized by all team members.

Here are five ingredients every team needs:

1. Honesty. It would seem this one is a given, but people keep telling me it’s missing from their teams, so I’m bringing it up. For team members to be committed and engaged, they need honesty from their leaders. They don’t want half-truths or leaders who fake their way through an answer. If you don’t know the answer to a question, just say so. Allow me to quote a reliable book full of wisdom: “Let your yes be ‘yes,’ and your no be ‘no.’” In the same way, let your “I don’t know” be “I don’t know, but I’ll find out.”

Along these lines, don’t hide things – be up front with facts. And by all means, do not lie! If you lie you will forever lose the ability to have full credibility when you are found out. (Notice that’s a when, not an if.) Team leaders must set the honesty example. If honesty is always displayed and rewarded (even when the news is bad), then honesty will be the ongoing norm.

2. Trusting the team. This ought to be another automatic ingredient, yet client employees regularly tell me “They put us through training on how to do certain things, but when faced with decisions, they don’t let us do what we’re trained to do. They don’t trust us!”

Think about it. If we invest time and money hiring and training the right people, shouldn’t we trust them to do what we hired and trained them to do? When employees aren’t trusted they are soon doing only the bare minimum, and only when told. So much for teamwork at that point.

By the way, if you don’t trust your team, maybe your hiring process or your training programs need to be revisited.

3. Mutual Respect. Decades ago my mentor taught me to “give what you want to get.” In the realm of respect, this means if we want our team members to show respect to each other, to those outside the team and to us, then we must set the example and show respect to all.

Remember, it’s client team members telling me that mutual respect is missing from their teams.

Mutual respect involves being polite, talking with people as people (not as servants), listening attentively, and seriously considering what our people tell us. I could go on, but those are the basics. Just because someone is “lower” than us on the organizational chart doesn’t mean we can talk down to them. To adapt what the late advertising guru David Ogilvy once said, if we treat people like dwarfs we become a company of dwarfs. If we treat people like giants we become a company of giants.

4. Recognition. Despite what utopian theorists believe, people want recognition for what they do. The key is not to rely solely on individual recognition nor rely solely on team recognition – a balance is needed! Too much of one and not the other (and sometimes no recognition at all) is a complaint that I hear often. Acknowledge individuals when they do well, and do so publicly. But also acknowledge when your team meets or exceeds a goal or does something well as a team. Your public praise will reinforce the collaboration that took place to make it happen.

5. Support. Without support, teams eventually become less effective. When team leaders fail to demonstrate both tangible and moral support for their team, cracks eventually appear in the team’s foundation. It might not happen right away, but over time, teams without a sense of being supported will have to devote their energies toward providing their own support, and that reduces their overall productivity and effectiveness.

The above list is not exhaustive, but these five ingredients are necessary for building a solid team.

If you manage teams, why not conduct an introspective inventory and look for ways to solidify the above areas? With these five ingredients in place, any extra spices you wish to add will take a solid team and make it even better.

Dan Bobinski is a certified behavioral analyst, author of the best-selling “Creating Passion-Driven Teams” and president of He travels internationally helping organizations of all shapes and sizes. Reach him at or 208-375-7606.