The Real Secret to a Strong Team

The Real Secret to a Strong Team
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By: Alida Zweidler-McKay

The aim of most leaders is to find and recruit just the right blend of talent to create a superstar team. But, no matter how impressive a new hire’s credentials are, your team’s effectiveness relies most heavily on how well they work together. In other words, all the talent in the world can’t replace synergy.

As Raj Aggarwal, cofounder of Localytics put it at a recent networking event here in Boston: “A superstar team, unless it works well together, won’t be nearly as effective as it should be.”

Fit matters, but that’s not all.

Myth: Hiring the right people who are “the right fit” will dictate success. If it doesn’t work, it means I didn’t hire the right person.

Truth: Personality matters, but regardless of who you hire, there are things you can do as a leader that help a team come together — or keep it apart. It’s the systems you put in place, the conversations you have, the expectations you set and the esprit de corps you create that make it work or not work.

Go beyond on-boarding.

On-boarding is essential and many companies have developed sophisticated trainings and processes designed to get new employees up and running.

What comes next is even more important to a new person’s success: the integration phase. During this period, the leader pays particular attention to integrating the new member into the team. Here’s how:

Watch out for the “newcomer” dynamic.

There is a natural tendency in groups to resist, isolate, and even test newcomers. Even well-meaning teams can do this by being overly helpful and solicitous, which can put the newcomer in a “one-down” role. Being aware of this, leaders can use the integration phase as an opportunity to orient everyone (not just the newcomer) to the team’s work.

Start fresh.

Understand that your team becomes new again each time a new player comes on board. Use the opportunity to review the team’s purpose, what they’re out to achieve, and how each person—including the new member—contributes to the mix.

Review expectations.

Re-engage your team in a discussion about expectations and team guidelines. This is a good time to see what’s working and adjust any norms or ways of operating that aren’t serving the group.

These conversations will get your team present to their goals and the WHY behind them, and encourage everyone to take responsibility for the success of the team (and therefore, the new person).

The takeaway:

Don’t stop at the hire. Companies invest so much in finding good people. What happens next matters just as much. Take the time to consciously integrate new hires into the team to get the biggest return on that investment, keep your team aligned, and give everyone the best odds for success.

This article previously appeared on Better Life at Work.


Alida Zweidler-McKay is the President of ZMCoach, where she works with business owners and leaders to build teams that are creative, productive and fun. Through one-on-one coaching, team coaching and workshops, Alida helps leaders and their teams delegate with ease, communicate effectively and hold each other accountable with grace. With over 20 years experience, she has coached over 100 teams to have better lives at work - more energy, more joy, more satisfaction. For more information, visit

Ellevate Network is a global women’s network: the essential resource for professional women who create, inspire and lead. Together, we #InvestInWomen.

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