Adam Scott on Building a Team

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When you see a fully functioning team in action, it’s easy to take for granted that all teams don’t run so smoothly. This is especially true when you see a comedy team. Just ask Adam Scott.

On television in Parks and Recreation and Party Down, or in such movies as Step Brothers and Knocked Up, Adam Scott is a widely considered to be a comedic actor. However, if you ask him, Adam does not find himself to be funny – “Everybody’s funny, given the right time and place. But I still think the key is to be around people that are better than you, and it makes you look a little better…hopefully.”

Adam may sound humble. After all, he has been fortunate to work with such comedic powerhouses as Will Ferrell, Amy Poehler, John C. Reilly and Ken Marino. But this does not make Adam any less comical or talented. This is equally true for leaders.

Too often, leaders surround themselves with “less capable” individuals. Whether it’s because the leader feels threatened or is generally insecure, these teams become overly reliant on the leader for every bit of direction. This is not healthy and it’s certainly not sustainable. Here are three steps we can all follow to build better teams.

The first step is to hire people who are better than you. If this sounds obvious, look at the last few people you hired. Do each of them have a skill, or at least the potential, to supersede you in any area? If not, why? Our job as leaders is to set the course and facilitate; we are not suppose to be the subject matter expert for every subject.

I honestly don’t know the rules of improv. I never took a class. But being in the moment and trusting yourself and the people around you is really important—and a good improvisation doesn’t work without a good partner. So choose your partners wisely. – Adam Scott

Once you have a team of people you can trust, the next step is to create communication standards that are expected of each member of the team. Consider the research out of Harvard on the defining characteristics of successful teams:

  • Everyone on the team talks and listens in roughly equal measure, keeping contributions short and sweet.
  • Members face one another, and their conversations and gestures are energetic.
  • Members connect directly with one another—not just with the team leader.
  • Members periodically break, go exploring outside the team, and bring information back.

The last step is to sit back and let them do their thing. Step in when necessary, but don’t try to solve every problem for them. Part of growing, both as individuals and as a team, is to learn how to untangle issues and resolve conflict. As always, be available, be involved and recognize accomplishments.

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