Building a Team of Dynamic Practitioners from the Ground Up

By Rich Myers

Throughout my career, I have been fortunate to help lead communications campaigns for multinational alternative asset managers, up-and-coming startups, governmental offices and political entities. At each stop along my long professional journey, I have found that behind nearly every successful communications operation is an extremely capable, driven team of practitioners executing at the highest level. You may consider that a given, but the magic of a great team can’t be pulled out of a hat.

Forging this kind of highly skilled and cohesive unit takes hard work, focus and believing in some fundamental leadership principles. Here are just a few of the many lessons I’ve learned on effective teambuilding in the communications space:

  1. Courtesy, respect and instilling a pleasant culture goes a long way. Who wants to work with a bunch of nasty colleagues? Plus, PR is a creative business. Our clients rely on us to have dynamic, creative ideas, and a stifling work environment stifles creativity.
  2. On your team, everyone’s career is as important as yours. Treat their career development like your own. They will appreciate that commitment.
  3. Consider everyone on the team a professional development instructor. I am not the exclusive director of professional development at Profile – everyone here helps and teaches everyone.
  4. Continually identify and evaluate each team member’s inherent strengths, potential strengths and areas where they can improve. Share this with them. Team members want to know what they need to get better at as much as they want to hear about what they’re already great at.
  5. Be demanding and don’t “over-expect.” Explain the deliverables needed and be a resource to help your team execute. Be realistic regarding how much experience someone has on a given skill and then be reasonable on what you expect them to accomplish to improve that skill and deliver the proper work product.
  6. Provide opportunity and don’t confine team members to certain issue areas based on seniority. Let the team stretch out of their comfort zone and experience the excitement of trying something new (and potentially nerve wracking) and accomplishing it.
  7. Only penalize people for one thing: not trying hard enough. Mailing it in is strictly prohibited. If someone tried their absolute hardest and the work product still wasn’t great, then maybe you should spend more time helping them.
  8. OK – there’s a penalty for one more thing: Being a jerk to your colleagues.

Sometimes leadership involves a bit of trial and error, so if you make a mistake, own it and store away the lesson for next time. There are lots of ways to go about creating a high-performance team. But I believe that when your colleagues know that you are rooting for their success and care about their career, then that kind of attention and interest pays off in their development, job satisfaction and overall contribution to the firm.