How to Build a Successful Team in 3 Steps

The four team player styles — And how to cultivate them.

Successful teams are the product of achieving an optimum balance. The best leader ensures that the weakness of one is the strength of another. The hard part is finding the equilibrium where all team members are engaged. Failure to find the balance will result in poor communication and lack of innovative problem solving.

Business culture often touts the “just get it done” motto. People aren’t that simple, especially when it comes to team dynamics. Create a team that ebbs and flows with each other, and no project will fail for lack of teamwork.

Step 1: Discover

Glenn M Parker proposes there are four team player styles that generally characterize how individuals act on a team:

The Contributor — task oriented, gathers the data, dependable

The Collaborator — goal seeker, achiever, visionary

The Communicator — process leader, facilitator, tactful

The Challenger — questioner, candid, adventurous

Typically, a team needs at least one of each to operate at its best. Projects lacking any of the four styles will find themselves:

  • Making decisions without all the facts
  • Spending too much time on minor tasks
  • Wasting time in disorganized meetings
  • Failing to continuously improve

Step 2: Cultivate

Once you have identified who has what style on your team, help them fulfill their important role. For example, encourage the Contributor to bring data to an important meeting. Ask the Collaborator to remind the team of the goal when they might get overwhelmed by small tasks. Have the Communicator facilitate meetings. Spur the Challenger to question the status quo.

If you don’t have the time (or budget) for elaborate team building exercises, take the team to lunch before the project kickoff. And if you are in the middle of a project, there is no better time than the present. Whatever stage you are at, giving the team some out-of-the-office time, if even for an hour, will release stress and promote communication.

Step 3: Fulfill

Sometimes, you won’t have the personnel resources to balance the team styles. As the project manager, you must identify which is lacking and step into the role. Keep in mind that people are not static. Although a person will typically represent one style, it is possible for he/she to switch styles under different circumstances.

The project manager must always be monitoring the health of the team and act immediately to fulfill the missing role or cultivate the missing role in another.


Leading a successful project starts with the team. Focus on empowering and strengthening your team. The charters, work breakdown structures and risk assessments will always be there. Your team comes first.