How to Build a Dream Team

Published: April 6, 2021

As we have seen with sports teams and rock bands, assembling the best talent doesn’t guarantee success. In fact, blending two alpha-type egos can be a recipe for disaster. Dream teams are complementary. They are balanced. They rely on the power of difference.

Top talent thrives best in a milieu of diversity. The confident, charismatic front-man has a role. Think Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones. Consider what Mick might sound like if the understated drummer, Charlie Watts, wasn’t holding the rhythm of the song together singlehandedly (with the impeccable coordination of two hands and two feet). Keith Richards’ rhythm guitar chops create the most memorable chords that repeat in your head but he, like Charlie, is a back-up player.

Apply this formula to your team. Which player are you? Do you prefer to be out front leading? Are you behind the scenes holding everything together in a quiet and humble way? Do you need credit for your efforts are do you prefer to share accolades with others? Will your contribution be the thing that everyone remembers or would you prefer to stay under the radar?

Talent matters but chemistry matters more. Simply, the more diverse the background, experience, personality and wiring of your team, the greater the chance for ‘dream team’ level accomplishment. Let’s break this down.

  • While a common destination is desirable, it’s best to have as many paths to that destination as possible. Dream teams remain open to all paths.
  • While conflict is uncomfortable, different perspectives exchanged respectfully grow the prospect of solving problems. Dream teams are willing to step outside of their comfort zones.
  • While common ground feels comfortable, new ideas rarely come from seeing the world the same way. Dream teams challenge the status quo.
  • While trust is fragile, connection provides a safety net. Dream teams take risks and are willing to fix things when they break.
  • While change is risky, innovation is exciting. Dream teams have a palette for adventure.
  • While transitions are depleting, renewal and reinvestment are energizing. Dream teams have someone who is willing to lead the way.

Consider the personality variable in the team chemistry equation. What if you defined diversity in terms of the traits that create readiness for change. Some teammates contribute optimism and passion. Others add confidence and resourcefulness. Still others supply adventure, while some provide adaptability. And let’s not forget the teammates who have that ability to endure the unknown and tolerate ambiguity. They have a way of keeping things grey when the rest of the team is in a rush to achieve black or white.

Diversity isn’t just defined conventionally. Who is on your dream team?

Photo of Steve Ritter, the co-founder of The Center for Team Excellence

Steve Ritter

Steve Ritter is an internationally recognized expert on team dynamics whose clients include Fortune 500 companies, professional sports teams, and many educational organizations. He is on the faculty of the Center for Professional Excellence at Elmhurst College where he earned the President's Award for Excellence in Teaching. Steve is the former Senior Vice President, Director of Human Resources at Leaders Bank, named the #1 Best Place to Work in Illinois in 2006 and winner of the American Psychological Association's Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award in 2010. Steve provides ongoing workplace culture consultation to many thriving companies including Kraft Foods, Advocate Health Care, Kellogg's, the Chicago White Sox, AthletiCo, and Northwestern Mutual Financial Network.