Teams all come down to the effective interaction of people. Working with a team will depend in part on the sort of team it is. Your approach might also change depending on whether you're building the team from scratch, inheriting a group, or facing a mix of the two.
Inherited Versus Chosen
The most obvious consideration is whether the team already exists and you are coming in to lead. If the team is in place, then the first thing you'll need to do is begin to learn as much as you can about its strengths and weaknesses because you are the newcomer. Although you may be in charge, you are not yet part of the group.
Whatever you do, avoid quickly deciding on “obvious” changes that need to take place. Even if you are correct, you'll create the impression that you are overly hasty and closed to hearing what people say. Before you can get the team working at its best, you need the people to accept you.
How can I recruit the right people to my team?
Involve others in your team. Pay attention to their impressions; if a new person doesn't mesh well, teamwork will be difficult. Look for others in the organization who will interact well or who have equivalent background and expertise to judge their knowledge and accomplishments. Finally, don't judge by appearance or “signs” of value. Try to understand how people are and not how they seem.
You might think that choosing your own team from scratch is the preferred way to go, but that's not necessarily true. Yes, there are advantages: no existing clashes of personalities, no people who clearly occupy positions they can't handle. At the same time, an existing team is like the devil you know. When you put together a team — particularly when bringing in a number of people at the same time — you can never be sure how they will work together.
Standing or Ad Hoc
We're taking the terminology here from organizational structures and the practicalities of running an organization, but the intent is the same. There are standing teams, which means the teams are always working toward goals that are usually ongoing. You have greater stability in standing teams, but keeping people motivated and connected to the tasks can be more difficult because of a fatigue factor. The team members are essentially eating the same meal day in and out, which can get boring.
The other type of team is ad hoc, which literally translates from Latin as “to that.” This kind of team is assembled to achieve a particular goal and then disbanded. Often such a team comprises representatives from different parts of an organization. Having control over who is involved is at best indirect. On the other hand, ad hoc teams don't tend to fall prey to tedium, and if the group dynamics are less than favorable, you can simply think to yourself, “This, too, shall pass. Soon.”
Departmental or Cross-Functional
A departmental team is one where all the members come out of the same general group. They may be from the same team or closely related teams, but all the people are likely to know one another. That can make for easier operation because you avoid the entire getting acquainted period. But it can limit the range of experience the team might have.
Cross-functional teams bring people from different parts of an organization to form a team. By selecting members broadly, you increase the amount of information about the organization that you concentrate. However, decision-making generally is more dispersed, as the people on the team all report to different parts of the organization. More diverse reporting means more people ultimately having a say in what happens.
A team run by a team leader runs very differently than a self-directed team. On a leader-directed team, the leader sets the agenda, runs all team meetings, and delegates tasks to other members of the team. Sometimes leaders actually pick team members from different departments based on expertise they think will be relevant to a particular problem or issue within the company.