As a filmmaker, having a good team is absolutely essential to creating quality content. Good team building is, therefore, of paramount importance.
Yet, especially in the world of low-budget filmmaking (when money isn’t always as available as you’d like), I see that many struggle to find reliable, skilled people that they can look to when it’s time to hit the ground running.
When I started out as a filmmaker, I was no exception. Many people you work with initially are never as interested or committed as you are.
Besides, it’s no wonder people find it difficult. It takes patience and hard work and a constant vigilance to be on the lookout for potential teammates. But if you’ve been wondering how you can achieve this seemingly unreachable milestone…
…you’re in the right place. In this article, I’ll break down how you can stop waiting, and start building your dream team TODAY.
1. Identifying Personal Strengths and Weaknesses + Goals
When it comes to building a solid, trustworthy team, it all starts with you. Building a team boils down to fundamentals of personality, behavior, and leadership.
“Ugh, I didn’t come here to be lectured”, says someone… other than you. Either deep down or consciously, you know this is what you need to focus on to be successful, and to attract successful people to work with you.
If you start with an inventory of your strengths, weaknesses, and writing down concrete, achievable goals, you will be off to a great start.
Identifying strengths and weaknesses
How will you know what kind of abilities to look for in potential teammates if you don’t know where you are lacking, and where you already have abundant skill? This is key to knowing who will compliment your current ability and add tremendous value to your team. These skill areas can be broken down into 3 categories.
1. Technical skills, also known as ‘hard’ skills, are those skills related to performing specific, teachable tasks, and are more easily measured, such as using various softwares, creating visual effects, the ability to create schedules and budgets, writing ability, etc.
2. ‘Soft’ skills are commonly understood to be skills that are not easily taught, and are less measurable, such as timeliness, organization, communication ability, etc. These skills are strongly associated with EQ, or emotional quotient, a measurement of intelligence separate from IQ that revolves around interactions with people.
Coincidentally, EQ is currently considered to be much more relevant than IQ when estimating the chances someone will be successful, and the good news is you can increase your EQ over time.
3. General behavior and ability is my own category which mostly includes integrity, work-ethic, reliability, follow-through, and other abilities that are vital to your success individually, and when working to attract and inspire a team.
“How do I do this personal inventory?”
There are a few ways you can tackle this, but I will give you a few recommendations. This is applicable to hard skills, but since you are probably more aware of those things you aren’t very good at, it is more important to look at the less-definable traits in your soft skills and general ability.
For example, I’m keenly aware of my inferior ability in After Effects, but I may not be as conscious of how I treat people after having stared at my monitor for hours…
A few ways to gauge yourself:
1. Take a personality test based in psychological studies, such as this one.
Use this to get an idea of the areas where you are weak and can find someone who fills in the opposite end of that spectrum.
2. Take an EQ evaluation, such as this one.
3. Talk with co-workers, friends, and family.
Talk to people you know will give you honest feedback on where you might improve. Generally our weaknesses tend to be much more obvious to those around us than to ourselves–it is easy to have blind spots in an area or two.
4. Take a few minutes here and there to do some self-reflection. This doesn’t come easily to everyone, so sometimes you have to set time aside to make it happen.
Once you have identified where you can improve, then you know what traits to look for in potential teammates. That isn’t to say you should not spend time improving in that area; only that your time may be best used by finding someone that is naturally strong in the areas you are weak, as you might never excel as easily as them in that area.
You know the kind of teammates to look for. Now you need to make sure you have some goals in place. If you can find me the person who wants to follow you with no clear end-point, time-frame, or end-result, then please let me know (I haven’t found my Igor, yet).
Goals do a couple great things for you:
- Providing a point of reference: People interested in working with you, if you communicate your goals to them, they will have an idea of what the time-frame, desired end-result, and expectations are. They will then be able to make an informed decision as to whether they’d like to work with you.
- Defining success and failure for you and your team: Goals help drive you and your team forward, giving them a sort of ideal to judge themselves against, allowing them to be constantly aware of when they are missing the mark, and where they can improve. If you set a goal and end short of it, that tells you how to improve and adjust going forward.
Combined with defining roles and responsibilities for your team, goals help you stay accountable to your team that things get done, and vise-versa.
Not only do goals help you stay accountable, but they are motivating, since with each step closer to your goal, you know you are making real progress. I know this makes a huge difference for me!
2. Finding the Right People: Be Magnetic
Now that you know where you are strong as well as where you are weak, you can look with an informed and discerning eye for those rockstar teammates. Like I said before: how will you know what kind of abilities to look for in potential teammates if you don’t know where you are lacking?
In order to help you attract the right people to your team, strive to be a magnetic leader. “How do I do that? What does that even mean?” I get it. I’m getting a little out there with some abstract terms, so I’ll clarify:
A magnetic leader is the person you want to follow. By exuding the values, integrity, work ethic, and passion that you want to have in your teammates, you will attract them to you (though you must seek them out as well).
Recent studies show that unlike the old rule of thumb ‘opposites attract’, it is very likely that people are attracted to those who have similar traits to themselves. People also tend to be attracted to those who display traits they admire.
I have experienced this myself. For example, back in film school, I told my class that I was happy to work with any of them, but that ‘I have high standards for people that work with me’.
Well, I told a current teammate (who I met in film school) that I felt this was a bit arrogant of me to say. However, she said that because she also had high standards for herself, she was immediately interested in working with me based on what I said. I was pretty blown away by this, and it was a valuable bit of insight.
The next step in order to be a magnetic leader that people want to follow is:
Share your passion with others (while listening to theirs)
I’ve personally received feedback from quite a few people I’ve worked with that my energy and enthusiasm when talking about my goals, vision, and ideas is very motivating and gets them excited and interested as well.
I’m betting you can think of a person who’s passionate energy puts a smile on your face and lifts your spirit. If you don’t, you should become that person. Not only will you get people excited about what you are doing, but you will enrich the lives of the people around you.
However, be careful not to allow yourself to slip into a self-focused mentality. This is very easy to do (I admit to having fallen into this trap, myself). If your potential teammates (or current ones) feel that you don’t have their interests in mind as well as your own, they will eventually become disinterested.
Integrity is king
Beside the obvious ethical reasons to maintain integrity and honesty, there are real, positive benefits to being the guy or gal that everyone can trust. Your integrity will give your team a reason to trust you, and trust is essential to an effective team.
Be relentless (work ethic and follow-through)
This is just another way you can inspire others. Not only do you set the example for them to follow, but if they are anything like you, your work-ethic will make them feel they could be more productive, subtly influencing them to get a bit more done.
Have you ever known that person who is just a tireless workhorse? They not only are constantly working, but are really getting stuff done? I know a few people like that, and every time I see them, it causes me to look inward and realize I could be doing better.
This article is by no means scientific, but it is a really nice, quick overview of the kind of traits you want to strive to embody. Ultimately, it boils down to one thing: people want to follow a magnetic, example-setting leader.
3. Look in Strange Places to build your team
Rule of thumb: you can find great people anywhere.
(…Umm, well, chances are you’ll find some strange people from time to time too.)
Don’t make assumptions
If you stay on a constant lookout for the people you need, you can find them in places or industries you might not expect.
I’ve met many talented artists and people who have never worked on a film yet have incredibly applicable skills or talent. If you are still growing as a filmmaker, they can grow with you. You can help them cultivate their skills and network, and provide value to them in return for their assistance.
Seek out mentorship
These people not only have a network that may help you down the road, but in my experience, you’d be surprised how many seemingly ‘unapproachable’ veterans are happy to share their lifetime of accumulated knowledge, even if it’s just to show off.
Spotting the bad (and good) apples
Listen to your instincts and closely watch the behavior of people you are interested in working with. It is important that your prospective teammate is trustworthy and willing to go the distance. Many people can initially come across as friendly, but as soon as adversity hits, their true colors shine through.
If this happens once, it could be a one-off (you never know what people have going on in their lives), but if you see a pattern emerging, it is a good sign they won’t be a good fit. On the flip-side, if you see positive patterns, great! Here are a few things to look out for:
- Has the person behaved professionally (team-player, problem-solver and not a problem-maker, etc.)?
- Does anything tip you off to their reliability (frequently late, difficult to contact, etc.)?
- Have they displayed an inability to stay cool under duress?
Don’t stop looking in all the nooks and crannies of your day-to-day, and you may find some wonderful people. Worth a try, right?
4. Teammate Auto-shop
When I first started driving, I was totally clueless about vehicles. I would have ran that little old Honda into the ground if it weren’t for my dad. “You can’t let the oil get that low or you’re going to destroy your car. You have to check on it regularly.”
Wise words, indeed. If you don’t maintain your relationships, and ‘keep them well-oiled’, those bonds will be destroyed over time.
So, how do we build and maintain these relationships? Well, I’m sure there are dozens of books and videos on that topic alone, so I’ll just go over a few of the most important points.
Be an effective communicator
Learn how to communicate your vision for the future, make it attractive to others, and show others how they fit into your mental picture for how things can be.
Keep them interested
How can you keep them interested over months, even years? What do people often think about (including me, I must admit) first, before others? “How is this going to help me get to XYZ goal I have?”
By aligning your goals with others, you can paint a picture of how you are both heading to the same destination. You can align both sets of goals by asking the person directly: ‘what are your goals for this year?’, ‘what are you excited/interested in trying out this year?’, or ‘how can I make this project something that helps you reach your goals?’.
Here are some tips on quality time in team building:
- Spend time with them and show you care about them as a person.
- Talk to them, give them a call here and there.
- Invite them to go places.
- Get to know them, what they need and desire in life.
Don’t just message them when you need something. People pick up on this pretty quick and will move on to someone who values them more.
The takeaway? Chances are, if you take care of someone, they will return the favor.
Lifelong Learner: an overview on team building
By maintaining a mindset that you can always improve, and by constantly seeking ways to improve your relationships, you will incrementally become the magnetic team building leader that people want to follow.
Apply the following principles, and you will find your team. If you stumble, don’t worry: everyone falls short of their ideal. Just pick yourself up quickly, jump back on the path, and keep moving.
Your team building path to building a rockstar team that will go the extra mile in 11 steps…
- Identify your strengths and weaknesses
- Set measurable, realistic goals
- Share your passion
- Maintain your integrity
- Be relentless
- Look for good people in all sorts of places
- Seek mentorship
- Pay close attention to behavior of potential teammates
- Communicate your vision
- Align your goals with your teammates’ goals
- Show genuine care for your teammates
The great thing is that these principles don’t just apply to the filmmaking and video industries (though that is where I’ve had the most success applying them). These principles can be applied to any venture, any industry, and to life in general.
If you are interested in checking out a list of books to continue your learning and improvement, here is a great one for the filmmakers out there. I am also in the process of launching a blog and YouTube channel, Storyteller, where you will soon be able to find helpful how-to’s and tutorials on how learning the art of storytelling can improve our relationships, our lives, and (for your creatives out there) our art!
I hope you find this information on team building has been helpful, and best of luck to you in all your ventures!
Onward and Upward,