Blog Insight

The Shape of a Great Team

Since cofounding The Garrigan Lyman Group over two decades ago, my partner Tim Garrigan and I have firmly believed that the heart of a great agency is the people within it. It started with the two of us and our shared values of great work, great client service, and, oh yeah, having a great time doing it. As GLG has grown, we’ve focused on scaling by building a team of incredibly smart, creative, collaborative doers. And that worked fantastically. And then GLG kept growing. So too did the task of keeping our increasingly complex projects moving quickly and efficiently, and maintaining excellence.

Making the right hire is a bit art and science, but we have always been fans of multitalented “generalists”: people who are trained in a specific skill set, such as design or coding or project management, but who also have crossover skills they can bring to the table across a wide variety of client work such as websites, marketing campaigns, lead generation, digital retail, social, video, branding, and advertising. Oh, did I mention event marketing and collateral? You get the point.

This sense for specialized generalists has come into vogue recently with the popularity of T-shaped employees. Basically, a T-shaped employee has a broad knowledge of a lot of related topics, but is an expert in one specific field. Here’s our approach to maximizing the strengths of T-shaped people and bringing them together to build great teams.

Surround people with a strong process, so experts can shine and we can bring a multidisciplinary approach to problem solving. A great process is not only appreciated by clients and creates operational efficiencies; it also clarifies roles and allows people to leverage their skills.

Maintain personal accountability, so we avoid the trap of everybody contributing but no one owning what needs fixing. As teams grow bigger and roles become more specialized, accountability can become fuzzy. Expecting people to contribute to the larger team but also take personal accountability for the team’s success helps T-shaped people succeed.

Create a shared vision of quality, so developers think about beauty, designers think about efficiency, and project managers think about not only finished work but also jaw-dropping excellence.

Let experts be experts, or put another way, expect people to do their jobs. Collaboration, especially with T-shaped employees, is critical for achieving excellence. For all oars to achieve synchronicity, the experts need to be trusted to do their thing, be it strategy or creative or technology or account management. Everyone can share opinions, but when we pass the ball and expect teammates to do their thing and be great at it, we score big.

That’s when the T-shaped team makes the V-symbol for victory. And it’s a great feeling.