How to Build An Amazing Team

I recently attended Cucalorus Connect, a technology and innovation conference and one of the three main components of the Cucalorus Festival held in downtown Wilmington, North Carolina.

One of the breakout sessions called “Hustle in Comfort: Building Amazing Teams” was led by Dory Weiss and Mike Bonner from nCino, the worldwide leader in cloud banking. Founded in 2012, nCino has won awards such as Forbes’ Most Promising Companies in America and one of the Top Company Cultures by Entrepreneur Magazine. So, I figured there was a thing or two I could learn from hearing about nCino company culture and how they build amazing teams. And boy did I. Check it out!

  • Hustle in Comfort. Dory and Mike started out by describing nCino’s company motto “Hustle in Comfort”. The hustle part is all about pushing employees to do more than they thought they could. However, the comfort part is where they focus. Comfort is about creating a safe space in the workplace where employees can speak their mind and take big risks. So, to create hustle, managers first need to provide a comforting environment for employees.
  • Diversity wins. We learned how diverse teams are the best teams. Studies have shown diverse teams to be more profitable and smarter. For example… interesting fact: seat belts were only developed using male test dummies at first. So this resulted in many injuries from seat belts to women who were in car accidents. Another example: Google voice recognition didn’t recognize female voices or accents at first, because tests were not done with a variety of voices and accents. Issues such as these can be prevented by including more diversity in teams.


Chemistry in Personal Life Doesn’t Always Mean Chemistry at Work. Northwestern sociologist Brian Uzzi created a scale of 0 to 5, with 0 representing people who have no connections and nothing in common (unfamiliarity), and 5 representing people who know each other very well—like family (familiarity). He measured the success of Broadway production teams and found that the most successful teams were about a 2.5, right in the middle of the scale. So, each team should have a balance of familiarity and unfamiliarity. If you hire people who have been lifetime best friends, they probably shouldn’t be on the same team in the workplace to produce the best outcome.

  • Remote Associates Test. Which word do all these three words have in common?


Tie              Rain              Cross


The answer is bow. A bowtie, a rainbow and a crossbow.

You may have solved this puzzle in a couple of different ways. One way to go about the Remote Associates Test is systematic focused work, where you think through all the different possibilities for each word until you find a similarity. The other way is to take in all three words at once and think about them at the same time. This latter type of thinking is important in finding new ways to solve challenging problems in our professions. And this happens when we go for a walk or even take a nap. Companies like Google encourage this kind of thinking through meditation classes. Point is, it’s important to encourage employees to take time to let their minds wander. Will employees really do this if you tell them to? Well, some might. But Dory and Mike recommend that managers modeling taking breaks. That way employees feel more comfortable taking a break themselves.

Cassidy Lamb of nCino also touched on the company’s vacation policy: employees are required to take all their vacation days.

  • Google FTW. Speaking of Google – it started Project Aristotle with 108 teams to see what qualities make a team most successful. Several qualities such as mixture of seniority and communication styles were identified, but one quality stood out the most. Google found that the most important quality is a psychologically safe environment for people to work in. In other words, employees need to be able to say things that scare them. They need to feel like they can make mistakes and bring up bad news. Because when those things are said, really great work gets done.
  • Inspiration and Support Go a Long Way. One of Dory and Mike’s final advice to managers was to inspire and support your teams. They mentioned one great way to do this is to simply get out of the way. Another is to encourage making mistakes and learning from those mistakes. Dory herself said she purposefully makes her mistakes well known to her team and even the entire company when possible so those below her feel that it’s OK to fail. Because the more times you try something, the more likely you are to succeed.


Thanks to the nCino team for these key learnings! We are an amazing team here at Sweeney and work hard to become an extension of our client’s teams as well. Teamwork is critical to delivering impactful results.