When you’re the owner of a business, one of the most important roles you play is team-builder.
It doesn’t matter how much you know or how inspiring your vision is; if you want to grow your company, you first have to grow your team.
As Zig Ziglar put it, “You don’t build a business. You build people. Then people build the business.”
As digitalisation has changed the way we work and influenced many industries, building a highly efficient team is even more critical. Although history has celebrated the lone-wolf entrepreneur, building a high-performing team far outweighs the solo game in modern business success.
Here are eight essential elements to building a strong, cohesive, and effective team:
1. A Leader Who Coaches
Your future success is based on your ability to change and adapt, not how great your business is now. Small to midsized businesses, probably for the first time, have an advantage over the big companies because they are able to adapt and change faster. But the biggest barrier that business owners face as they grow is having the time needed to manage all the change when they’re already busy running the day-to-day business.
Most recognize that they can’t achieve change alone, that they depend on the contributions of their team members collaborating highly with each other. But contrary to common belief, that almost never happens naturally.
You have to move from being team leader to team coach. This isn’t about knowing all the answers. It’s about cultivating an environment where asking better questions is the key that unlocks your team’s potential. Coaching the team to be constantly learning from each other and to be growing the collective learning and capacity of the team.
2. A Shared Purpose and Direction
Alignment is critical. A winning team thrives on a shared vision and team purpose. Imagine a rowing team where every member rows in a different direction. No matter how hard they try, they will never reach their destination. Similarly, in a business context, if every team member pursues disparate goals, the team, as a whole, will find it challenging to achieve notable milestones.
You have to ensure every team member is clear on the team’s mission and the vision you’re all striving towards. The absence of a collective “North Star” can lead to disarray as personal objectives will overshadow the business’s aspirations. When everyone is clear on the end goal, their individual and functional objectives will propel the entire business forward in harmony.
3. A Strong Fit of Complementary Skills
High-performing teams are comprised of individuals who passionately embrace the vision, believe their contribution is meaningful, and are motivated to give their best effort. All team members should trust, respect and support each other. Select members with complementary skills and abilities who can bring a diverse range of viewpoints and ideas to the table. Achieving a good balance of personality types will enable the group to work together harmoniously but also challenge each other when necessary.
4. A Set of Ground Rules
Just as an athlete needs to understand the rules of their sport, your team needs a set of guiding principles. Your team’s culture is the playbook that defines “how we do things around here.” Develop a set of ground rules or operating principles to which all team members have contributed. All should agree to abide by these, even if they are not wholeheartedly behind every one of them. If they want to have their wishes included, it is essential that they agree to respect those of the others.
Set aside time on a regular basis, usually in conjunction with a scheduled task meeting, for group process work. During this time, the ground rules are reviewed, appreciations and gripes are expressed so that openness and trust are built. Don’t allow this time to be overtaken by ‘task talk’.
5. A Set of Performance Goals and Action Plan
While strategic plans paint the big picture, goals and action plans are the brushstrokes that complete it. Break the vision down into smaller, manageable goals and tasks. Outline the required tasks in a schedule, with agreed deadlines, milestones, and responsibilities. Decide the role that each team member will play. Be sure to also consider other resources required in terms of time, materials, space, support, and money.
This empowers your team to see how their daily efforts contribute to broader strategic objectives. Use project management tools and KPIs to keep everyone informed and to measure efficacy and progress.
6. A Continuous Team Improvement Focus
Performance is often the most tangible metric by which teams are judged. Yet, team performance is not just about results; it’s about the journey to those results. A high-performing team showcases resilience, adaptability, and a drive to overcome challenges. This isn’t just about individual brilliance. The beauty of a team lies in the synergy of its members, where the collective output surpasses the sum of individual contributions.
Your focus as the leader needs to be on how to promote continuous performance improvement rather than just trying to get to some kind of goal of winning. Regularly review the group’s performance through team meetings and one-on-one catch-ups to ensure that progress is being made. Good questions to ask are: How are we doing? What have we achieved so far? What have we learned? What isn’t working so well? How can we improve? Monitoring and reviewing progress allows for adjustments and improvements to be incorporated along the way.
7. A System for Celebration and Recognition
Make the time to regularly recognise, reward, and celebrate both team and individual performance. This will help to build morale and bolster the motivation of the group to continue their hard work. Find the most appropriate way to celebrate team milestones, such as a personal ‘thank you’ at a team meeting or team lunch. Ensure that recognition is consistent and that the method you choose inspires and reinforces the team members to continue their positive contribution to the team’s progress.
Also, encourage your team to venture beyond the beaten path. Reward not just success but also the courage to innovate and the willingness to embrace risk. By fostering a culture that rewards these traits, you’re nurturing a dynamic environment where strategic risk-taking is the norm and continuous improvement is a collective pursuit.
8. A Deep Sense of Community
A wage or salary doesn’t equate to loyalty. People yearn to feel an integral part of the team, which can trump the weight of their compensation. Create an inclusive atmosphere where diverse opinions are valued, where open dialogue is encouraged, and where trust and respect are mutual. This can be challenging, but building this sense of community is a cornerstone of a thriving business.
Building a great team isn’t a matter of mere chance. It’s an art and science that revolves around the intricate balance of team leadership, purpose, culture, performance, behaviour, and reward mechanisms. As you embark on this journey, remember that each element complements the other, creating a holistic ecosystem where success becomes not just a destination but a continuous journey.
Great Teams Have Great Coaches
If you’ve ever watched a winning team in any sport, you already know that they have coaches. No sports team or professional athlete would dream of trying to go without a coach. Business is no different. Most top-performing business owners have a coach.
If you’d like some help building a great team and great business, I invite you to book a call to discuss coaching with me at TimeWithShane.com