If you have a one-person business, then you do it by yourself.  Maybe you trade securities on the exchanges that facilitate that trade, or you have a drop-shipping business and sell stuff on Amazon or Shopify.  There are many examples of great one-person businesses.

But most businesses are not one-person businesses.  They range in size from small businesses that involve two or three people right up to large corporations that employ hundreds or even thousands of people.  And one of the most important assets that these businesses all have is their team.

Why The Team Matters

The team is the single most important factor in determining success.  A dysfunctional team can destroy any enterprise, no matter what other factors that it has in its favour whereas a great team that’s focused on its goals and objectives, and works well together, will prevail even in very difficult circumstances.

So it’s well worth putting time and effort into building the best possible team that you can.

When it comes to teamwork, sports analogies are just too apt not to embrace – so think about the ALL BLACKS.

Team Culture

Every team has a culture and it’s better for the business owner or CEO to be proactive in fostering a positive team culture, rather than hoping that the right culture will develop organically. 

Most successful businesses have a written business plan, and it’s important that’s shared with the team so that everyone can focus on achieving the business’s goals and objectives.  But it’s also useful to document the characteristics of the team culture that you want to achieve and rules for how the team should interact.  This will help in several ways:

  1. The documentation task will assist in clarifying your thinking about culture.
  2. It will provide a reference point that the whole team can use.
  3. It will help inform staff selection.
  4. It should be used in staff induction.

The culture needs to:

  • Provide a safe environment where team members feel free to ask questions, make (and own up to) mistakes, challenge ideas and each other
  • Foster trust and mutual respect
  • Encourage open communication and the sharing of skills and knowledge
  • Encourage staff development through training and the acquisition of new skills.

A positive workplace culture will boost morale and employee satisfaction, and foster camaraderie and loyalty.  This will increase productivity, improve customer experiences (happy employees will interact far more positively with customers as well as with their coworkers), lower staff turnover, and, assist in recruitment.

Staff Recruitment and Selection

To build a great team, it’s important to put time and effort into rigorous selection.  Think about the ALL BLACKS again.

Sound recruitment practices require some investment of both time and money.  But failing to recruit well can be even more costly in terms of damage to your team and your business.  It is generally better to put in the time, effort, and money to recruit and select carefully.

Here are a few principles that have worked well for me:

  1. Ensure that anyone that you hire is a good fit for both your team and your workplace culture.  While you may require certain skills and experience a good fit for your team (and a great attitude) may be even more important. Many gaps in skills can be adequately addressed by training and on-the-job mentoring and skills transfer.  It’s much harder (and often impossible) to fix a bad attitude.
  2. Resist the temptation to hire people like you.  We all tend to have this bias, but it really does take all sorts to make a world and a good business.  Diversity will bring more different perspectives and contribute to increased productivity, greater innovation, and better decision making.
  3. Make sure that your induction process for onboarding new employees includes a session about your business’s values and culture.  This is best delivered by the owner or CEO as this will help to emphasise its importance.

Embrace the culture and model the behaviour you desire

  • Make everyone feel safe.
  • Be sensitive to the feelings of others.  Provide validation and support where necessary.
  • Encourage questions.
  • Don’t ever discipline any employees for making a mistake.  Assure them that it is okay to make a mistake and help them to fix it. 
  • Admit to your own mistakes.
  • Communicate openly and with respect.
  • Challenge people, and also encourage them to challenge you if they think you might be about to make a mistake.

Build the team through team events

Team meetings and other events are essential to building team spirit and a sense of belonging.  So have regular team meetings with real tasks ensuring team input – not just “information sessions”.

  • Make sure that all members of the team get an opportunity to have their say.
  • Always thank your people for their efforts, and praise their achievement of jobs well done.
  • Encourage cooperation and help people to trust each other.

Team social events are great but group training can also be a good occasion for team building. Other events can include birthday morning teas, Friday after-work drinks, karaoke nights, etc.

Listen to your team, and don’t micromanage

As the leader in your business, you need to give constructive criticism where it is due.  But this should always be done respectfully and in private and in the spirit of helping them to grow.

Listen to your team.  If you have been giving them the right encouragement to challenge you, they will help you to avoid mistakes.

Don’t micromanage.  If you’ve hired good people and provided any required training, there is no need.  It will also destroy trust, lower team morale, and reduce people’s confidence.

Members of The Alternative Board are in the fortunate position of being able to access the collective experience and knowledge of their fellow members. A confidential and trusted environment in which your team issues can be discussed is just one of the benefits of membership. Contact us to find out more.

Business Coaching / MentoringPutting Work into Teamwork
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