We all know that it isn’t strategy, nor individual performance, but teamwork that remains the ultimate competitive advantage for businesses. It is a rare gem, and business owners need to be focussed on it. Your team is what will determine your business’s growth.
Putting a great team together is not easy. Great teams do not emerge from our normal default position of emergency recruiting when the urgent need arises. It does not happen from putting a group of people in a room together – however good they are individually. And it certainly will not happen just because because people are being paid to do a job, even if you chuck a bit of training at them occasionally.
It comes from changing your focus from the day to day business firefighting, to focussing and investing in your team as your number one priority. Till you do it, you will continually end up with second rate, jobs worth people, who will be disengaged, leave you picking up half the work, making all the decisions and filling in for them as they leave with unsurprising regularity.
Here are my top 12 tips for creating a great team to drive your business forward:
- Look after yourself properly. You need to start caring for yourself in order to care about others. Leading a team takes energy. If you are all revved up and ready to go, it will rub off on everyone else. Only by looking after yourself, will you be able to tap into all the excitement you once had for the company and then share it, undiluted.
- Harness that excitement and re-define what you do and where you want to get to down to the clearest and simplest statement. With your team, work fast to plan the route to get to this year’s goal on the way there.
- Tear up your existing job descriptions. Start instead by listing the strengths of the people in your current team who are really that good and you want to stay with you. Then make a second list of what functions the business needs to reach your next goal. Build new positions matching what your goals need with the skills you have and recruit for what bits are left over.
- Include yourself in that list. It is primary that you should be working on the things you do best and lose the tasks you dislike and or are poor at to release you to work on rather than in the business.
- As you do this re-structuring, define your management structure most of all. Look past the skills. Skills can be taught. Look instead at their abilities to grow and above all their attitude. Look for other factors – will they be coachable and adaptable to change, what is their work ethic.
- If someone doesn’t fit in attitude or ability, manage them out, however nice they are or however long they have been with you. One wrong person will damage the whole team.
- Only by creating a great culture, will you foster the right attitudes that are capable of sustaining your energy and excitement. Culture comes from values. Re-visit your values and check if they really reflect you and your top team members. Values give a commonality that bind the different people in your team together so they are vital to get right.
- Base your hiring (and firing) on alignment to your vision and those values. Use the strength of your vision and values to attract great people. Aim for those who are way better than your immediate needs as it is them that will drive the business up to their level. Never be afraid to hire people who are better than you are at something. The business will benefit.
- Give your team continual feedback, at least every week and quarterly one to one. Assess them solely on what they have contributed to the goals and strategy that have been agreed. Then agree what they plan to achieve next and ensure any training needs are met. Narrow your focus to the specifically relevant only.
- Ensure that each team member has taken time and been given support to develop their own personal goals as well as business so that they two can be aligned.
- Develop your people to work as a team. You need a good coach for this and it is usually more effective to work with someone external. With their guidance, work to create common ownership of the goals, and develop both trust and common purpose throughout the team. This is not easy to do and takes time and energy but will pay off dividends in the future.
- Develop accountability through coaching individually and as a team. Lack of accountability results in an acceptance of poor performance, but equally accountability based on disciplinary culture breeds resentment and fear of trying. Work with the team so that they are so motivated that they, themselves, will be the first person to shout out and admit it if they mess up.
Having achieved all this, you will have to maintain that energy, maintain that teamwork and motivate and reward to retain the great talent you have acquired. That is for the future. The steps outlined above will have to come first and that requires a leader committed to change their priorities to putting their business’s future in front of the firefighting of today.