Once you have your team, how do you go about developing and growing it? These are the areas successful leaders consider the most important
The fact is, try as you may, you can’t build a business entirely on your own. Whether you choose to pull in freelance expertise or employ people, you must build a team around you. And to create a successful business needs not just any group of individuals, it needs people who are pulling in the same direction, with shared goals and values, and someone at the top who can lead well.
It sounds like a huge endeavour for someone who is thinking of investing in a franchise and is still a big challenge for experienced business owners too. So, let’s break it down because smaller steps still get you to your destination and can often stop you from straying too far from your original path.
Unlocking a winning team requires some simple yet effective preparation… it starts with an effective recruitment system. The four-hour deselection system is the best we’ve found – you’re never going to get it right 100 per cent of the time, but our testing and measuring shows this approach finds the ideal candidate an impressive 70 per cent of the time.
It’s important to be thorough in every part of your recruitment process. Remember, in most roles, you should recruit for attitude and train for skills. Of course, there are certain technical skills that may be essential for a job to be completed correctly but just be aware that someone with the wrong attitude can demotivate even the most solid team within just a few days of employment.
Once you have your team, how do you go about developing and growing it? There are six key areas a leader needs to consider for unlocking a winning team.
1. The role of leadership
To get the business to where it needs to be, you need strong leadership. This will not only help manage the business; it will mature it. Good leadership will help every team member to grow as an individual – both you, as the leader, and the people working under you. Being a great leader isn’t all about giving direction; it means encouraging people to use and hone their strengths in a way that brings out the best in them and makes your business stronger. And while management is still essential, strong leadership makes managing team members responsible for the day-to-day activities easier.
Many people confuse management with leadership. Management is task-orientated guidance of a team, leadership gives the team a collective vision to strive towards and impacts motivation, wellbeing and, importantly, staff retention. This doesn’t mean that a manager can’t lead. It just means that you must be aware your managers may not be who the team ultimately look to for leadership.
2. A common goal
Most businesses have a lot of goals or objectives, but they tend to be specific to the business owner or practical in essence. Things like increasing profit margins by 10 per cent or securing three new clients by the next financial year – perfectly good goals for a business to have but lacking in inspirational value for someone in a team whose job role isn’t in sales. A team needs to be united in at least one big common goal so that everyone is moving the business in the same direction. Often, it helps to bring in a facilitator from outside of the company to come up with the most compelling and relevant goals.
Think about that company mission you first thought about when starting your business… perhaps you wanted to grow your business by delivering excellence and impacting a part of the community you serve, or unlock the potential of the customers you reach. Link your goals back to your company vision, mission and values to keep your team’s sights set on the prize.
Personal goals are also important. As a leader, motivating your team to set and achieve their own personal goals which are aligned to the business’ goal is critical. Build these into their 90-day reviews (because no boss should be running annual reviews without quarterly check-ins) and give your people recognition for personal growth as well as professional development.
3. Rules of the game
Each employee should know the rules and how they apply in any given situation. If anyone breaks a rule without a good, clearly-defined reason, this should be called out. The ideal situation in a winning team is that you never have to call anyone out. A loose-tight culture works best here with tightly defined boundaries and the ability for team members to bring their strengths and play with a deal of freedom within those boundaries; remember there’s often more than one way of achieving something and it can be more motivating for team members to choose their own way. A common saying is treat others how you would like to be treated. But when it comes to creating a winning team, you should be treating and communicating with your colleagues in the way they like to be communicated with, not how you prefer. Sounds sensible now that you hear it, right? So how do you know what each person prefers?.
One way to help people figure out how best to make their own rules and decisions for the good of the team is to encourage everyone to take a personality-communication profile test – you may have taken a DISC profiling survey at some point in your career, but there are others available. As a leader, you should be taking part in this with your team as a group process. For best results, try using an independent moderator who is trained in delivering these sessions.
Other ways to set the rules of the game for your team include documenting work processes which require specific actions so employees can refer back to at any given time, or setting minimum company standards for things like attitude, attire for client meetings and appropriate language. Then as the leader, you must always and without exception follow or exceed these standards.
4. Action plan
Plans are key to a successful team and a successful business. Every team member needs not just a 90-day plan, but a longer-term plan regarding their role and how they contribute to achieving the wider company goals. What smaller steps does each team member need to take over the next 90 days to reach their goals? As those will take them one larger stride toward their long-term goal. When someone can see the progress they are making as an individual and how that links with the rest of their team, it’s a real motivator for further progress. They begin to do your leadership job for you, encouraging others in the team to make their own progress.
5. Support risk-taking
Leaders need to support risk takers and back their team members who come up with ideas with the good of the business in mind. Often these can be tested in a small way and obviously scaled up if they work. Whether the idea works or not, be sure to show appreciation for the idea and thought and time taken to give it a go. So, how do you lead by example and set the acceptable parameters of risk-taking?
First, agree on what is acceptable to you as the business owner and, in the case of owning a franchise, what would be acceptable to the franchisor? Will you give your team ‘get out of jail free’ cards, a carte blanche for risk-taking activity, or will you ask for approval on one test-and-measure organisational change each quarter? One thing is for sure, you won’t unlock a winning team without allowing them to innovate and take risks.
6. Involvement and inclusion
This means offering everyone in the team the chance to have their say and contribute to the business, rather than solely feeding edicts downstream as the leader. And every team member participating fully.
Everyone in your team will have a different way of working, learning and, as mentioned above, ways they like to be communicated with. This will also be the same when it comes to their preferred method of sharing ideas and feedback. Allowing every team member regular opportunity to speak their mind – this is known as “What I Feel Like Expressing” or WIFLE – addresses issues early and creates an environment for finding better ways to do things. As a leader, you need to offer a range of ways your team can share with you as not everyone will be confident with group feedback – encourage and acknowledge their ideas and you’ll soon find them feeling more confident, enjoying the sense of satisfaction that comes with being recognised as a valuable member of a team.
Follow these six steps with your team over the next 90 days and see what progress you make – it won’t just be a win for your team, it’ll be a win for the whole business.
Julie Wagstaff is the UK managing director of ActionCOACH UK, the world’s number one business coaching franchise.