Your staff is a clearly defined group, but that doesn’t mean they are a team.
How do you tell the difference?
Well, if your employees are most strongly bound together because they work for the same company in the same workplace each day, then they’re a group. But if they have a shared mission and work together every day to achieve shared goals, then they are a team.
Savvy business owners know that they are not a one-man show. For your business to get off the ground, flourish and grow, you rely on others working with you. But managing a group of people is a lot different from leading a team. Not only is it a lot more pleasant to have a team in your workplace, it also leads to greater efficiencies, innovations and improved profitability.
But teams don’t just happen or somehow evolve. Small businesses need owners who have the intention for employees to work as a team, and to then create an environment conducive to teamwork. You can successfully bind your employees in a team by ensuring that each person is clear about their role on the team and they know exactly how their contribution helps to make a success of the business. They also need to feel that their contributions are valued and appreciated. This is exactly the way high performance sport teams work.
It helps to think about how a successful sporting team operates, and then draw some lessons from sports coaching to help you build a team in your business:
Provide the vision
The members of a sport team have a clearly defined vision for what they want to achieve which is provided by their management and coach. They also know well that the only way to achieve that vision, and the goals along their path towards it, is to co-operate and work together. Each member of the team feels a sense of responsibility to consistently deliver peak performance so that their team wins. Every step along the way to victory, they know the impact of every match the team plays; and their contributions to the achievements in each game are clear to them and appreciated by their leaders and fellow players.
You can enact this in your business by sharing your business vision and goals with your employees. Make sure they understand both your long-term and short-term goals. If you are aiming to open five new outlets over five years; achieve 25% year-on-year growth; introduce a new product range next year or target a new market segment, let them all know what they are working towards. Also, involve them in formulating, implementing and monitoring the strategies to achieve these goals. Sharing this information is like giving them the game plan to win.
Define the roles
In team sports each player knows their position, their role and the limits that they must operate within. This defines their contribution precisely and enables them to be successful at what they do best. Not only does each player know this about themselves, they are also clear about the roles and limits of their fellow team members. This enables everyone to self-regulate on the playing field, and avoids players interfering with each other.
Small business owners often make the mistake of wanting employees to be jacks-of-all-trades picking up anything that needs to be done in the moment, and in doing this they sacrifice playing to each employee’s real strengths. If you want a high performance team, you need to step into the shoes of a sports coach. Know your players, give them the opportunities to show their strengths and protect them from their weaknesses. It is essential to have a clear organisational structure and distinct, well-defined roles. Every employee should have a true job description that is written into the company records. It helps also to devise an organisational chart and facilitate routine team meetings so that everyone sees how they fit into the bigger picture and can sort out the overlaps and conflict that waste time and energy.
Communicate to build your team
There may be nothing more important than how you communicate and monitor communications as the team leader. Effective team communications are open, inclusive and accessible, respectful and egalitarian. As the leader, it’s your role to ensure that there is no tolerance for abusive, bigoted and demeaning communications that exclude some from feeling like they are a valued part of the team.
Quickly and fairly resolve conflicts
It is inevitable that conflicts will arise in even the most high performance team. As the team builder and leader, it’s up to you to deal with this. Never take the attitude that ‘they’ll sort it out amongst themselves’. Don’t ignore conflict, hoping it will go away. It never does, it tends rather to fester into bigger problems. If you need to, develop your conflict resolution skills. Put in place a team conflict resolution structure. If you think that you just can’t effectively help employees resolve conflicts, then you can bring in an independent mediator.
It is inspirational to bring your team together in celebration of achievements. Make sure you properly acknowledge joint efforts. You don’t need to go over the top – the celebration should reflect match the scope of the achievement.
Behave like the team leader
If you follow a favourite sports team, you have probably noticed that their coach and management have a certain decorum about them. This is because team leaders are role models setting an example. Don’t expect your employees to behave differently from the way you do. Set the example you want for them to follow. If you model positive and energetic, committed and respectful behaviour, then it is most likely that they are going to follow your lead in relationship to you and to each other.