I’m often asked by business owners about how to get their employees working together and heading in the same direction. The answer lies in investing time and effort into building a strong team. Here are six ways to do just that:
- Focus on strong leadership. Poor leadership will usually result in poor teams. The first key to a winning team is leadership. A strong leader demonstrates integrity and competence and is someone that people trust with the communication skills to get other people to buy into his or her vision. Strong leaders inspire ownership in the teams they build. Work on developing trust with your employees, which starts by listening to them, and prove that your decisions are based on what you believe is best for the team, and that those decisions include input from all of those affected by that decision.
- Set common goals. Winning teams work together towards a shared goal. You need to answer the question, “Where are we going?” for your team. A winning team will have a clear goal and plan of action to achieve it. Great goals are SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Results-orientated, and with a Time-frame. SMART goals are however not enough to get teams focused unless they’re common to the team. The necessary buy-in ensures improvements in performance and team spirit.
- Explain the rules. Imagine trying to win a game of chess if you don’t understand the rules. It seems simple that you need to understand the role of each piece and how they work together to build a good chess strategy, yet so often business owners don’t explain the rules to their teams. This leaves employees frustrated, confused or apathetic because the expectations are unclear. Do your employees know your company core values? Have you invested time in defining core values and communicating the company culture to every team member? You can’t shoot for a common goal if you haven’t defined the playing field. Of course, nobody likes rules, but if you put them in context, they generally make sense. You need to explain the function of the rules. They are not there to control and smother, but to clearly define the structure and means to winning.
- Develop an action plan. Great ideas, an inspiring vision, and even happy employees don’t automatically produce results. Results come from taking action. Your action plan has three simple components – WHO does WHAT by WHEN. Organise your plan into logical steps, and delegate each step to the right team member. Assign accountability and deadlines, and you are ready to go. End every meeting with an action plan – talk without action is non-productive.
- Support risk-taking. As long as you have defined the rules of the game, the team should be encouraged to innovate within those defined boundaries. Progress is achieved by trying new things, even if it means failing along the way. As Thomas Edison said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10000 ways that won’t work.” If Edison hadn’t kept trying, despite his failures, we might still be in the dark. For people to maximize their potential, they need to be allowed to try new things and make mistakes. Winning teams are willing to stretch their limits. Fear of mistakes and failure must go. You need to learn to welcome multiple solutions to challenges and encourage lateral thinking. When you and your team start to embrace risk, you’ll be rewarded with synergy in your team and your business. Of course, risk-taking only works once you’ve got strong leadership, shared goals, and rules in place.
- Involve and include all the people on your team. Winning teams are created when each person knows they are accepted by the team, and each member chooses to participate 100%. You need to take the lead here, and require complete commitment from your team members. Some may need to change radically or leave. While that may sound tough, it’s in the best interests of the team and your business, and probably (if a team member can’t commit 100%) for the person leaving too.