As the world is saturated with examples of individuals that are credited with enormous business success (think Steve Jobs, Howard Schultz, Larry Page etc.), it’s easy to think that all that they achieved was in fact a solo effort.
Far from it.
Outstanding business growth, innovation or change is rarely brought about by one person alone, and is almost always delivered by a strong team. While different leaders have varied views on how to build strong teams, here are some principles that have served me well over the years.
Hire for character
This is the underlying principle that guides nearly everything I’m going to say. You can’t escape the overwhelming importance of this approach.
The world is quickly moving past the foolish idea that qualification = ability or that certification = output. Businesses hire people to deliver results, and that’s what matters most.
If you’re building a team, hire people that you can trust. People that share the same work ethic. Sure, they need to be really smart too, but if you can’t work well with them and trust them to ‘do the right thing’ you’re going to struggle.
Just having great qualifications and skills won’t make anyone the right person.
Hire problem solvers
We want people to own their work and own the issues that arise from it. Ownership is so, so important in a small business or a startup. I can’t stress this enough. Employing somebody that’s always throwing up problems and never taking responsibility for and thinking laterally around challenges can be a real drain.
Look for those candidates who thrive in difficult situations.
Once again, small teams rely heavily on great communication. You need staff that communicate openly and freely with both their peers and with you.
There is nothing worse that a member of staff harbouring an issue or grudge for months on end and then catching you all out in an explosion of frustration. It’s bad for morale and reduces your ability to deliver.
External communication is also really important, be that in sales, marketing or customer service. People work with people and we need to be able to communicate quickly, concisely and helpfully.
Make sure you talk often. Be open. Listen. Take action.
Be willing to let go
I detest micro-management, and you don’t want to get me started on nano-management.
Having had a previous boss dictate our own emails (word-for-word) to me and the team over our shoulders, I have personal experience of micro-management. I don’t like it.
Hire great people. Be clear with them on their goals. Communicate regularly. Trust them to do their job and to do it well.
You can dive into the psychology of intrinsic and extrinsic motivators and Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to your hearts content, but whatever conclusion you come to, you need to reward hard work and excellence in whatever form is most effective for your staff and business.
Understand your people. Help them to succeed. Reward them when they do.
Don’t delay ‘those’ conversations
Sometimes it becomes clear that there is misalignment between a person and a role or even the business as a whole.
Don’t run away from those difficult conversations off for months on end. Do the individual in question a favour and think about how you can help, then go talk to them. Help them to understand the issue. Give them clear instruction, guidance and a second chance.
If this doesn’t work out, it’s time to help that person understand where their skills can be used best, even if that’s not in your business.
Always try to do what’s best for them and your team, and often that can take the shape of helping them to find a role in another organisation.
Remember, you are the boss
This isn't arrogance, this is making sure that you know who needs to take ultimate responsibility and ownership of direction, difficult decisions and failure.
I’ve been caught in the trap of letting a team member take ownership of what should have been an executive (my) responsibility, and it doesn’t end well. Confusion and misalignment of direction ensued.
You need to take ownership and be a good communicator too. Lead by example.
Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about how to grow your business, how to build high-performing teams and how to succeed as an organisation.