Without a good team, you just can’t compete in the game of business.
Even sole practitioners need a team to develop their business - think overseas outsourcing. Working in groups is a natural thing to do. For productive people, 1 + 1 = 3, and effective teamwork and collaboration will see your business develop exponentially. Not doing so will likely see you just get by, or worse, fail outright.
You don’t need an existing opportunity or project to start a team. It is good to already have a team when things happen, but opportunities can arise simply by starting a team through the brainstorming and networking potential that teams create. A team can work on anything you want them to work on.
Team building can be done in different ways. It is up to your imagination and how motivated you are for a particular outcome. A team can come from your existing staff, from outsiders who work for free with financial reward at project completion, from overseas outsourcers (perhaps combined with minimal local staff), or from other sources. However your team is created, it’s not as important as having each member completely sold on the mission, and capturing their combined skills and capabilities to achieve the mission.
Which comes first, the mission or the team? The surprising truth is, it doesn’t matter. It depends on where you are at and what result you want. The concept of the mission and its road map may already be set by you, so the team is selected with the skills and capabilities matching the concept. Alternatively, if all you have is a desire to go in a certain direction, you can select a team to work to create a road map and a mission. Regardless, you need to persuade the right team to fully commit to the task. A capable team with this commitment can be a great force.
Fast forward to where you have your team. You need your road map, which is: what, when, who and how you are going to achieve the mission. Developing the road map can be an exciting creative process which can identify wrong turns and new directions. The team can determine roles and responsibilities and develop the road-map more precisely into stages.
Staging the mission to a time frame is very important, and a sense of urgency should be cultivated. Completing stages gives greater sense of progress and achievement compared to having one large goal. Meeting smaller goals makes it all seem more real, minimizes discouragement, gives more chances to celebrate achievements, and allows reflection to improve future stages.
The roles and responsibilities of each team member and a hierarchy of leadership needs to be clearly defined for the whole team to see. Also, the team needs to be aware their own - and other members' - strengths and weaknesses, and know where help or training is required. This is where a SWOT analysis can help.
SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats. A SWOT analysis is for both individuals and for teams. It is not a total solution, but it represents progress, helps clarify your position, and can generate real self-insight to help with direction and assessing where and how to improve.
Strengths are the things people and teams feel most comfortable, proficient and enjoyable doing. Improving strengths, taking them from good to excellent, can be very rewarding relative to the effort expended. Knowing strengths can reveal potential for leadership, and can reveal more opportunities that can be acted on quickly.
Weaknesses are the things people and teams don’t like doing and never really want to do. Improving weaknesses, taking them from bad to average, will often take a lot of effort for little reward. Knowing weaknesses allows opportunities to delegate and manage.
Threats can come from the inside, like lack of confidence or focus, or they can come from outside, like economic downturns or pressure from competitors. Identifying threats and acting to combat them can actually reveal more opportunities, especially when you and your team know your combined strengths and weaknesses.
A SWOT analysis should be done for the individuals and for the team as a whole, with findings recorded and shared. The team's better awareness of itself and the situation can reveal hidden opportunities because brainstorming is a natural result of this progress.
Great teams require an intelligent, highly organized structure, and cohesion and unity with all members committed to the mission and happy with their roles and with the road map. Also, great teams need competent hierarchical leadership.
Team leaders need to be good managers, good communicators, good with people, and understanding of group dynamics. One theory of group dynamics is the ‘forming, storming, norming, performing’ theory developed by Bruce Tuckman in the 1960s.
‘Forming’ is the first stage, where everyone comes together and gets to know each other and the mission. Leaders need to lead by example as to expected behavior.
‘Storming’ is the next, perhaps turbulent stage where personalities find their place, some more assertive than others. Leaders need to be tolerant, patient, and lead by example.
‘Norming’ comes next, with the team progressing by connecting and adjusting to the group and tasks. Leadership needs to focus on and maintain this progress and prevent regression back to the ‘storming’ stage.
‘Performing’ is where the team members start to work together, ideally in a cohesive, collaborative way, with interdependence, and ideas accepted and analyzed positively, all done in a winning team spirit.
The ‘forming, storming, norming, performing’ theory applies to a new team and to any new members that join later. It is all about allowing the team to settle into a natural order, with some leadership intervention to stay on course.
Leaders need to manage the team by leading by example and action, delegating, clearly and concisely communicating, and keeping to the road-map and mission. Dealing with personalities is another important leadership skill. A good leader focuses on a few key mantras and concepts: the future not the past, do more of what is going right, focus on solutions not problems, listen, and delegate.
Leadership delegation is critical. If the leader can’t do a task quickly, they need to decide who should do it, applying the ‘4Ws’ of who, what, why and when. Failing to delegate could mean loss of respect (by running out of time to do their own job), under-utilizing team capabilities, being overwhelmed and stressed, and missed opportunities.
Finally, leadership needs to deal with underperformers, either by letting them go, retraining them, or reassigning them. Slow action by leadership here will adversely affect team cohesion and morale. The team needs to work in a happy and productive environment if they are to perform at their best.
Creating a high-performance team will boost your business productivity and act as a catalyst for new exciting opportunities. Every business has the potential to create such a team. The only question is that of willingness to make it work.
Come up with ways you can get a great team together, even if you don’t yet have your purpose firmly set. The purpose will reveal itself. As a business owner or leader in a highly competitive world, you can’t afford not to build a great team.