How to build a team that fires in business?
I’m not a fan of how sporting analogies are (mis)used to illustrate opinions about business, people and teams. Team building in business is rarely as straightforward as it is in sport. I find that business and people is way more complicated and more nuanced than games of sport. (yes, I know I am a snob). However, I spent a few weeks getting very excited about World Cup soccer a few years ago when the World Cup was played in Brazil. Whether or not you like soccer or you get more excited about other football games with pointy balls… one thing is clear some teams sparkle (Germany for example) and some teams don’t (who can forget the crying distressed faces of the Brazilian supporters at the end of the semi finals?)
Thinking about staff and employees I often flash on what a friend of mine who is a nurse used to say (half-jokingly): “I could run such a great hospital if it wasn’t for all those ruddy patients.”
But the business owner’s lament is a different one: I know I could run such a great business if it wasn’t for those pesky staff
Michael Gerber, in his famous book: The E-Myth told us 25 years ago to give up trying to manage people, and focus on systems instead.
And in his time, Michael Gerber hadn’t even met a Gen-X employee yet, let alone Gen-Y! Ask your Gen-Y staff member to do something simple like smile at a customer and make them feel welcome when they walk into the shop and they look at you as if you just asked them to kiss a cockroach.
We all know that employing people is tough and it can be the toughest challenge any business owner faces when trying to develop and grow his or her business. And yet, it is also where the greatest opportunity lies for your business, because the essence of just about any business model ever invented is about charging a margin on labour, employees of some form in other words. And that statement holds true equally for either product or service business and even fully digital businesses will find it hard to be successful without employees of some sort.
So how do you engage those pesky staff members, so that you get the best out of them, and you don’t go grey prematurely?
I believe it all starts with this Golden Rule:
Hire for attitude and train for skill.
When you recruit for new employees I urge you to keep this Rule in the forefront of your mind – Always look for attitude first.
The founder of Visa International, Dee Hock shared this about hiring staff: “Hire first on the basis of Integrity; second on the basis of motivation; third, capacity; fourth understanding; fifth, knowledge and last and least, experience.”
Integrity and motivation are what makes a great team member. Most other skills can be taught.
Prepare Prepare Prepare
So how do you hire for attitude?
- 1) Prepare, prepare, prepare… Put together a simple series of questions that give you the opportunity to get a clear insight into this person, what they’re really like.
- 2) Organise trial days.
- 3) Experiment with role plays,
- 4) Involve your manager in the hiring process
- 5) Check references.
This is what happens when you don’t check references:
A client of mine, Wendy, runs an upmarket beauty salon in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney. 6 months ago she fired one of her staff for unfailing laziness. Recently, Wendy received a phone call from the owner of another beauty salon in Sydney who had employed the previously ‘fired’ employee for some months, on the strength of the fact that she had worked for Wendy before. She rang Wendy, confused and disappointed, because of the bad attitude and performance of her new employee.
A simple reference check, before hiring a new employee can save you a whole heap of aggravation.
Second step to building your high performance team
The second step in engaging your people is a little less obvious.
You see, your staff aren’t actually all that different to you, they are actually normal people, just like you, honest they are, trust me.
And people like to be engaged, they like to enjoy life, they like to collaborate with other people and they like to win.
It’s the reason so many of us play team sports. In my experience of working with many small business owners, the most effective approach to engage a bunch of employees, to build an effective team, in small business is to think of business as if it is a game of sport, rugby, soccer, volleybal.
Fun and winning
The reason we join a soccer team is to have fun and enjoy ourselves and the object of the game is to win.
I encourage all of my clients to start to think of their business as a soccer team (But maybe not the Brazilian world cup team at the moment!!) and their staff as fellow team members, with yourself as the captain and coach of the team.
As the captain you understand that your staff joined your team for exactly the same reasons you created it, to have fun and enjoy themselves and to win the game (That is as long as you hire for attitude). Furthermore you must help them understand how the whole team depends on each other.
As the coach you know that you must take the time to teach your team members the rules of the game, you have to train them to become more effective in their roles, and you have to show them how their actions have a direct impact on the outcome of the game.
Finally the team members need to feel they have a ‘stake in the outcome’; they have to feel that winning is good for them as individuals as much as it is for the team as a whole.
Don’t get me wrong, implementing what I just described isn’t easy, and no doubt there will be plenty of times when you will want to pull your hair out (there’s a good reason I don’t have any hair left). But by making it your prime responsibility as the business owner to become a great coach and captain of your team, you will be well on your way to building a Fun business that sustains you for years to come … I promise you.
People and the 7 Big Questions of Small Business
Business owners frequently ask 7 Big Questions about how to Build a Beautiful Business and Life.
The first of these Big Questions is: How do I grow my business?
To answer that question I have identified the 11 most important strategies to create Business Growth.
The third of those strategies is Grow your business with People. This is one of many more articles on this site that explain how People and Growth hang together, in some depth.