Whether you have two employees or 100, your business depends on people working together as a team. This doesn’t happen on its own: It requires planning and deliberate action on the part of the small-business owner. The results — high-functioning employees and greater productivity — are well worth the effort involved.
Here are five tips for building and managing a team.
1. Have a clear goal. Building a team works best if you have a clear idea of what you want to accomplish. Whether you have a specific project in mind or you want to improve existing processes, ask these questions:
- What type of talent do I have right now in the organization?
- How many people need to be part of the team?
- What new skills should we strive to include?
2. Hire the right people. Obviously, no small business can afford to employ individuals who lack motivation or initiative. A person who has the “right” qualifications on paper isn’t necessarily the ideal person to fill out a team. A quiet, introverted person (who may be very good at what he does) may be the wrong fit for a fast-paced, highly communicative environment. When hiring, look for people who fit into your company’s culture, but seek individuals who can improve the status quo, who bring to the job a sense of urgency, and who demonstrate a willingness to find solutions to existing and future challenges.
3. Communicate with team members. Open communication — among team members and between the team and the business owner (or leader) — is the lifeblood of any successful team. Let everyone know that you welcome their input at all stages of a project. Get in the habit of openly sharing critical information about your business — its financial status, present-day challenges and opportunities, and your vision for long-term growth. The value team members can provide is directly related to how well they understand just how the business works. Equally important is communicating your willingness to tolerate mistakes in pursuit of a team objective: Let employees know you will hold them accountable for their work, but that you’re also available to answer questions or offer feedback on specific challenges.
4. Empower everyone to make decisions. Employees function as a high-performing team when they’re empowered to do their jobs autonomously. This includes having the ability to make decisions that affect the business without having to consult you at every turn.
5. Engage the team with incentives and praise. Recognizing individual achievement is important within any organization, and acknowledging a team effort keeps morale high over the long run. You may be comfortable letting the team work on a project without checking in, but at some point everyone wants feedback on the work they’ve done. Let team members know how much you appreciate their hard work and energy. This helps build their identity as a team and gives people added incentive to take on greater responsibilities in the future.