If you are between the ages of 15 and 70 and you have not heard how important team-building is for any business, please step off the planet.
If you are the owner of a small business with three or more employees, and you haven't spared a single thought for building teams, then please, contact me when you have difficulty growing your business.
Even if you don't have full time employees, I am guessing that you have built, or you are building teams around you to help you deliver on your promise to your customers. Then, how you build those teams matters!
But I'm not blaming you if you don't get team building right.
After over 20 years of working with small businesses and starting and growing my own businesses, I know that many of the reasons why your attempts fail are often quite unclear.
But how do you define "building teams?"
Right about now, you should be asking me to pause long enough to explain what I mean by building teams, as it relates to your small business.
It is simply how you harness and direct the energies and activities of the people working for you, to help you continuously achieve your mission.
The problem is that far too often, you don't know what these activities could be and where the energies are.
And this is where people run into trouble.
So to help you, here are my 7 hidden reasons why your attempts as building teams fail and in the process, cause you much personal and business anguish.
If you're ready, let's begin...
1. Failure to link key business drivers with building teams
Every business, however small, has key activities or drivers which are critical to the success of that business.
These activities vary from business to business and you must be able to identify yours. For example, they could be any combination of marketing, customer service, production, problem-solving and pricing.
Unfortunately, too many of you are not even able to identify these important activities. This is not a good thing for your business because your key drivers go directly and quickly to your bottom line.
It follows then, that if you cannot identify your key drivers, you cannot seriously try to build any type of teams, linked to achieving them.
Worst than that, you will only guarantee that your efforts will fail, since they will lack focus and will not strengthen your key business drivers.
Here's how to ensure that you build teams linked to your business drivers.
Identify your business drivers, determine the role that a well-oiled team can play in driving these and build your team along those lines.
2. Building teams with unclear and unshared business goals
Many of you don't have clear goals for your business.
Perhaps you don’t know how to set clear goals or you have so many things to do, you don’t have the time.
And I understand your problem with this.
Everything seems to be urgent and you feel like you’re standing in the middle of a room full of flies and all you have is a fly swat to try to kill them all.
Or, you have set some goals but you have not had a chance to share them with the team. Truth is, you’re not even sure if you want to share them, because you don’t know how long any of them will be sticking around.
Yet, like any good small business owner, you're actively engaged in trying to forge a team and desperately want it to succeed.
To make matters worse…your team appears to be completely unaware of your predicament.
So here's how to give yourself a chance of success.
Simply set clear goals for your business and then share them with your team.
When everyone is on the same page, team building is a much more meaningful activity. There is buy-in from the team members and you are in a much better place to prevent your efforts from failing.
3. Focusing team building only on the needs of the business
Of course you have to link team development with your key business drivers.
And you must have clear goals, shared with your team on which to focus team building efforts.
But there's something you cannot forget.
A team is made up of people. And each person will have their own personal development needs, which they will expect to be met.
If you do not pay attention to the individual needs within the team, the team will soon begin to fall apart. When this happens, it will derail any short-term team building success which might have been achieved.
So what is your best approach?
Take an HR management approach to developing your people.
Find out what are the personal development needs of your team members. You are sure to find that some of them can help you grow your business rapidly. If this is the case combine their professional development with your team building for a win-win situation for everybody.
Moreover, developing the individual team member strengthens the team as a unit. This creates a synergy which makes the team far more effective than each individual member.
4. The Business Owner does not understand his/her dual role
I remember being installed as President of my local Toastmasters club some years ago. I can still hear the voice of the Installation Officer urging me to understand that:
…you are a member of your team as well as its leader.
When you don't understand this dual role, you struggle when you try to build strong teams around you.
Let me show you what I mean.
You need to understand and manage diversity to keep the team focused.
You have to constantly motivate your team to achieve results while at the same time, you have to find ways to positively renew your own confidence.
Then along comes team building.
You have to set it up, pay for it and monitor it to make sure it's going as it should. Certainly you cannot be expected to participate in the activity as well?
Yes! You are a member of your team as well as its leader. Remember? Your team building effort will fails if every member of the team, including you, is not involved.
You can't avoid it...
You are the person who has to set the direction or create the grand vision for the business.
Then you have to walk shoulder to shoulder with your team towards that goal. Otherwise, you will fail at building teams. Big time .
5. Not understanding that 2 types of teams that can exist in your business
I am willing to bet that like most small business owners, you are unaware that two types of teams can exist in a business, side by side, without you even realizing it.
To get the best out of a “football” team, first of all, each member must be given the right resources. Then you have to make sure that they clearly understand their individual roles and how these interact with those of the other team members.
On the other hand, the "track and field" team is made up of all star performers in their own right. And just like top performers everywhere, once they know what is required of them, they can sort out how to get the job done.
Are you getting the picture here?
You were completely unaware that you needed to be a football captain and manager of an athletic team at the same time. But you embarked on a hot team building programme.
This was the case with a young businessman who called me for help. His team building efforts could never be successful even though he had professional help.
When we helped him to profile his 20-member team, we discovered he had five “stars” who were labelled as trouble-makers. This was not the case. They were creative, capable of working on their own and very much wanted to.
By helping him to understand these issues and redesigning his team building approaches to address them, he was transformed into a very happy leader of a very productive team.
6. Poor/no analysis of the team you might have inherited
About 5 years ago, I bought a small, struggling gym. Part of the deal was for me to take over the existing staff.
Driven by the need to make back my investment in the shortest possible time, I wanted to be up and running fast.
I know from experience that the team is the life blood of any business. So, I compiled a list of “people” things I needed to do early and team building was high on the list.
So I set about designing a hot team building programme, patted myself on the back...slapped on my big, fat training hat...and then it hit me…
Lorna Barrow, how well do you know this team? You inherited it, you did not select it...
So I gently exchanged my training hat for my cool purple thinking cap and began asking myself these questions:
Do you have a clear understanding of their individual strengths?
Their individual weaknesses?
How do they respond under pressure?
What motivates them individually? Collectively?
Have they really bought into your vision?
The reality is that very often we do not get to select the team we have to work with.
When this is the case, the next best thing is to make sure you analyse that team properly before you make any attempt to forge them into any unit that will move your vision forward.
7. Failure to get professional help with building teams
One year ago, you had this wonderful idea to start a business making mud patties, for the little-known but rapidly growing Mud Slinging niche.
You are totally focused on the operations and can hardly cope with the demand for the patties. You are surpassing all projections and can only keep up by hiring more and more people.
Without consciously realizing it, you now have 35 employees, up from the 7 you started with. But while you are lighting fires under the mud patties, you are constantly outing fires among your employees.
How do you deal with this?
You've puzzled over this question for weeks but you keep coming back to one answer: you need to build these people into a team.
So what do you do?
You set out to work on it yourself – lack of skills, knowledge and experience and all!
And you wonder why you made such a mess of it?
Unless you have experience in team building, beyond a few people, you should not attempt it on your own. You should get professional help.
But here's the kicker...
When you look for professional help, avoid the trap of running to a large firm just because you have the money and they have the name.
Find a service provider whose profile mirrors your needs. Make sure they have experience working with small businesses and feel free to check their credentials with other clients.
You want them to be able to identify and explain what's unique about your situation and be willing to call it as they see it.
If you follow these few tips, they will help you to select the right service provider for your team building. And when you do, you will be able to explain how team building succeeds instead of wondering how it fails.
How to move forward with building your team
When you put a lot of effort in building a team and you fail, that’s not good for you or your business.
You feel frustrated and you're likely to act without careful thought about how your actions will affect the very people you're trying to lead.
But if you read this post all the way through, you're no longer feeling so lost.
As a matter of fact, you now have a clearer understanding of what you were doing that was harming the way you tried to build teams. You also have some idea what you should do instead.
You no longer have a choice. Take the information and jump start your effective team building.
Let me know how it worked out for you...
To your success at building teams...