Monday, August 13, 2012

Go Team!

In last week's post, I noted that the phrase "An Army of One" is an oxymoron for small business owners. As it turns out, the Army also apparently felt that it was antithetical to the ethos of teamwork, and phased the phrase out.

Ah, teamwork...who doesn't want a "team player?"  Businesses spend millions, if not billions, of dollars in pursuit of talented teammates.
  • We advertise for them in our recruitment ads (who wants to hire a boat-rocker?)
  • We read books about building good teams (millions of them)
  • We listen to motivational speeches by successful sports team coaches.

We spend much time and energy thinking about teams.  But it also seems that a similar amount of time is spent moaning about our recruits' lack of individual initiative and how to motivate them.  How do we square this circle?

Maybe it's you, not them.  Are you sure you are a good team player?  By that, I mean a good team leader?

Management expert Dr. Stephen Covey once wrote: “Effective leadership is putting first things first. Effective management is discipline, carrying it out.”  In other words, there's a difference between leading and management.   In Covey's words, there's an "execution gap."

For small business leaders, as usual, it's the same head wearing a different hat.  How do you differentiate, and effectively both lead and manage your team?
  • Clearly define the objectives as well as how to attain them. This involves both strategic and tactical thinking.  Teams must know what the goals are (leading) and the process (management) by which they will be achieved.  Many business people I work with are more comfortable with one or the other, but both are essential.  You need both a playbook and a game plan.
  • Start with less and build to more.  Productive teams are built through victories.  Instill yours with confidence by giving them a series of smaller but meaningful milestones, through which you and they can evaluate progress and challenges.  
  • Capitalize on failure.  While "wins" are critical, no one is perfect, goals are not always met, plans don't always succeed.  Collegiality, camaraderie and cohesion are also created by overcoming adversity.  They key is to keep the setbacks small (see above) and not let them pass unexamined.  A leader's outlook, his/her reaction to the challenges that arise, will, in the end, determine the success or failure of the team.  

Leaning and managing are your roles in your business team. Doing so effectively will produce better results.  After all, it's the front-line that produces your bottom line.

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