Five Steps to Build a Better Team

Job satisfaction and employee motivation are always hot button topics for business owners.  Perhaps you have wished your employees would take ownership of their jobs the same way you do.  As we enter 2020, its time to take a new approach to managing that will result in the kind of job involvement and commitment you want from your employees.

Perhaps it sounds obvious, but building a better team begins with treating your employees like team members and not just like employees.  Dave Ramsey, a financial planner and advocate for entrepreneurship wrote in his EntreLeadership book, “Employees come in late, leave early and most likely steal while they are there.”  Unfortunately, we often get what we expect and when managers or owners treat their staff like “employees”, they often get behavior that matches what Ramsey describes.  My personal belief is that very few people take a new job and think to themselves, “I can’t wait to get to work and screw around and do a bad job.”  In fact, when people act in ways that validate Ramsey’s view, my first assumption is that these folks must work for a pretty lousy manager/owner.

So, if you’d like to begin 2020 on the right foot toward building strong team members through collaboration, here are five inital steps you can take:

  1. Think Collaboration – include your team in building plans for the new year.  If you haven’t invited their participation into how to achieve your 2020 objectives, its not too late.  Some of us just don’t naturally seek input from others, but this is a critical skill for managers/owners.
  2. Build Trust in your team – It is critical to build a high level of trust among your team and according to Patrick Lencioni in his best seller, “Five Dysfunctions of a Team”, the best way to develop trust is for the LEADER to show vulnerability.  I know you are thinking, “I can’t let my team know I don’t have all the answers.” However, the reality is that when the leader is open about her challenges, frustrations, limitations, it builds the kind of trust needed for others to step up and take action.
  3. Adopt an MBO approach to management – Managing by Objectives begins with managers meeting with their subordinates to JOINTLY develop objectives and measurables for the new year and the current quarter.  Managers who adopt an MBO process often find they are able to better provide oversight and support to their team members.  The practice of regular discussions about the status of progress toward objectives helps managers and team members to stay on the same page about what is most important.
  4. Develop a Scorecard for tracking progress toward goals – Team members who are clear on how the business is being measured are more likely to take ownership for the results. In fact, I recommend that as part of the MBO process, managers/owners work to ensure that every member of their team ‘owns’ at least one measurable.  Even in cases where multiple people are responsible for the work needed to achieve a result, one person needs to own the number by tracking it, reporting on it, and working with the others involved to ensure the target is achieved.
  5. Yield to Innovation – If you want team members, you must lose the ‘my way or the highway’ mindset. You can own the values that shape the way work is done, you should share the objectives between you and your staff, but you MUST, you MUST, YOU Must, relinquish control of how it gets done.  Distinguishing between the what and the how can be very difficult for many of us. If you are clear on the ways in which work should be done (values) and clear on the what needs done (results), you should be comfortable giving your staff the freedom to determine the how (method/process).

When we show are staff that they are trusted and critical members of the team, they will begin to respond with the kinds of ownership that we want.  It takes a collaborative engagement with your team, and it might take a change in mindset for you as the manager/owner.  Stephen Covey called this moving to interdependence, and its embodied in Habit Six, Synergize.

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