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Building the strong, successful business of your dreams is a lot of work. Although many entrepreneurs begin as one-(wo)man-bands, at some point in our business growth we all reach a stage that requires more work than any single person can possible handle.
You might be bringing on people with expertise you don’t possess, ensuring there are enough people to keep your increasing number of clients happy, or simply getting the right people to deal with your accounts, handle your admin, and manage your social media.
Whatever the reason, the odds are you’re either already developing a team to help your business soar, or you will very soon need one.
Developing a truly powerful team is an essential aspect of growing your business, but it’s often tough to know the best way to go about hiring, and how to put each person to work once you have them.
Whether you’re looking for a permanent team of superstars, need to hire a few choice geniuses on a temporary basis to complete a specific project, or you’re looking for exceptionally talented people to work with you on a freelance basis, it’s really important to understand the mechanics involved in developing an amazing team.
It’s not only vital for the sake of creating an effective group of people, it’s utterly essential for the success and profitability of your business – the more efficient your team are, the more profitable your business will become!
Team development may not seem like something that requires a theoretical model to work, and in some respects it isn’t – you can absolutely wing it, hiring people as and when they are needed, and following your gut. But for a lot of us that kind of uncertainty is detrimental to our business goals.
Successful businesses are usually built through careful planning and the effective implementation of set plans. Team development is no exception, and ‘winging it’ is a surefire way to find yourself massively overspending.
For those of you, like me, who prefer to have a clear plan, designed to support your business as it grows, and maximise your profits, we can follow these five core stages of team development to keep on track for maximum success…
My First Top Tip For A Profitable Team…
It’s really common for entrepreneurs to overspend on what they believe to be “essential infrastructure” – expensive software, overpriced materials, extensive over-time, and superfluous staff members are just a few examples!
Your team are there to help you further your business and maximise your profitability and success – make sure they’re not inadvertently working against you by causing you to overspend.
Before we dig into exactly how to develop an effective team, take the FREE Profit First Instant Assessment, and make sure you’re 100% clear on what you’re spending, where, and if you need to reduce your expenditure!
Stage 1: Speed Dating (AKA ‘Forming’)
Meeting people for the first time can be so….awkward, right?
The initial stage of team development is a lot like speed dating. Everyone is introduced to each other in a flash, there’s barely time to say hello and get a basic idea of who they are and what they do, before the bell rings and they’ve vanished, replaced by the next new face.
Forming a team can be challenging, especially if you run an online business and everyone works remotely, but it’s definitely still possible thanks to Zoom, Google Hangouts, and other online video conferencing options.
Even so, whether people are meeting in the real world or online, you’re never quite sure what’s going to happen.
As you and your team members start working together, you slowly learn each other’s rhythms, but that takes time. Every team goes through the ‘forming’ stage – if they didn’t, they wouldn’t exist! Some teams can navigate this stage more successfully than others, but you eventually find your groove and work cohesively.
What Speed Dating Your Team Looks Like
Nobody likes rejection, and just as the dating game brings with it the perils of potentially getting shot down, so to does the forming stage of team building. It carries a certain level of risk for all involved.
We all crave acceptance. Whether it’s a professional or personal situation, nobody likes to feel ignored, left out, or snubbed. Because of this, your team are often going to avoid each other in this early stage.
It’s awkward, they don’t know each other, they haven’t learned to trust each other yet, and they’re afraid of getting hurt.
It’s not conscious, it’s simply a natural impulse to avoid conflict.
The unknown is always a potential source of conflict – it’s why we have such debilitating upper limit issues.
The obvious pitfall here is that your team may never get to know each other well enough to relax and work solidly as a team if they constantly avoid each other!
Avoidance can easily lead to uncertainty over their roles and the scope of their work, as well as misunderstandings and duplicated (or missing!) work. This is frustrating for your team, because of all the uncertainty, and for you, because teams are seldom effective during the forming stage!
How To Push Your Team To The Next Level
For the sake of team performance, and also to push the team into the next level of development, it’s your job as a team leader to facilitate interactions.
Make it very clear what everyone’s roles and responsibilities are, and give plain and explicit direction.
It’s also super-important to get the team involved, and allow them to have a say in determining who will do what, as well as how they will work together.
Stage 2: Alpha Business (AKA ‘Storming’)
Once the awkward speed dating phase is over and your team is fully formed, you’re going to have to brace yourself for what I like to call the alpha dog period.
Officially this is known as the ‘storming’ stage, and it is both necessary and tedious. It’s also unavoidable.
The good news is, it doesn’t have to last long!
It starts when everyone is working together regularly. They know each other a lot better, and have lost their wariness. Your team have transitioned from being lone wolves to fully-fledged members of the pack. And the problem with any pack is the battle for the alpha position.
In short, your team all have egos and they’re going to get competitive.
This isn’t a bad thing – it keeps them all on their toes and encourages them to push each other. It also gives everyone a really good chance to learn more about each other, and affords you the chance to see what they’re really capable of.
Everyone is simply competing for that all-important acceptance of their ideas, and status within the group.
How Your Team Works As A Pack
They’re bound to have differing opinions, and moving through this stage is actually really good for them, despite the apparent tension. They are learning to problem-solve as a team, rather than a group of individuals, and find a way to do that while retaining their independent roles.
This is essential to get them to the point they can really start to make your business as efficient as possible, so let the alphas fight it out for a bit!
The problem with the alpha stage is that team members who find conflict very stressful and unpleasant are going to find it tough.
As their leader you’re there to mediate the worst of the conflicts and encourage the team spirit and group-thinking you’re trying to foster.
You need to be on the ball, ensuring everyone is listening to each other, and respectful of differences of opinion and conflicting ideas.
- Don’t allow any one member of the team to control conversations and discussions.
- Do make sure all team members contribute to every group discussion – the conflict-shy individuals are likely to avoid it, or bring ideas directly to you rather than sharing with the group.
- Do spend time coaching the shy members of the group to be more assertive, and the more dominant ones to be better listeners.
How To Push Your Team To The Next Level
The alpha-dominance phase should naturally come to an end once everyone has come to accept each other and grown confident in their role, place, and importance within your team.
One thing to be aware of is that it’s easy for teams to get STUCK in competitive warfare.
This can be frustrating for you, but persevere. The first two stages are by far the worst, and the benefits from what comes after are well worth it!
Tips For Transitioning Into Phase 3…
When you have a sense that everyone is clicking and starting to work together well, you should begin to delegate decisions to your team, giving them more independence, but remaining present to resolve any lingering conflicts.
Start to shift your team’s attention more exclusively towards achieving your business goals, and less on what everyone else is doing.
Let your mantra be: Focus, Streamline, Innovate!
This will help you maximise profit and transition your team into into phase three…
Stage 3: Respect (AKA ‘Norming’)
Once the tension and stress of phase two eases, your team will settle into a nice comfortable space. They will understand and respect each other’s opinions and ideas, be confident in their roles, capable of independence, as well as group-thinking and problem solving, and you won’t need to be quite so hands-on in your leadership.
Crucially, they will come to see the value in their differences, rather than viewing them as a reason to argue, or a source of stress. This means they will be happier, and start to get really productive!
If you never make it further than stage three, you will still have a stable, functional, effective team.
Everyone will be focused on working together, rather than on individual goals, and you’ll find things running much more smoothly.
You will also be able to take a step back (if you want!) secure in the knowledge that your business is in good hands, and everything will get done without you.
How A Respectful Team ‘Normally’ Works
If you haven’t reached this stage, or you’re struggling to get to it, you have a problem.
Your team isn’t going to be effective and you won’t get the most out of them. This will lead to morale and productivity issues, which are not only bad for your team, they will be very detrimental to your bottom line.
When you’re employing people – even on a temporary, part-time, or freelance basis – it’s essential that you take the time to develop your working relationship to the point you are at stage three or (ideally) four.
If you spend too much time in stage one or two, they’re very likely costing you too much money to sustain.
Stage three is called the ‘norming’ phase, because it is essentially the ‘norm’ for most teams. You may still need to step in occasionally to get things moving, solve the odd issue, or generally just check in on everything, but by this point they should be working well together and reducing the amount of time and money you have to spend on your business.
It isn’t unusual to backslide into stage two occasionally, especially if you hire someone new. Don’t panic, it’s normal – just keep doing what you did before and everyone will soon catch up.
How To Push Your Team To The Next Level
Loads of business owners make the mistake of keeping their team out of the loop on long-term goals and strategies, either because they have no direct role to play, or they simply don’t think to do so.
When you’re so intimately aware of your own goals for your business, it’s really easy to forget your team don’t know them!
My Next Top Tip For Developing A Team That Supports Your Business…
As part of my work as a Profit Pioneer and money mentor, I teach my clients the Profit First system of money management. One of the core principles of this system, and a big part of the reason it’s so effective, is that it places a heavy focus on the reduction of expenditure and maximisation of efficiency.
Completing the Profit First Instant Assessment can tell you exactly where you’re overspending.
Stage three is the point you can start getting your team actively working on reducing costs, and improving efficiency!
Everyone working for you should be 100% essential, and working only the number of hours you need them to. Beyond that, your team can problem-solve areas of your business that are costing you too much money, and find better, more efficient and cost-effective solutions to your needs.
Make them aware of your goals in terms of profit and expenditure, ensure they’re fully aware of any areas that are costing more than you’d like.
A few key things your team should be totally clear on:
- Targets in terms of income, client acquisition, and profit.
- Areas where you are overspending and need to cut expenses (remember, the Profit First Instant Assessment will reveal any issues).
- Systems which aren’t working as efficiently as they should, or you would like.
- Time limits for tasks that require it, so things don’t go over budget.
And if you haven’t already, get the Profit First system up and running in your business.
Stage 4: Legendary Rock Stars (AKA ‘Performing’)
The world is full of bands, some good, some terrible, others mediocre at best. Then there are the monster bands. The undisputed legends of Rock ‘n’ Roll. We’re talking Queen, Bon Jovi, and Guns ‘n’ Roses … love them or hate them, there’s no denying they’re massively successful.
Because once you get past the initial awkwardness, the alpha-dog jostling for recognition, and spend a good time working together in an environment based on mutual respect and teamwork, you hit the next level of team building: performance.
Everyone wants their team to be successful, and operating at Stage 4 is where the dream truly comes alive.
Other businesses covet your awesome success, your competition is endlessly trying to poach your best people, and staff don’t consider jumping ship because they’d never break the band up.
It’s not about any one individual at this stage, but how all individuals involved come together in perfect harmony to create something utterly spectacular.
Teams at this level are incredibly high-functioning, and not everyone gets there.
It’s not unusual for teams to get stuck in the Respect stage, and never quite make it to the performance level.
There’s no shame in that – stage three is a perfectly respectable point to reach in your team development and you can still be successful at that level.
How Your Team Works At Peak Performance
That said, stage four is THE DREAM when it comes to team development!
Everyone is performing incredibly well, they require little if any oversight, and have become fully independent while functioning incredibly well as a unit.
You’ll find your team are highly motivated and taking a keen interest in your ‘big picture’.
It’s tough to reach this stage, but if you’re serious about pushing your team to fulfil your ultimate business goals, this is the level you’re aiming for.
The fear is forgotten, the egos have made firm friends, and everyone is comfortably settled into a committed relationship with each other and your business. They’re in it for the long haul now.
Your team are now at a point where your dreams have become their dreams and they care about the business (almost) as much as you do. You can rely on their loyalty and skill, and they’ve developed great group problem-solving.
They’re beyond simple efficiency, and have started to seriously innovate your business.
Bask in the glory of the limelight – you’ve earned it!
Keeping The Team Together
As with the last stage, it’s not unusual to backslide occasionally when you’re in stage four. Don’t become discouraged if you do, it’s normal, and you’ll be back on form soon enough.
The big difference with stage four is that the biggest problem isn’t worrying about going backwards, but worrying about moving forwards into stage five. Stage four really is the sweet spot; you want to stay here as long as possible!
Living The Dream…
I’m not kidding when I say that getting your team to stage four is the dream.
So many entrepreneurs are killing themselves over their business, working insane hours, putting everything on themselves, and – even when they have a team working for them – continue to be very hands-on in their work.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to actively fly your own plane, but one of the unmitigated joys of reaching the fourth stage in developing your team is that you have co-pilots!
Take a step back, keep your focus on the BIG obstacles and challenges that are preventing you from pushing your business to even greater success, and let your awesome team deal with the day-to-day challenges.
Stage 5: Such Sweet Sorrow (AKA Adjourning)
The final stage in team development comes when the team parts ways. This can happen for several reasons – they may have been assembled for a specific project which has ended, a promotion or campaign that has run its course, or to fill demand that has since waned.
The ‘adjourning’ stage isn’t about your business performance, but the wellbeing of your team.
Parting, as they say, is such sweet sorrow.
If everyone is leaving to go in different directions it’s important to let everyone know how valued and respected they were. Even if it’s only one member of the team leaving, it’s vital to show your appreciation of them and give everyone a chance to say goodbye – there’s a reason farewell parties are so prevalent!
Celebrate the success of your team, wish them well, and send them on their way. Do this even if you’re parting with one of them on a negative note – the ones who remain will see how you handle it, and their performance depends on feeling you handled the situation well.
Develop A Team That Furthers Your Business Vision
Once you reach a point in your business where you have a solid team, the success of your business depends heavily on their success.
Your ability to reach your goals and targets rests with them, and to a large extent the profitability of your business is also connected to their efficiency and effectiveness.
All teams go through these stages. Understanding them will allow you to shoot for the glorious fourth phase of optimal performance and profitability with your legendary team of rock stars.
Where profit and achievement are concerned, stage four is definitely the sweet spot!
If you need extra help implementing the tips I’ve shared in this post book a FREE Curiosity Call, and we’ll have a chat more about how you and your team can reduce your expenditure, and use Profit First to get your business blossoming better than ever…