If there is one thing that frustrates and exhausts small business owners more than anything, it’s working with a team that is subpar. Many clients have come to my company after having less than ideal experiences with prior team members. I have heard the horror stories. I have cleaned up the messes left behind. And I have personally helped my clients terminate staff members and hire new people to replace the turnover. It’s a time consuming, costly, and emotionally discouraging process.
Now that’s the grim side of managing a team. Surely there are just as many, if not more, positive experiences with having rockstar team members. And there is. I hear stories of people who are a joy to work with. I’ve seen teams bond and work together for the growth and well being of the business. As a matter of fact, I have one of those teams. What makes the difference between having a subpar and a rockstar team?
It’s not just one secret, but a compilation of efforts that support the dream of having an amazing team.
It Begins and Ends with Leadership
As I was listening in on a call for my Next Gen OBM program, the leader said something that stuck with me. “Leadership is ALWAYS the answer.” In other words, every problem we have can be solved with leadership. We must be able to own what’s already true. What about ourselves makes us a great leader? Where do we need to grow? What part of ourselves is contributing to having a below average or a great team? The sole reason I signed up for this program was to learn how to better lead my team and clients. If we want to have a rockstar team, then we must stretch ourselves to grow into a rockstar leader. Ultimately, leadership is all about empowering us and our team to step into the best versions of ourselves.
Hire for the “Right” Reasons
Hiring because you need help is not the only reason to hire. When I added my first team member and even my 2nd, 3rd, and 4th, it wasn’t solely because I couldn’t handle the workload anymore. There were several things at play that prompted each of these hires.
- I was looking at the future. Who was I going to need to grow into the future business I envisioned? I was being proactive, rather than reactive.
- I was evaluating my own strengths and passions. What was I good at doing? What did I love to do with my time? And who do I need to round out what I was missing?
- I was assessing need. Not only was I exploring all my current clients’ needs, I was anticipating what my future clients might need as well. Did I have a team that could support the current demand in my industry?
Personally, I think it’s important to spend a little time planning our hires. One of my new clients, after several bad hires, did some soul searching first. Her vision was to hire someone she could grow with. She was willing to make a higher investment to hire the “right” person.
Hire the “Right” People
This seems like an obvious choice, but it’s not always that simple. Oftentimes, when we are recruiting or interviewing someone new, we are focused on skill. Does this person have the experience and skillset to do the job? Although this is certainly important, there are other factors to consider as well.
- Personality. How well do you feel you would get along with this person if he/she were a member of your team? Are there any yellow or red flags you should be paying attention to?
- Culture. What are your company values and does this potential hire share those same values? How do you do business and does this person fit with that style? When a person fits with your company culture, they are more likely to mesh, contribute, and display loyalty.
- Character. Morals and beliefs matter. You cannot change character. People are who they are. Especially if their character is rooted in their convictions.
- Intrapreneurship. “Intrapreneurs bring a lot to small business owners. Vision. Drive. Passion. Innovation. Ownership. Experience. Results.” business owners want and need intrapreneurs. Tina Forsyth, the queen of the OBM community, shares that.
If you hire an intrapreneur who has personality, character, and fits with your company culture, you can teach the necessary skills to do the job.
Adopt a “People Come First” Culture
The best leaders know that team members are their most valuable resource. The old philosophy was that customers come first. I believe the new philosophy should be: without your team, you have no business. You have no one to serve your customers, so your team comes first. Your team needs to know that you stand behind them, through thick and thin. This does not mean you tolerate bad behavior or fail to develop their skills. It simply means that you understand that they are “people” first, “workers” second.
People make mistakes. People have stressors outside of work. People have internal struggles that deserve to be heard and addressed. Leaders need to take the time to truly listen to their team members. Let them voice their concerns. Allow them to experience and work through their emotions. Give them opportunities to grow and learn. Respect your team members as human beings. Even if you find they aren’t going to be a good fit for your company, treat them with dignity and kindness.
Stay Connected to Your Team
Especially when your team is virtual, it can be easy to get disconnected from them. It takes more effort to purposely stay connected on a regular basis. Besides scheduling regular meetings (face-to-face or video), check in by phone, or email several times a week. Be careful that “work” is not the only topic you are discussing. What’s going on in your team member’s personal life? What’s working well for them at work, and what are they struggling with?
In our team meeting this week, I learned a lot about my team members by asking them these four questions:
- What is one celebration you’ve had this month?
- What good things are happening for you at Amazing OBM?
- What’s not working so well for you here?
- What are you learning?
By asking these questions, you can address and fix any problems you aren’t aware of. You can build a personal relationship with your team members. And don’t forget to share your answers to these questions with your team. You are human too.
Nurture Your Team Members’ Passions and Strengths
Early this year, I gave each of my team members an interest and experience questionnaire. I listed out every possible task they could encounter while working at Amazing OBM. Then I asked them to answer two questions. What is your interest level with each of these tasks, on a scale of 1 to 5? What is your experience level on these same tasks? In addition, I asked each team member to take the Clifton Strengths assessment to uncover their most important and natural strengths.
The results were enlightening. These were great exercises for everyone and we all learned things about ourselves and each other. The learning was great, but it was more important to me that I did something with this information. I custom designed each person’s job description and responsibilities based on their individual strengths, passions, and client needs. And guess what? I now have a happy and strong team. One of my team members commented the other day. “I’m so glad you don’t have me doing what some other team members are doing. I would hate it!” And I would hate it if she was miserable. The other team members enjoy and thrive at their assigned tasks. So it works out for everyone.
Find out what your team member loves to do, and is naturally good at. Work to find their zone of excellence and zone of genius. Further develop these areas with them and you will find yourself with a happy, loyal, and productive team member.
Develop Your Team or Terminate the “Wrong” Fits
Sometimes you will have problems with team members. They may be underperforming. They might have issues with attitude. It’s possible they are making a lot of mistakes. Just because you are having these problems doesn’t mean the person can’t work out. They may need development. As long as a person is open to coaching, this is always your first choice. You have invested in these individuals, and it’s expensive to fire and rehire.
So put together a 30-,60-, 90-day development plan. Outline the exact expectations. Point out examples of what they need to work on. Listen to what obstacles they are encountering. Work with them to remove these blocks. It might mean they need more training. It’s possible they are not working in their areas of excellence or genius. Perhaps they are overwhelmed and need help sorting through some internal struggles. Coaching with love, kindness, and a true desire to develop will go a long ways towards helping people grow.
If the development plan fails or the person is not open to coaching, it’s time to terminate. Just because a team member is not fitting with your organization, does not mean they won’t be a good fit with another company. Sometimes it’s just a “wrong” fit. Personalities clash. Values aren’t aligned. Work styles don’t mesh. Needs change. And people grow in different directions. Cut your loss, and open yourself and your team member up for freedom. Move on and kindly sever ties. Each of you will find a better fit, guaranteed.
Having a rockstar team is single-handedly the most important investment you can make in your business, your health, and your life. The relationships we choose to align ourselves with feed us or drain us. Choose wisely. Recognize and hang on to the gems! Express your appreciation regularly and empower your team. And they will make a huge investment in you and your business.
Lori Young is the founder and chief OBM at Amazing OBM. She and her team support coaches and therapists in the growth phase of their business – streamlining operations, providing outstanding client care, implementing solid marketing strategies, and keeping the team moving in the right direction.
My Secrets to Building a Rockstar (Virtual) Team
March 13, 2019