Hiring Good People Doesn’t Mean You Have a Strong Team
We all know that hiring the right people is not an easy exercise. Think of the times when you were fully confident that you had the right person only to find they either didn’t have the skills you needed or simply did not fit the organization. It’s a serious challenge and a critical issue.
But even if you hire the right people — they have the skills, they’re driven, and they’re a good fit in the organization — it doesn’t mean you have a strong team. And unfortunately, most business leaders simply don’t put enough energy into building the team.
Building a strong team is critical for any business — and I’ll talk about why in a few minutes — but COVID-19 has added new pressures on organizations that make it even more important. Teams are changing. Some of you have seen a dramatic shift in your team, whether it’s a result of downsizing, changing roles and responsibilities, and, for some, a dramatic increase in the size of their team. Each of these create new challenges.
Two Critical Reasons that Teams Matter
As business owners, we have our minds and our eyes on so many things — customer service, making sure we’re executing our mission and our vision, keeping the business moving forward — that sometimes our team can sink to the back of our mind or to the bottom of our priority list. But really, teams matter as much as, or maybe even more than anything else that’s in our sphere of influence.
Good teams have always mattered, but especially now with what’s happening in our world and the economy, teams matter now more than ever. And there’s two really big reasons why teams matter so much.
- I think we all understand the first one. It’s kind of obvious, and that’s because having good teams is so powerful for the organization. It just makes the business run smoother. And the business just moves ahead. It’s very powerful to have a good cohesive, highly functioning team.
- But the second reason why it’s so important to focus on teams and why teams matter is because good teams are so rare. It’s so rare. I’ve been coaching now for many years and when I first engage a prospect or a client, and I’m talking to them about their teams, they describe all kinds of dysfunction that’s happening. All kinds of selfishness, lack of commitment, staff who are focused on personal results and not team results.
In fact, Patrick Lencioni, who is almost like a patron Saint for me when it comes to teamwork, says this, “If we could get all of the people in the organization rolling in the same direction, you could dominate any industry in any market against any competition at any time.” It’s a bold statement. It’s a sweeping statement. And I think it’s true because of these two things, teamwork is powerful and also teamwork is so rare.
If we could get all of the people in the organization rowing in the same direction, you could dominate any industry in any market against any competition at any time.
– Patrick Lencioni
Think About Your Team
Take a moment and ask yourself this question, “What pain is my team currently causing me?” And actually begin to list that.
What pains could you solve if your team was working better? Many times as business owners, we’re great at finding the right employee. We’re great at finding the right team member, doing a good interview, hiring and onboarding. But having a good employee or having good employees does not guarantee that we’ll have a good team.
So here’s what I want you to do. Take a moment and list out all of the pains that your team is causing you right now, and what that would be worth to you if you could stop that pain. Especially now in light of COVID-19.
A recent study has shown that only 39% of Canadian businesses are fully staffed right now. That means many business owners are short-staffed, with a limited number of team members. There’s extra pressure on the system with fewer people doing more work. And that can lead to headaches and so much pain.
Building a strong team, it’s tough, even on a good day, let alone when you’re short staffed. So now more than ever, it’s a good time for business owners and organizational leaders to really focus on helping their team become cohesive, and more efficient than ever.
Where to Start
It’s important that the business owner first commit to having a plan. To actually bring this from the back burner to the front and say, “Okay, I’ve got to deliver on my mission. I have to deliver on the vision. I’ve got fewer people. There are more demands than before. So now, how do I actually put a plan in place that can help me deliver a more cohesive and more dynamic team? Where do I start?”
Number one, start with a plan. Again, teams are formed by intention and not by accident.
I heard one fellow say this, one of my favorite quotes. “Things are the way they are because they got that way.” And a lot of times that’s the story of our teams. How did your teams become the way they are? Well, they got that way. There was no real intent. It just sort of accidentally happened. And I’d like for us to think about shifting from accidental teams to intentional teams by asking, “how can I form a plan”?
Just by doing that one thing, business owners, leaders, champions, and executives will help you make a big difference in having a highly effective and cohesive team.
Now specifically, where do we start with a team? This is where a lot of us go astray or get distracted.
The gut reaction of a business owner might be to start by focusing on results and encouraging, threatening, rewarding, promising, get more results, get more results, get more results. But that’s not the first step for a business owner to reach towards.
In fact, I like to share this from another great thought from Patrick Lencioni, and in his model of building teams he encourages, and this is really brilliant, he instructs that we start with trust, not with results. Not with promising raises and bonuses, not with threatening being fired, but specifically asking, “Okay, how is our team when it comes to trusting each other?”
And he’s very specific about what he means when it comes to trust. He’s talking about vulnerability-based trust. People admitting they need help. People admitting when they’re wrong. People admitting when they need someone to hold them accountable. People who are no longer posturing with ego and pretense. Pretending they buy in or pretending they know what they’re doing, but genuinely becoming a team that trusts one another. That trust then becomes the foundation to get us to where we want to be.
If you look at the top of the pyramid diagram you’ll see Results. And as business owners and leaders that’s where we want to get.
In fact, if we could skip all the other steps and get to the top, we probably would, but that’s really not how human beings work. We work best when we trust one another. That empowers us then to have powerful and productive Conflict with one another, where we’re really wrestling through ideas and not just pretending to have buy in and politically nodding our head, but actually disagreeing inside.
We want to be able to have a context where we can have healthy conflict with one another so that it will lead to Commitment, to “buying in”. Even if we disagree, it’s better to know that we’ve wrestled through the issue. When a team member can say, “Even if I don’t really agree, if I feel that at least I’ve been heard”, then they will buy in.
And that Commitment then leads to this next step, which is Accountability.I think probably most of the time we think of Accountability as top-down and hierarchical. The viewpoint people often have is of the boss with a whip or a threat or a reward, and the boss keeps us accountable. But truly cohesive and dynamic teams move away from this boss-down, top-down accountability and move towards peer to peer accountability, where we are actually holding each other accountable for our behaviors and for executing and keeping our promises. Holding each other accountable to deliver on what we’ve said we’re going to deliver.
Then finally we get to Results. And the beauty of a trust-based model that walks through these stages is that Results are no longer about personal results. Team members are not focused on questions like “How am I doing? Am I making my sales quota? Do I look good?” We move away from a focus on personal Results to team Results. It’s when individual team members lay aside their own agendas and buy in to the championship mindset of the team and really work towards the goal of having a championship team. It’s not about individual results, it’s about team results.
Symptoms of a Team That is Struggling
There are a number of signs that emerge when a team is struggling. One of the first things you’ll notice is a lack of vulnerability-based trust. A lot of us have a certain level of trust in our organization that’s based on predictability, not vulnerability. Predictability means I know how my teammate is going to react in a particular situation. I’ve worked with them for a year or five years or 10 years. And so I trust them because they’re predictable, but that’s only one part of trust.
Vulnerability is really the part where we begin to become cohesive. I mentioned before, the ability to ask for help, the ability to admit when you’re wrong, the ability to admit that you dropped the ball or that it was your fault, those kinds of statements really begin to lay the foundation for trust. And it’s really quite rare.
If we think about it in terms of sports, when a player comes back to the bench after they’ve made a mistake, or when a player comes back to the huddle after they’ve blown a play, and they say, “That was on me. That was my mistake.” Or they come back to the bench and say, “Hey guys, I dropped the ball on that. I missed the opportunity to do that.” What that does to the team is encourages team members to take responsibility. It elevates that trust and it opens up the door for everybody to take responsibility, instead of shifting blame, pointing the finger, trying to find fault with people. That stuff can really snowball.
If the trust isn’t there, then you don’t have this healthy conflict. You have people not speaking up. You have people playing political games, you have people pretending they buy in. And then they only “show up” at work two days a week, really in their heart, they’re surfing the web for a new job somewhere else, or they’re finding ways to do as little work as possible. The lack of trust produces all of the other dysfunctions that we see in this model.
How Long Does It Take to Build a Strong Team?
If you’ve got a team that’s broken or a team that’s a challenge, or there are some negative things happening, some people start to look for an “Easy Button” to fix things. And it leads to the question, how long does it take to fix a team? Does it take a month to turn your team around? Does it take years? Is it worth it? At what point do you just give up?
A business owner or organizational leader has to elevate the development of their team as a permanent priority, not just a temporary fix. This really needs to become a constant item on the agenda. How is my team doing? And even if our teams are doing well and we still keep asking, “How can we take it to that next level? How can we outperform our competitors by having an even stronger team, more cohesive team?”
Initially it’ll take some time and focus to get things moving in the right direction. . Right now we’re offering a course that works with your team over a year. But there’s no “Easy Button” or magic fix. We really want business leaders to prioritize their team and keep investing in their team over and over again.
What Makes An Ideal Team Member
Sometime we get asked, “What makes an ideal team member? and while you could probably list 50 different characteristics you’d love to have in your staff, there are three that come to mind — and Lencioni he reinforces this as well. He says:
“The three great characteristics of a team member are that they’re humble, they’re hungry and they’re smart.”
Be humble, be hungry and be smart. I know that when I’m coaching, when I’m encouraging people, when they’re in the hiring phase, and they’re asking, “How do I add a new team member to my team?” I get them focused on these three characteristics.
- “Is the person humble? Do they have a sense that they want to be a part of the team? Or are they a prima donna? Are they all about themselves? Are they teachable? Are they pliable? Are they willing to be flexible?”
- Of course we want people to be hungry, passionate, showing up, buying into the values of the vision and the mission of the company.
- And then are they smart? They need the level of ability and skill, aptitude, so they’re able to deliver on the job.
How Can Virtual Teams Become Stronger?
Some leaders recognize that with less face-to-face interaction, building trust can become more difficult and building the cohesion of our teams is more of a challenge. I think they’re right. And there are a few things you need to keep in mind.
First of all, you need to make sure that you have really good content during your remote calls. It needs to be at least as good as the content you would have if you were live and in person. And the truth is a lot of that content can be transferred over to Zoom. It’s tougher, but not impossible.
I think we’re all missing that personal touch. And so that’s why on a Zoom call the leader has to dig a little deeper into making sure the content is really powerful. Some of the things that we recommend are things like team building exercises, where we answer some questions that are more personal than they are professionals such as, where were you born? And what’s the first job you ever had, or what’s the worst job you’ve ever had and just giving an opportunity for people to share. And of course that gives them the ability to share as openly as they want, whether it’s really open or closed, but it’s really saying, “How can I have conversations that create questions and topics that invite vulnerability?”
How Can I Help Team Members Understand One Another Better?
There are a number of tools that are designed specifically to help people understand one another more clearly and with greater depth. One of the tools that we use is the DiSC Assessment. I like the DiSC assessment because it’s highly accurate, it’s really simple, and it’s a tool that you can use in real time while you’re interacting with others. It’s not overly complicated and it really helps team members understand each other.
One of the things that I love about the current Team Building program that we offer is that the DiSC Assessment and the five behaviors of a cohesive team — trust, commitment, conflict, accountability and results — are merged together. This helps personalize how each team member interacts with each behaviour. It is gold!
All of Us Can Strengthen Our Teams
Bottomline? I have not met a business leader yet who has a perfect team. All teams can improve. All of us can do more to build stronger, healthier teams that achieve better, more meaningful results.
If you know this needs to happen on your team, then start your plan today. And if you need an experienced guide to help, please reach out to me directly and we can talk about how you can get started. We’ve got the diagnostic tools and methodologies that will help you evaluate your team and make the critical decisions with confidence.