Building Better Teams: How employees can pull together to achieve surprising results.
by Robert Lerose
A highly functioning, collaborative team can be an effective asset for the growth and harmony of a small business. Instead of relying on the abilities and skills of an individual employee, well-run teams can leverage the strengths of many talented workers to create an engine that is more powerful than the sum of its parts. Teams where constructive conflict is allowed, diversity is encouraged, and members are empowered to shoulder responsibility can often lead to the best results. Before you put together your next team, consider these strategies for harnessing the creativity and energy of your employees.
Give them ownership
Experts say that team members should come from different parts of your company to provide assorted viewpoints—such as customer service, production, sales—and given wide latitude in their responsibilities.
“Put together a cross functional team that has a very clear objective,” says Kevin Cahill, managing partner of Cahill Consulting, a Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based consulting firm for small and medium-sized businesses. “Senior management can lay that out, but then give this group the time, schedule, and the framework by which to work through and come up with ideas and possible solutions for solving that problem.”
Engaging members throughout the team building process and giving them ownership of the team’s goals is more productive than letting a small business owner or manager direct the working of the team from the top down. Cahill says that a team should be allowed to set their own performance expectations. “Give them the opportunity to tell you what they want to do and what their goals are and what their vision is and often you’ll find that their goals and objectives are greater than yours,” he says. “And if they’re not, then maybe it’s time to re-evaluate whether you have the right person in the right role.”
Accountability is another component to team strategy. Cahill says to pick three to five indicators and post them publicly, either within the department itself or throughout the company, to show how well the team is meeting its goals. These key metrics should be chosen at the beginning of the project and left in place until the project is completed. Employees will see not only how the team is progressing, but how their performance affects the entire company, too.
“It comes down to making sure your employees have a voice and not just in how they’re going to do individual jobs,” Cahill says, “but in the mission of the company, how that mission can be accomplished, what objectives are key to making that happen, and constantly engaging them in that process to drive the best possible