Building a brilliant team of high-performers has long been top of company directors’ Christmas wish lists: If we can get another few percentage points out of our people then next year will be one to celebrate!
People challenges in the last couple of years have only added to this wish.
Firstly there’s the skills shortage, which still leaves certain industry sectors or specialisms constantly looking for employees with the right skills and attitude.
Research undertaken by our local business support group, Buckinghamshire Business First, always shows staff recruitment challenges in the top two issues businesses face.
On top of this there’s rampant inflation, which is not only pushing up the cost of wages, but contributing to emboldened staff asking for higher salaries.
Your team might not behave quite like train drivers but in this expensive market staff are looking for higher earnings to keep their heads above water financially.
Yet despite this unusual economic backdrop the basics of building a great team don’t change. Here are our top recommendations for building a brilliant team in 2024:
What’s your goal?
There’s a big difference between building a new team and powering up an existing one. On the one hand you’re recruiting fresh faces and finding ways for this excitable talent to gel. On the other you might have loyal and trusted people with long service records who you just want to show a bit more ambition or creativity. Being clear on where your team currently excels and where you want to take them sets the base level for the points that follow….
The importance of trust when building a brilliant team
Trust between people is the glue that bonds and then holds together a high performing team. It’s crucial. The faster a new starter can be fully on-boarded and the more trust-building is done intentionally and regularly between team members then the better the rest of the work a leader does with a team. It facilitates accountability, frank conversations and collaboration. The Harvard Business Review describes Trust as a tax or dividend. With Trust everything gets multiplied: There’s a dividend in execution, effort and results. Without Trust everything gets diminished, like a lingering tax on your business. Find out more about trust within organisations.
Ownership & aligned goals
All teams need to have consistent goals. This consistency needs to hold over time and across teams. Perhaps most importantly, as the team leader your actions need to be consistent with your company goals and values. There’s no point in telling everyone the customer is your top priority if you don’t follow through on this when a client calls on a wet Friday with what you think is an unreasonable complaint!
The right tools
When building a brilliant team, you need to ensure they have slick tools and these days that might be a mix of devices and apps. For your business it might include product samples or demos. There’s always a balance of cost and quality in these things but tools that don’t work properly or reliably are one of the biggest demotivators of teams. To a boss who’s managing the big picture, requests for better tech might sound like moaning. But for a team member who’s flat out trying to deliver their best for customers then losing an hour faffing about with dodgy connections is a massive distraction.
The right skills
When organisations are finding it hard to recruit talent then it’s tempting to celebrate a new appointment, hand them a new job file and encourage them to get on with delivering results. Yet this induction period is the perfect time to suss out what skills your new team members have and what gaps you can help fill. The same applies to existing team members of course. Just because they’ve been with you years doesn’t mean they’ve lost the will to expand their minds. Yes, training takes time and if it’s not done well then a full To Do list swamps learning when people get back to their desks. But the right management training creates a step change in both skills and morale.
Feedback & coaching
This is more about what you do 1-2-1 with team members and can be better tailored to each individual. If there’s one key principle to adopt here it’s to make this timely, positive and universal. There’s real power in telling someone straight after a meeting that you liked the way you approached subject X and you’d love to see them do more of it. Or if something didn’t go so well you could ask how they might deal with it differently next time. The universal bit is about building coaching and feedback into how you all do business and not leaving it just to you as the team leader. Feedback from people you work with daily can be just as motivational and often less daunting than hearing it from the big bad boss!
Motivating team comms
It wasn’t so long ago that this point mainly referred to team meetings. In some cases it still does, but it’s often supplemented by virtual meetings or WhatsApp chats. The multiple channel approach gives different personalities the chance to engage on a platform that works best for them. The important thing for a leader is to communicate consistent goals, celebrate successes and keep an eye out for team well-being. Often that is easiest done face to face, but the range of other platforms gives you the chance to check in more frequently.
Individual KPIs (Key Performance Indicators)
Everyone in your team will have goals that are personal to them. It’s quite likely that they’ll also play a part in team goals. When it comes to building a brilliant team, it’s crucial that team leaders ensure individual goals add up to their own and will guarantee hitting the company budget. They also need to be consistent across teams so people are pulling in the same direction. You can target finance on reducing payment terms but that’s not consistent with your marketing team expanding their supplier base to drive product innovation. There’s a fine balance in how people are rewarded on personal versus team goals. A hybrid is often best but you’ll need to make a call on the right balance for your organisation.
Always be on the lookout for talent
There’s a good comparison between building a brilliant team and building a sports team. You don’t see top football clubs have one of their players leave before scrabbling around for a replacement. Gaps in team performance skills are identified long in advance, and there’s a whole system of academy development and player recruitment in place before the gap appears. Too often businesses are constrained by headcount and miss the opportunity of bringing on board an individual with great potential. This agility is one way in which small businesses can often out-perform larger teams.
Manage poor performance
We deliberately left this one until last as it’s maybe the least obvious. Yet how a leader manages poor performance usually shows up in the top three requirements their team have of them. As a leader you’re invested in each of your team and you often know the nuances around each person’s results. Yet your team just see someone who’s not delivering and expect you to act. If they are putting in 100% and hitting their KPIs then it’s hugely demotivating to see a peer who’s not doing the same. It’s a tricky balance for a manager but a crucial thing to get right.
This is quite a demanding list of things to achieve when building a brilliant team! If you’d like to talk about how you or your team can tick more of these boxes then get in touch with us and let’s chat.
Although these tips are not specific to 2024 our best wishes for you are. Everyone at Sales: Untangled wishes you a happy and successful new year!