Every business is different yet in my experience, we all have the desire to have a team who love their work, and are passionate about the business they work in. While this can feel like an impossible dream at times, it is possible to create this but it takes time and ongoing application of our leadership abilities. The anchor of this is ensuring the right team culture.
Building a strong, empowered and empowering team culture cannot be delegated. Culture is the responsibility of the business leader. Creating the right one takes conscious effort and time to create. It also needs ongoing nurturing. In my experience these three steps form the basis of the right culture, and a workforce that you want to work with and who wants to work with you.
Build team unity
The starting point of a cohesive team that knows where it is going and why is a strong vision statement. One that is meaningful and inspiring for every team member. This is the glue that sticks a team together. This vision helps to build unity and break barriers between people.
Take time to polish your vision. Make it clear, simple and inspiring. Share this, the mission (how) and the most important strategic objectives. This sharing can open the doors of understanding and if questioning is permitted, allows team members to feel included and meaningful. Ongoing information-sharing is vital in creating an empowered team structure. I find that regular vision sessions are best held quarterly, with a full annual progress review and update.
Teamwork exercise: Annual: Bring everyone together to go through the vision. Ideally start with an exercise to develop and clarify individual personal vision; the 7 areas of life is a good one to start with. Rate your satisfaction in each area and set goals to improve it.
Then using a participlan (sticky note) method ask everyone to share how they can contribute to this vision and how the company can improve on achieving this vision. The sticky note/ written answers allow each person to have an equal voice and is very important in building the team cohesion, sense of personal ownership and individual accountability.
Weekly: Hold team sessions where each team member is invited to thank/ ‘shout out’ to one another when good work was done. This recognition is a powerful tool for unity and respect.
Remember that everyone – from the lowest worker, to the company director needs to feel seen. This is a turning point for building an empowered, engaged workforce.
Clear roles and responsibilities
A clear job description with expectations is critical to the efficient running of the business. People need to know what they are to do, when, where and how. They also need to know how this job fits into the achievement of the company vision. Remember that if you are confused/unsure about this, they will be too.
Teamwork exercise: Run a team session asking people to plot on a board where they fit into the organisation. Who do they serve? Who serves them? How does their work contribute to the success of the business? Where are they in the chain of events? Open a discussion on how this could be improved and be open to both praise and criticism. This exercise will build team cohesion, increase personal ownership of tasks and improve individual accountability.
I find that the mistake leaders make is to assume that everyone knows what is expected of them. In reality, often, people don’t understand where they are going wrong at all. They know that something is wrong, but they don’t know what, or how to fix it and can become disengaged as a result. Quarterly performance reviews bring transparent, adult conversations into the business and help build an empowered team.
We have found in our team that while most people are fearful of performance reviews, they prefer a critical review if it gives specific reasons and methods for improvement. For this reason, reviews work best if they give a balance of praise/what was good and criticism/what needs improvement. It’s essential to include specific guidelines and steps on how and where to improve. In a flatter structure these can become 360 reviews, where employees review and advise each other, but to start with, just get the process going.
Teamwork exercise: Invite staff to make suggestions on how the performance review process can be improved. Role play the process of being the reviewer/the reviewed and then share the results. Let everyone experience what it feels like and become more comfortable with the positive impact that reviews can play. Then get them done!
In conclusion, an empowered, united and inspired workforce is a delight. It makes work a place where you, and those around you feel able to give of your best and feel part of a team that is making a difference. It is the heart of your company, and just like your own beating heart – is worth nurturing, feeding and exercising.