As a business owner, managing your team may be the most impactful and challenging task you face. Particularly as businesses grow, owners find it increasingly difficult to communicate with every client, approve every purchase and dictate every practice. In fact, your primary role becomes communicating your vision to your team and holding them accountable as they implement and enforce that vision in their various roles. Like all the other aspects of your business, success requires creating a system. So what should that system look like?
To manage your team effectively, you need to accomplish three key objectives, in sequence, over and over again.
- Definition of Expectations – First, create a clear job description. This can help reinforce your expectations in the job interview and onboarding process. It’s important to discuss not just performance expectations, but also intentions you have for attitude, participation, communication style and initiative. You must demonstrate your willingness to adhere to the same expectations while continuing to define goals with each new project and responsibility. These expectations should be agreed to and documented.
- Communication – Establish how you will communicate with your team, both as a group and individually, and create venues for formal and informal communication. Structure formal communication as regularly held meetings with the purpose of discussing new projects and initiatives and getting feedback from everyone impacted. You should also schedule one-on-one meetings with each of your team members on a quarterly or bi-annual basis. This will give them the opportunity to express concerns they may not feel comfortable raising in a group setting.
Communication offers a level of validation. It’s important for your team to feel that their role and their opinions are valued. By bringing your employees into the decision-making process, you give them a stake in the outcome and incentivise them to strive for success.
- Evaluation and Accountability – The final step is the most crucial and also the most difficult. Without holding people accountable, expectations and communication are meaningless. Many people in management positions shy away from holding their team accountable because it can be uncomfortable, confrontational and emotional. For these reasons, a system is essential. It should not feel personal. It’s about discussing expectations that were agreed upon and reviewing documented examples of meeting or not meeting those expectations.
To effectively evaluate your team and give feedback, you have to be willing to put yourself out there for evaluation and accountability as well. An annual team survey is a great way to accomplish this.
If you feel your systems for team management are not where they should be, reach out to your business advisor. From team structure and delegation to evaluation and team surveys, we’ve worked with business owners to develop the tools that make successful teams. We know business. We know your business. And, we’re here to help.
The Power of the Team Survey
If there’s one thing business owners shy away from more than holding their team accountable, it’s holding themselves accountable to their team. Many of us begin working for ourselves because we dislike the idea of having a boss. The truth is, you actually have many bosses: the people who work for you. Keeping them happy, motivated, and committed to your vision is a challenging task. To effectively enforce policies and coach your team, demonstrate that you hold yourself to the same standards you place on them.
How a Team Survey Benefits You
In an effort to hold yourself accountable with the most transparency, we recommend conducting an annual survey of your team. This is an invaluable opportunity for your employees to give feedback on your performance, business operations, the effectiveness of recent changes and areas for improvement. To get the most value out of this exercise, you need to guarantee confidentiality and anonymity.
Commit to communicating with your team what you learned from the process and what changes you plan to implement based on the feedback. There’s nothing more discouraging than being asked to spend time giving feedback, only to have that feedback be ignored.
Crafting Your Team Survey
So, how do you go about creating an effective team survey? First, you need to identify who will perform the survey on your behalf. In some situations, there may be a member of your team who has the credibility and professionalism needed. Since the information provided is often sensitive, this person can’t be seen as having any ulterior motives. Because of this, it may be helpful to enlist an impartial third party. Your business advisor is a great option for this role, as they have seen what works and what doesn’t inside dozens of other businesses.
Next, you need to craft the survey. Creating a valuable team survey is a delicate balance. You want to gather as much information as you can about the different aspects of your business, but you need to understand that you’ll get more participation and buy-in if you make it quick and easy to complete. You should also consider offering a small incentive for completing the survey.
As a general rule, a mix of multiple choice, ranking and short answer questions will give you the opportunity to gather data that’s easy to analyze and offers context and interpretation. Topics to touch on include: benefits, business goals, career development, communication, decision-making processes, culture, leadership and work environment. Your questions should be geared toward your goal of conducting the survey in the first place. What are you hoping to learn? What are you hoping to improve? What specifically about your role in the business do you need feedback on? Again, consulting with your business advisor will help you gain clarity and focus your efforts.
Once you’ve created your team survey, you should incorporate it into your exit interview process. When a team member is on their way out of the business, they are often willing to divulge information and opinions more forthrightly.
Analysing Your Team Survey
After the surveys have been conducted, you have a responsibility to analyse the responses mindfully and objectively. Don’t look at criticism as a personal attack on you or the business. These are suggestions made by the people closest to the issues — issues you may be removed from or are blind to. Take some time to consider the feedback, consult with others and design concrete programs to address what you feel is appropriate. Keep in mind, it is your business so not all suggestions will be feasible or agreeable. Make the moves that make sense for you, your business and your team.
Finally, hold a meeting to present the feedback and the way forward. This can be a powerful opportunity for you to demonstrate what your expectations are for yourself and the business as well as how the exercise has forced you to look at things you may have neglected. The meeting should be collaborative and may involve further exploration of possible solutions. It should also include acknowledgment and emphasis of the positive feedback.
Identifying weaknesses in yourself and your business is not a sign of weakness, but a demonstration of strength and confidence. You are strong enough to be presented critical feedback and confident enough to know your response will be effective. You are dedicated to making your business a success, you’re committed to creating a work environment that validates and rewards your team, and you strive to hold yourself accountable to the goals you set. Nothing demonstrates that better than conducting a regular team survey. If you need help getting started, get in touch with your business advisor.