Coaching Your Dream Team
How to guide & develop a team that works together to achieve your business goals
Introduction: Building Your Dream Team Starts with You
“It goes without saying that no company, small or large, can win over the long run without energized employees who believe in the mission and understand how to achieve it.”
– Jack Welch
Many small business owners or entrepreneurs start their stories in the same way. They launch their business either alone or with a partner. As the fledgling company grows, they add team members. However, with a larger team of people, the entrepreneur needs to develop crucial skills for managing their new team effectively. And those are skills that don’t always come naturally to someone used to working on their own.
To start with, for your small business to grow and scale, you need to foster a culture of innovation and entrepreneurial thinking. Team members need to feel that they're an indispensable part of an organization that appreciates and supports them, and helps them grow. Assuming you have hired the right team members, it is up to you as the business owner to initiate this type of change. You are the leader and the change you seek in others must start with you.
Until recently, most companies were top-down organizations. Leadership, power, and authority were built on status, longevity, rank, or position. Orders were given and team members were expected to follow these orders to the best of their ability.
However, this is no longer the case. Today, leadership is established through integrity, professional reputation, the ability to effectively take action, communication, collaboration, and the ability to share.
Here are some of the key differences in how businesses and leaders acted in the past versus how they act today in order to optimize for growth, success, autonomy, and collaboration.
| In the past - Now
| Information hoarding or only sharing what’s essential - Open sharing of information
| Top down - Flat
| Telling people what to do - Trusting people to do what needs to be done
| A single leader or decider - Distributed leadership and decision making
| Centralized accountability - Shared accountability
| Assumed respect - Earned respect
| Prescriptive - Fluid
| Micromanaging - Leading by example
| Rigid - Flexible
| Exclusive - Inclusive
Another way to grasp this idea fully is to look at the 3 main types of
leadership as outlined by psychologist Kurt Lewin in 1939:
His research led him to these three leadership types decades ago, but they still hold true today.
Authoritarian Leaders: Authoritarian leaders command and control. They give explicit expectations for what, when, and how work gets done. They establish a clear line between leader and employee. With authoritarian leaders, decisions come from the top and are carried out by team members.
Authoritarian leaders are often seen as controlling and bossy. This approach leads to less creativity and engagement from team members. It is best for situations where quick decisions and actions are required, but when used at the wrong time, they can stifle creativity and create dysfunction.
Democratic Leaders: A democratic leader for the most part offers guidance only and lets team members provide input for decisions. Compared to the authoritarian approach, this approach fosters more engagement, motivation, and creativity from team members. Everyone feels like they are a valued member, and are therefore more invested in getting results.
Laissez-faire Leaders: A laissez-faire leader offers little or no guidance, leaving all decision-making up to employees. This is the best approach to take when your team members are highly skilled experts whose judgement you are relying on. The downside of this approach is that it can lead to lack of motivation and confusion regarding individual members' roles. As a worst case scenario, it can lead to a lack of direction, blaming, lack of accountability, and reduced quality of work.
For small businesses or entrepreneurs, it's best to adopt a democratic leadership style. You may employ the other styles at certain times as needed. The laissez-faire approach is good for certain situations and the authoritarian approach can be adopted for decisions that need to be made urgently and where creativity is not essential.
In addition to your leadership style, you also need to consider your mindset. Mindset will exert a powerful influence on your team members' creativity and innovation. Your leadership approach and mindset could be prohibiting or limiting this creativity. You can easily send messages subconsciously that come from your mindset.
Generally speaking, here are some behaviors you should try to further develop in yourself. They will help overall with directing your team.
Adopt Innovative and Entrepreneurial Mindsets
Be Positive: Do you frame things in a positive light? Positivity means positioning things for growth and opportunity, rather than focusing on negatives like fear, frustration, or failure. This should be reflected in both how you think and how you speak. This doesn't mean sugar-coating things or denying the reality of a situation; it just means framing things in a certain way.
For example, you may have had a strategy to grow your business in the government sector that didn't turn out to be as successful as you had planned. When speaking to your team, you might frame it this way:
"We wanted to grow our business in the government sector by 10%. There were some setbacks early on and, although we only grew it by 5%, we have another large account in the private sector that is adding 10% to our overall growth. We learned a number of valuable lessons along the way and now we're reformulating our approach for the New Year. Congratulations to Jason and Mary for working so hard on this."
Accept Failure: If you want your team members to innovate and try new things, there will be failures and mistakes along the way. You need to be accepting of failure, and this will rub off on your team members too.
In the example above, there is no blaming, criticizing, or chastising anyone for not meeting the target. The effort failed and that's fine and we're moving on. The failure is acknowledged, but the leader is looking at the positives and already has his or her eye on the next effort. Within reason, your team members are allowed to fail, so long as they learn from it.
Delegate: If you're the type of entrepreneur who likes to do everything yourself, this is a habit you need to break. You need to get comfortable with delegating work to others because you can't do it all. If you're trying to control or micromanage all aspects of your company, you can't foster the creative and innovative spirit you need, and your business will stagnate.
Embrace Learning: A good team leader has a love of learning and fosters this among team members. There are always things to learn in business, and your ability to learn and master new things is essential to your business's success. Take every opportunity to learn, foster a love of learning, and take time to reflect on how you can do things better.
Be Flexible: Be ready to adapt to shifts in the environment. Things are always changing in the business world. Continuous change is one of the only constants. Always be willing to try new ways of doing things and your team members will feel the same way.
Master Communication Skills that Foster Collaboration and Innovation
Communicate by Listening: Whenever communicating with team members, listen more and talk less. If you're dominating conversations in team meetings, this is a sure sign that you're not getting the input you need to move ahead. Hold conversations where you're asking questions and mostly listening to your team’s answers.
Be Approachable: Do your team members feel comfortable sharing their ideas, concerns, and goals with you? If they are, this is a sign that you're approachable. If not, you need to make yourself more available and let your team members know that you're there for them. This is especially important during team meetings.
Share Information: Do you keep your team members up to date on what's going on with your business? Do they understand your vision for your business? Do they know what your specific goals are?
It sounds simple, but we often forget to tell our team members what we're working towards. Situations change, so unless you're deliberately making an effort to share information with your team members, they're not likely to know what they need to know.
Plan to have regularly scheduled meetings that are attended by all team members where you clearly share your vision, values, and specific goals for the business. Encourage team members to contribute their own observations of what’s going on in the business, and make the meetings casual. Rather than a formal meeting, hold a lunch meeting or afternoon coffee break. Keep it light-hearted and be sure to include all remote team members as well.
By the time you complete this course, you will be able to:
- Adopt a leadership style that encourages your team to think independently, to always look for new solutions, and to work collaboratively. The way you lead your team is your first step in being able to escape the trap of constant supervision
- Foster a culture of collaboration and innovative thinking among your team members, so that you don’t have to be the only one solving problems. You can benefit from the valuable input of your whole team instead.
- Motivate your team to be self-directed in their learning and achievements, so that your team members can always be adding value while expanding their skills.
- Use proven coaching techniques to guide your team towards achieving your business goals
- What type of leader are you? Complete the included PDF quiz to find out if you are an authoritarian, democratic, or laissez-faire leader. There are no right or wrong answers. This is just a way for you to identify simple ways you can shift your leadership to foster more collaboration.
- Review the results of your leadership style quiz. Were there any statements that surprised you? Brainstorm actions you can take in the future to overcome that behavior or mindset.
- From the leadership comparison table earlier in this module, what are 3 areas that you can work on from the NOW column? Create an action for each.
- From the section on Entrepreneurial and Innovative Mindsets, rate yourself from 1-3 on each, and identify a way you can improve in those you scored 1 on.
- Communicating - Similarly, rate yourself 1-3 on some of the communication attributes. For those areas you scored a 1, identify a way you can improve