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Building a strong, loyal team that works hard and enjoys what they do is a product of four factors: Corporate Culture, Leadership, Communication and Rewards.

Building Winning TeamsThe people you employ contribute – directly or indirectly – on a daily basis to the strength and vitality of your business. You can’t run your business alone, so you rely on their skills and support.

Your employees help you to make money.

But your employees are not just the people who arrive at your office every day and exchange effort for a paycheck. Their role is not just to build capacity and sell more or serve more.

Your employees are part of a potentially powerful group of people that you can leverage to put your business on the fast track to success. Your staff is more than the people who work for you. They are actually members of your team – the group of people who are collectively working to achieve the same objective, or reach the same vision.

I say they are more than just employees because their collective, cohesive value is actually much higher than their individual worth.

We all know that more people working on the same task will ensure the task is completed faster. In business, when you have more people working together on the same task, you save time, increase brainpower, and ultimately, make more money.

Here is how you optimize each area of your business to support an effective group of employees:

1. Create a corporate culture statement that is consistent with your vision statement.

Corporate Culture has become a common buzzword when it comes to building a successful business, and rightly so.

Your corporate culture is the environment in which you run your business, and the environment in which your team members work. It is rooted in the vision, mission and beliefs of the organization, and dictates the “kind of office” and “kind of people” that work in that office.

Corporate culture is something that typically develops organically. The business owner and senior employees create a positive or negative environment based solely on who they are as people and how they behave as leaders. You simply can’t avoid creating some type of corporate culture when you run a business.

You can, however, avoid creating a negative or unproductive corporate culture. Whether you are just starting out, or seeking to improve your workplace, you do have control over the type of environment in which you run you business.

Much like every family has their own belief system and way of doing things – from cooking to cleaning to raising kids – every company has their own set of values when it comes to running a business. It reflects the unique personality of the organization.

Your culture or values statement describes how you and your staff will go about achieving your vision.

Sample Culture Statement | Johnson & Johnson Canada

Our Culture

  • Values-based leadership. Our Credo outlines the values that provide the foundation of how we act as a corporation and as individual employees so that we continue to put the needs of the people we serve first.
  • Diversity. It’s our individual differences that make us stronger as a whole. We recognize the strength and value that comes when collaborative relationships are built between people of different ages, race, gender, religion, nationality, sexual orientation, physical ability, thinking style, personal backgrounds and all other attributes that make each person unique.
  • Innovation. True innovation can only be fostered within a supportive environment that values calculated risk in order to achieve the maximum reward. At Johnson & Johnson Inc., we encourage and reward innovative thinking, innovative solutions and an innovative approach in all that we do.
  • Passion. The deep desire to enrich people’s lives – by delivering quality products and remarkable experiences that make their lives easier, healthier and more joyful.
  • Collaboration. The unwavering belief that great results depend on the ability to create trusting relationships.
  • Courage. The fearless pursuit of the unproven, unknown possibility – the willingness to take great risks for the benefit of the greater good.

Here’s how you can create a culture or values statement for your company:

a. Brainstorm your company’s values.

Get your team involved. Hold a team meeting with the sole purpose of brainstorming the company’s values and beliefs. Put your vision statement somewhere clearly visible so everyone is reminded of where the company wishes to go.

It can be helpful to think about the type of people you currently employ, as well as the ones you may wish to employ. What are they like? What are their belief systems? What are their most important values? Make sure someone takes good notes, or draw on a whiteboard and then take a digital photo of the mind map.

b. Identify common themes.

From your brainstorming, pick out the common themes. This could be the top five values that emerged or the words that came up most often. Create a point-form document, with notes under each theme.

For example, themes could be environmental responsibility, passion, encouragement, excellence, etc.

c. Describe what each of those themes means in terms of business operations.

Once you have decided what the core themes -or values – are, then use a sentence or two to describe what the themes mean to the company. Does it describe a commitment, or a way of being? A change or a goal? You can model your document after the sample culture or values statement above, or look for other sample culture statements online.

When you have finished creating the document, it may be up to a page long. Make sure everyone agrees or resonates with what was written, and then publish the statement. Let your customers and vendors see it; post it online, and in a clearly visible location in your business.

2. Next, identify your team leaders, and make sure they have the resources they need to be effective managers.

The strength of a team lies in the strength of the people who lead it. No group of people is effective without strong leadership, just like no business is effective without a strong owner or management team.

Building a strong team means knowing who your leaders are – both in job description and natural ability.

Understanding the strength of your natural leaders and the skills of your natural followers will allow you to strategically structure your team for maximum effectiveness and efficiency. It will give you insight into who is best suited for management promotions and project management; which team members have the ability to assemble and motivate their peers.

Your leaders need to have a high degree of passion for your product or service, and truly believe in the company’s vision. They need to be able to handle a high level of responsibility, and manage a range of people to achieve a common goal.

Your leaders are your team builders. They present new ideas, build consensus, and encourage the involvement of others. They also need to have your support – as the business owner – and the ability to access the resources and authority they need to perform their jobs to the best of their ability.

3. Optimize the flow of information within your business by establishing clear communication systems.

The only way to build and maintain a strong team is through strong, consistent communication. This is often an overlooked or neglected aspect of business management, and is easily forgotten during periods of high stress or heavy workload.

Avoid letting communication fall on the backburner by creating a regular meeting schedule – and sticking to it. Depending on the size and type of your business, daily, weekly, or monthly team meetings are an important cornerstone of a strong team.

Regularly scheduled team meetings are like Sunday dinners with a busy family. They give you – the owner – a regular forum with your staff to implement company-wide training initiatives, announce results, establish goals and targets, or share new visions or directions. They also give your staff a forum to share feedback and air grievances.

Team meetings need to be tightly run, and have a clear purpose, or they can easily become weekly time wasters. Here are some tips for running effective meetings:

a. Schedule the team meetings when everyone is available, and commit to it.

Scheduling is potentially the biggest challenge when trying to set up a team meeting. Often, all of your staff members are busy going in eight different directions to fulfill their roles and operating on dramatically different schedules.

This is one reason why regular team meetings are important. Ad hoc meetings require ad hoc scheduling, and reduce the likelihood that all your team members will be able to attend.

Ask your team to block off one hour (or two) each week (or month) for the team meeting in a time slot that is convenient for everyone. Establish a clear attendance expectation from everyone. This will exclude that time slot from the scheduling of other meetings and avoid conflict.

If you find that a team meeting is not necessary one week, you can always cancel it.

b. Be clear about the purpose for each and every meeting.

Each team meeting should have a purpose and clear objectives. Is it to educate? Build consensus? Gather feedback?

Once you have established a purpose for a particular meeting, send an agenda to your staff confirming the meeting and outlining your objectives. This is a good time to ask if anyone has a subject they would like to raise at the meeting.

If you find you do not have a clear purpose or objective, ask yourself if a team meeting is the best use of time for that week and consider postponing it to the next regularly scheduled time slot.

c. Make sure every moment of the meeting is planned, or is related to the purpose.

The biggest complaint from employees about team meetings is the length. Too often team meetings run out of control, and end up taking three hours instead of one. You will quickly lose team focus and respect for the regular meeting this way. By establishing a clear agenda and staying on topic, you can run an efficient, succinct meeting.

Your detailed agenda should include:

  1. meeting purpose or objective
  2. list of topics and associated speakers
  3. list of decisions that need to be made/agreed to
  4. time allocation for each topic
  5. opportunity for additional topics at the end

Circulate your draft agenda in advance of the meeting, and request input and feedback. When all team members have reviewed and contributed to the agenda, you will increase their level of ownership and buy-in into the process.

d. Your team meeting should have a single chairman, or leader.

Choose one person to chair the meeting and keep it on track. This is generally the business owner, or a senior member of the team with some authority over junior staff and a high level of respect.

It is the responsibility of the facilitator – or chairperson – to create an environment of open dialogue and trust, and to keep the meeting on schedule.

e. If you are discussing action items, make sure to create a follow up schedule.

Assign the task of taking detailed meeting minutes to a team member – or rotate this responsibility on a regular basis. It is important to record what happens in team meetings, just as you would in a client-related business meeting.

Make sure that these responsibilities are assigned and agreed upon in the meeting, and clear deadlines are established. Reviewing or following up on this chart can serve as a regular topic during team meetings.

Circulate meeting minutes to all attendees and ask for input or revisions. You may wish to circulate meeting minutes with the agenda for the next team meeting, and gather feedback at the same time.

4. Offer your employees rewards for a job well done. Use both verbal and financial motivators and incentives.

A big challenge in team building is coming up with new ways to foster and maintain a high level of motivation. How do you keep teams of people excited and driven to succeed over long periods of time? How do you keep your team motivated to improve their performance, and increase their achievements?

It is important to note that we’re not just talking about individuals, but teams of people working together. It is fairly simple to motivate a single person, but an entire team of motivated people will generate significantly higher results.

The key here is to give incentives for individual and team accomplishments. Incentives that reward based on collective achievement require people to work together and motivate each other to succeed.

Before we start talking about monetary and incentive-based rewards, it’s important to look at motivational factors that are not incentive-driven.

a. Make sure to display clear confidence in your staff’s ability, and give them room to work unsupervised where possible.

Employees who feel their managers and supervisors believe and trust in their abilities are happier and will always perform at a higher level than those who do not. They are motivated to “prove them right” and feel supported in their efforts.

Micromanagement quickly reduces morale. It is essential that you and your managers clearly express confidence in your team members. You hired them to do a job, perform a role, so you must ensure they have the space to do so.

When you put effective systems in place and establish clear expectations, you create a clear context or boundary system for employees to work within. They understand the decision-making hierarchy, and the general way ‘things are done around here.’

Your team should be encouraged to take initiative and to take risks within this context. You have hired your team based on their skills and intellectual capabilities, and thus should be able to trust in their choices and decision making abilities.

b. Set up a system that rewards performance, and provides incentives for reaching milestones or targets.

Incentives are great motivators. An incentive is a reason to perform or act in a certain way. For example, if your team increases sales by 40% by month’s end, they will be treated to an expensive dinner.

Incentives need to be specific and have deadlines in order to be effective. In the example above, sales need to increase by 40% by the end of the month in order for the team to receive their dinner. If sales only increase by 30%, or if they increase by 40% at the end of the second month, the team does not earn their reward.

Time-specific incentives increase the sense of urgency, and encourage staff to work harder to achieve the objective. If the incentive is not time-bound, there is no reason to work faster or harder, since staff will assume they will reach their milestone “eventually.”

Rarity is also a key component of effective incentive-based team building. If the reward is ongoing (i.e., if staff receive an expensive dinner every month sales are over $75,000), then “there’s always next time.” There is a lesser incentive to push performance to receive the reward. Some team members may care one month, but not the next.

It’s up to you how you choose to structure your monetary incentives, based on your budget and resources. Remember to ensure that the terms of each incentive are clearly outlined, and that both parties (you and your employee) understand the agreement.

Monetary Incentives

  • Commissions
  • Bonuses for completing a challenging project, or hitting a target
  • Rewards for highest producing employee
  • Salary increases based on met targets

Gift rewards

  • Spa Gift Certificates
  • Books – consider motivational or business-related topics
  • CDs or DVDs
  • Meals – lunch or breakfast
  • Other gift certificates – gas, food, meals, local shops
  • Movie or theatre tickets
  • Weekend getaway – hotel, meals, etc.
  • Flowers
  • Gym Membership

Don’t overlook the value of company time spent enhancing your employees working environment, or their relationships with each other.

Team building is the final piece of the human resources puzzle – including recruitment, staff training, retention and professional development.

As I’ve said before, happy employees will work hard and be loyal to your business, which translates into more capital in your bottom line. You can achieve this many ways –  and it doesn’t have to cost you any money at all.

A huge part of your success as a business owner lies in your ability to manage and support the people who work for you. If this is difficult for you (and it is for many entrepreneurs!), make sure that you surround yourself with strong managers and motivators who can help cultivate a profitable team.

Until next time!

Greg Clowminzer

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