No matter how your business is set up, whether your footprint is regional or global, chances are we all face similar challenges – people challenges. In order to build a strong organizational structure or a company, you must focus on people. Focusing on product or processes will only work if you have your entire production fully automated and people don’t need to touch any part of it. No matter what level of automation you have in your company, chances are that you still hire people to oversee the technology. Let’s look at the core foundation of building a strong business or organization with a focus on team building.
- Make culture matter
Every company is different. For some, team relationships are the priority, for others, it’s the customer experience. It’s crucial that everyone who comes to the interview understands your culture and can align with it. Those who are part of your team must know, understand and act according to the values and company culture. In spite of all the articles out there discussing the importance of culture, it still amazes me how little emphasis some companies give to creating and communicating their values. As a leader, your team is a reflection of your leadership skills – be quick to call people out when they break or bend company values. Hold people accountable and be quick to take action if necessary.
- Make performance matter
Every company should have measurable standards they regularly check. What are the roles and responsibilities? What is expected from each individual on a team? What are the individual and team goals? What is considered a minimum requirement? What would exceptional performance look like? What is considered unacceptable? Without such standards, you leave it up to each individual to set their own requirements, which might be very different from what you envision. Don’t leave it to chance for people to know what is expected of them. Communicate it and check it. As Louis V. Gerstner, former CEO & Chairman of IBM famously said, “people don’t do what you expect, but what you inspect.” Be intentional about individual, team and company performance and you will see the improvement. Let it slide and you will regret it in the long run.
- Make teams matter
I strongly believe in teamwork. My best results were created in collaboration and partnership with others, never alone. When teams are healthy, work become easier, results are multiplied and people are well supported. To build healthy teams, you need to recognize great team players, their individual strengths; support team diversity and act quickly when there is drag or leak in values or performance. Teams are fluid. People change. As a leader, you must keep your finger on the pulse of your team. Know what challenges they are facing and understand when they need additional support or a break. Recognize that individual strengths change and grow – sometimes it’s a recalibration within the team that’s needed. Celebrate their victories. Be willing to take action when a specific team member drags the entire team down. Make teams in your organization matter.
- Make communication matter
It’s hard to be a part of the team when communication is broken. When people don’t have access to the necessary information or channels to request it, it can be extremely frustrating. Set standards in this area. How quickly should emails be answered? How quickly should the resources be provided? What is the standard you expect when it comes to customer relations? How are the meetings scheduled and who is invited? What happens when people don’t show up or don’t provide the information necessary? Communication is key. Your focus should be on its continuous improvement. Have standards in place and communicate them well. Resolve any challenges as quickly as possible. Small misunderstandings can turn into major conflicts when they aren’t discussed.
- Make relationships matter
People are complicated and unpredictable. They make mistakes, disappoint, underdeliver, frustrate and even betray you. Nobody is perfect, including you, which makes relationships challenging. Yet, good relationships make things so much easier. People will go above and beyond for those they have good relationships with. When you make relationships the focal point of your leadership, you will win this game. Know your people, get to understand their struggles, life situations, know what they care about and what motivates them. Great leaders don’t treat everyone the same. They treat people according to where they are and what their needs are. They build relationships with individuals and foster relationships on a team. On the other hand, leaders protect those relationships and act quickly when these relationships are threatened or start deteriorating. Cultivate a culture where people are free to be themselves and rewarded for supporting each other.
Silvia Pencak is the President of Women Business Enterprises Canada Council (WBE Canada), a Canadian nonprofit organization, dedicated to facilitating relationships between Canadian women-owned businesses and large corporate and government organizations across North America. WBE Canada promotes the economic advancement of Women Business Enterprises (WBEs). As a quality third-party certifying body of Canadian businesses that are 51 per cent owned, managed and operated by women, WBE Canada has been connecting them to large supply chains since 2009. To learn more about their initiatives, visit www.WBECanada.ca. You can connect with Silvia directly on Twitter @SilviaPencak.