How to Keep Your Team Rowing in the Right Direction

keeping your team rowing in the right direction

A successful small business can be compared to a successful crew team. In this sport, eight athletes work together with the sole goal of going fast. Yet each seat is filled strategically with an athlete who can perform a specific task. Some are responsible for setting the pace of the boat while others are in charge of steering or creating traction in the water.

While your team at work may have more or less than eight individuals, the varied tasks of each member are comparable. You’ll have teammates who are careful and conscientious with each task as well as those who are the big-picture thinkers. You’ll have natural group collaborators and heads-down workers who keep speed and efficiency top of mind. The key to thriving as a business is ensuring everyone on the team is proceeding with the same goal in view.

This is easier said than done because some individuals may be self-motivated than others. This is where territorialism enters the picture, as teammates begin fighting for approval and gossiping about other co-workers. Avoiding this situation can be tricky, particularly in remote or hybrid workplaces, but it is possible. Below are three tips to help keep your small business team rowing in the right direction no matter what obstacles you may face.

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1. Create Synergy and Alignment

First and foremost, a strong team is synergistic and aligned. Synergy is a component of teamwork, emphasizing how members work with each other. A synergistic team will predict and anticipate the next step, moving smoothly ahead. Synergy leads to better performance and overall better teamwork.

Correlated with synergy is strategic alignment, which helps ensure that all team members are working together toward the same common purpose. Ideally, this comes from the top down, with the CEO communicating the vision to all employees. Everyone on the team is focused on the same goal and understands the why and how of achieving it. With this, employees know that their work is making a difference for the company overall. Employee engagement improves as they now know how their day-to-day tasks ladder up to achieving the company’s main goals.

A core component of synergy and strategic alignment is trust. Establishing trust among the team ensures everyone feels comfortable and open to sharing. It encourages and fosters collaboration as well as innovation. A great way to create a trusting environment is through team-building activities, such as a team golf outing or a volunteer opportunity. Trust doesn’t happen overnight, but building it over time will enable synergy and alignment.

2. Open Communication

Communication is essential to any team’s success since, without it, individuals become siloed and are unable to learn from one another. Teammates may get irritated that another member can’t read their mind and anticipate their expectations. Open communication prevents this. It also enables all employees, regardless of their background or title, to initiate conversations and spark new ideas. It helps the company move forward, instilling a sense of ownership among teammates and encouraging them to work hard together.

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Open communication includes having regular check-ins with individual team members and the entire team. Each check-in should have a framework or agenda so employees know what to expect. For one-on-ones, individuals should feel comfortable discussing any challenges they’re facing. It may be the amount of work in their queue or difficulties collaborating with another team member. Team meetings should focus on items that will impact the entire team, such as new processes or deadline goals.

How can you best facilitate open communication? By listening. Give your employees the time and space to respond rather than rush from one meeting agenda point to the next. Ask them outright how their workload is or how they would go about resolving an issue with another department. This type of dialogue shows that you want to hear from them and value their opinions.

3. Hire Smartly

Lastly, rowing together in the same direction starts with who is on your team. As a small business, it can be easy to fill your team with individuals who have the most impressive resumes. While these employees may be the most highly credentialed, they may not have the soft skills your team needs.

Hiring smartly means looking beyond just prior education and job experience when filling open roles. You will want to consider if an individual will be a culture fit or a culture add. A culture fit is someone who will slide right into the company with little or no change. They have the background to do the job and get it done well. Their values match those of the company, and they don’t question how things are typically done — they literally fit right in!

A culture add, on the other hand, is someone who will move the company forward by bringing something new to the mix. They may come from a diverse background or have experience from a completely different industry. Their past learnings will provide fresh perspectives, and their questioning of how things are done could spark changes for the better. There are different benefits of hiring a culture fit or a culture add. Just know what your team needs before sending out an offer letter.

Smoothing the Waters

Keeping your team moving forward together isn’t always easy. The waters can get murky at times, and there may be hazards ahead. But with these tips in mind, you and your team can carry on smoothly, keeping the main goal in sight.

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Larry Alton Larry Alton is an independent business consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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