Wednesday, August 2, 2023

7 Ways To Build A Team Culture For Today’s Challenges

happy-team-cultureEvery business team and leader is facing increased pressure and challenges from today’s flood of competitors and the global forces of change. It’s easy to lose your drive and jeopardize your health, or just settle for “business as usual” and jeopardize the long-term success of your business. Instead, now is the time to bolster your leadership skills while you still can.

In my experience as an executive and leadership consultant, I often get asked for practical guidance by leaders and entrepreneurs facing unanticipated challenges, now and in the future. Here is my summary of key strategies that I would recommend to every mature business leader as well as startup founders:

  1. Regular personal contact with every team member. Surviving tough challenges in business requires that you can count on the trust and respect of all key constituents. This requires a conversation that cannot be delegated and cannot be delivered second-hand or passed down the command chain. Don’t wait for people you need to come to you.

    Today’s move to a hybrid office environment, where many team members often work remotely, make this recommendation all the more important. For remote workers, personal contact may be accomplished via phone, versus face-to-face, initiated by you.

  2. Be the role model for positive and calm to your team. In the midst of chaos and tough business challenges, team members are naturally stressed and fearful. You must not forget to reiterate your strategy and vision, and be available for informal as well as formal discussions with the team. Don’t hesitate to directly address rumors and bad information.

    Body language is an important consideration for leaders and role models. People always watch carefully how you look and act, versus the words you use to convey a message. I recommend that you ask for help from a mentor to point out areas for improvement.

  3. Seek out unvarnished and even contrary perspectives. This is not the time to listen only to people who ignore the obvious, or seek to tell you only the positives. Be sure to evaluate the range of alternatives and negative implications, including impacts on future strategy and growth alternatives, before making decisions and implementing change.

    I often have to point out that some degree of conflict can be healthy in complex team environments. Your challenge is to manage the emotions in this activity, and filter out and communicate the pros and cons of all perspectives. Then move on to making decisions.

  4. Demonstrate empathy and actively solicit employee views. Employees need to feel heard and express their opinions, with minimum emotion on both sides. You will be surprised at the contributions that teams members can make, and they can be impressed with your ability to listen to both their personal concerns and business recommendations.

    Empathy requires that before you engage with a team member, you consider what you know about them. But keep in mind that your interpretation of another person's mood, behavior, or thinking will be influenced by your prior experience and unconscious bias.

  5. Take decisive action and communicate expectations. Demonstrate that you are willing to take a leadership role by your timely actions, as well as words. This inspires confidence, and team members will follow your example. Create action plans that involve everyone on the team to get maximum impact and buy-in to fixing problems at hand.

  6. Celebrate even small successes and reward contributors. Cultivate a team culture that thrives on progress and overcoming obstacles, and has no penalty for mistakes along the way. The best rewards usually involve only public recognition in front of peers, and don’t require large monetary budgets. Eliminate contention between related groups.

  7. Nurture your relationship with critical and loyal customers. You need to be working closely with your key customers, engaging them, and finding out what is going on in their world. Most importantly of all, become very clear on what your customers need from you. Don’t let business challenges affect your customer service or mood to the world.

When you face new challenges, I also recommend engaging with outside experts and consultants. Learning from your own mistakes is critical, but the cost in time and money is prohibitive in these times of accelerating change and new environments. In all cases, don’t let your ego and passion prevent you from reaching out to experts and your own team.

Marty Zwilling

*** First published on on 07/19/2023 ***



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