In our last blog, we spoke about how to use good storytelling to communicate your business effectively.
This month, we’ve covered other business basics from developing your business plan, understanding your product-market fit, and design thinking. These are the topics that focus on developing your business and getting it off the ground.
The one thing we haven’t talked about is the actual human beings that are behind making this happen.
How do you actually develop a good team that’s going to be successful?
There are four parts to this: First, you need a clear, shared vision so that you’re all on the same page. Two, you need to know your strength and have the means to cultivate diversity. Three, you have to have a structure for expectations of decision-making. And four, you need a mechanism for a team bonding.
Let’s dive in more detail.
Clear, Shared Vision
We’ll dive into creating an effective vision and a blog on its own, but here are some basics to get the ball rolling.
First as a social entrepreneur, your vision is typically baked into what got you off the ground in the first place.
Social entrepreneurs usually have a very clear picture of who they’re trying to impact and what changed that impact will be. But as you develop this, make sure that you craft it in a way that sets the standard of excellence for your organization. It should really clarify your purpose and direction as a company and be something that reflects your organizational values.
It should answer the question, “what would the world look like if our company succeeded and the world no longer needed us?”
Now, you might’ve noticed, I said, you need a clear, shared vision. Because whatever team that you’re working with, you need to be able to rally behind a shared vision that resonates with the entire team.
It’s not just about you, but about everybody who’s coming together in order to affect this change.
Know your strengths and cultivate diversity
When you start off, take stock of all the strengths that you have as individuals within your team. You can perform a SWOT analysis. Basically understanding your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, as it pertains to the strengths that you have to begin with.
Part of this is understanding what your weaknesses are. For example, maybe you have great business skills and financial skills, but you have no marketing skills.
It will paint a picture of who you might need help from or areas that you might need to learn, then develop in order to succeed as a company, when you’re starting off, you want to make sure that you cultivate diversity within your team.
It’s very easy to find people in your peer group who, or brought up in a similar way, have a similar level of income and think similar to you. That’s not going to help you as a company. It’s going to lead to groupthink and a bias where you agree because you are similar in nature.
Try to find team members of diverse backgrounds, whether that’s a long race, gender, sexual orientation, age, or socioeconomic background. I.e., did you come from a wealthy middle class or low income background?
You’ll find with a diverse team that your life experiences will be much more rich. And while it might lead to more disagreement and conflict in the beginning, it will give you a much wider perspective of the human experience and allow you to serve people much more effectively.
2 Steps in Cultivating a Diverse Environment
The first step to cultivating a diverse environment is to make it open and welcoming. Set the tone for your company, that it’s okay to have different backgrounds, and you celebrate those differences. And make it so that it’s open and welcoming for people of whatever background you want to attract. The key is to have that curiosity to understand other people’s perspectives and have a safe space where people can share those perspectives without being judged.
And the second step to cultivating diversity is making people feel included and welcome. And one part of this is to understand everyone’s why. Why are they here? Why are they doing this work? Why are they joining you on this path?
People have different motivations. Sometimes they just need the money. Sometimes they really care about the impact that you’re making. Sometimes they want the community or to learn or to grow in a certain way.
Everyone’s different. But when you understand everyone’s why you can make sure that the job or role that they’re doing fulfills that why and helps them grow and develop in the future.
Creating a Structure for Expectations and Decision-making
Now, while you might celebrate diversity and accept different viewpoints, you still need to make decisions at the end of the day. As your team grows and gets larger, you need to have a clear structure in place, both for what is expected of each contributor and on the structure of how you make decisions for expectations if you have certain deadlines or objectives that need to be met.
Having those laid out in a clear plan so that everybody understands how they fit into that is going to help you succeed.
For a small team, quite often, making those decisions comes easy and you find a natural fit with who’s working on what. As that team grows, You might need to come together to share ideas and vote on the direction that you want to go on.
One thing that I’ve found is very important is making sure that everyone has the freedom to express their views. But then ultimately, come together and accept whatever decision you collectively make.
It’s important not to be tied to your own personal ideas so that you’re flexible to change and adapt to the new information that you get. You want an environment where you can make a quick decision, go out, test something. And if you fail, it’s okay. It’s not personal. You use that information to adapt a new approach.
When you’re making decisions, it’s important to have the psychological safety that everyone feels so that they can open up and share because of that creativity and vulnerability. That’s where new ideas emerge from new perspectives that might pave the way for something going forward.
But with part of that, you should have the expectation that you’re going to fail and that’s okay. It’s important to set that tone so people really understand that so that they can open up and add the most creativity to the business direction.
Have a Mechanism for Team Bonding
Part of people feeling safe is feeling like there’s a sense of camaraderie. I can’t underscore how important this is.
Make sure that whatever team you have set aside some time for deliberate team bonding means that you’re going to have fun together and incorporate some element of play.
Sometimes when you’re starting off with team bonding, you can start off with light, fun questions about what people like and what their passions are or hobbies are outside of work.
You can play games like charades or something else that’s silly and interesting, but gives you something common that you share.
As team bonding goes deeper, you can engage in things like personality tests, where you learn a little bit about each other to help everyone understand where everyone is coming from.
Even further down the rabbit hole, you can have your team build a life map of where they sit the life going and what their dreams are and share that with the group.
Typically, that’s not something you can start with, but it’s a very powerful exercise for a team. That’s gotten to know each other to really see what each other’s hopes and dreams are.
Before, when I said no, everybody’s why, that life map can be a clear guide to the why that people are trying to unfold in their lives, who they’re trying to become, what they want to experience and who they are as a person.
So there you go.
There are four clear components to developing a strong team. One, if you have a clear, shared vision and your strengths and a diverse group, you’re going to be making much better decisions.
If you have a structure for that, decision-making, then you’ll be able to do that more effectively. And people’s egos won’t get hurt when their idea fails or is discarded.
And as you have a mechanism for team bonding and you trust each other, even more, people will open up and be more vulnerable because they know that they can risk something without being punished for failing when they try.
But most of all, whatever you do, keep your business fun. Cheer life, after all. You don’t have to run a business just to get a paycheck; make it something that has to come alive and is enjoyable.
Not only will you want to show up to work, but you also will have more creativity and much better ideas when you’re having fun.