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Team Development – The Second Pillar!

November 2, 2015

This past summer, I began a series of posts aimed at giving business owners what I believe are the four pillars of success. Business management was the foundation of the four. You can read the post here. It focused on the following areas:
•Incentive programs
•Quality management
•Tracking results
•Your scorecard goals
•Executing your business plan
•Developing your leaders
•Does your team, group or company know your vision?
•Do you create a high performing environment?
•Do you know your market? Your challenges? Your SWOT?
•Do you manage the agreements you have with you B2B partners?

If success in a business rises and falls on one’s business management acumen, everything in the middle depends on your team! Your team of highly trained ninjas are your brand. You can have the fanciest logo, catchiest slogan. But, if your team can’t deliver on those promises, you’re done.

I have the pleasure of working with 44 independent contractors. All of which employ at least three and sometimes nine people. It’s an awesome group of highly talented agents and team members. In my seven years of leadership and working with these agencies, the common thread of success or failure is the team that’s in place.

Great teams? Got ’em. Ok teams? Got ’em. Teams that need improvement? Got ’em. Which team do you have? My style is to help my business owners identify which teams they have and put things in place to move them to or maintain them at the next level.

Great teams…why or how did that happen? Simple answer…recruiting. We’re all in the talent management business. Most of the time, they hired the best person for the job. Not the last-minute, desperation hire. The owners were good at anticipating their staffing needs well before they had them. They are typically over staffed. As everyone knows, anything can happen at any time. Relocations, medical issues, out-of-the-blue wild and crazy issues…it happens. And the companies that are staffed properly never miss a beat.

But still…why a great team? If recruiting was the first step, what happened after that? Another simple answer…leadership. Their boss, or business owner, took the time to lead them through the on boarding, training, customer experience and training processes. They motivated them to do better than they thought they could do. They took bullets for them and ushered them through tough times. They created a positive and energetic environment. One that was absent of cynicism, negativity and focus on what they can’t do. But, what they CAN do.

Are you that type of leader? What’s the culture in your office or company? Because, as the leader, you have 100% control of that culture. Own it. Everything rises and falls on your backs. It’s not someone else’s fault. Or the company’s fault. Or the customer’s fault. In every good AND bad situation, you have a role in the outcome.

“Ok” teams…what does that look like? I would respond to that question by asking a few more questions. What are your business results? Are you meeting your goals/targets? Are you ok with being average in your industry? Do you reward mediocrity every two weeks? But wait…it’s not their fault! Maybe short term it is. Maybe you’ve just cleaned house and hired a new team. Marginal results will occur. But, if you’ve been marginal for the long-term, I’ll ask what you’ve done to develop them? Do you foster or encourage development? Do you train them? Motivate them? Reward them? Send them to seminars to be better at your trade/craft? Do you invest in them? If you haven’t done much around those areas, then you probably have an “ok” team. You may even have a team that needs some improvement.

Here’s the catch 22 of all of this. A team is only as good as the leader’s desired level of success! If you’re content with being average, there’s a good chance that your team will be that way too. If you’re content with being at the bottom of your organization’s list, then good chance your team is too.

Teams that need major improvements are absent all of the above. Typically, no strong leadership from the top. Zero investment in team development. Disengagement from direct supervisors. Zero accountability for activities in the agency. Zero measurements of leading indicators or practices. I’d call it being in cruise control, in a 35mph zone. But, the competition is doing 70mph!

“But wait, Jeff! I want to be at the top. I’m providing all of those things you mentioned above! I’m still not getting results! What’s the problem?!?”

I would go back to the very beginning…recruiting. If you’re doing all the good things above, and still not getting the results, you have the wrong people on the bus. Or your leadership style is not conducive to the industry you’re in. But, I’d bet the farm on it being the wrong people.

At the end of the day, team development comes down to:
•Recruiting the right talent
•Your leadership & vision
•Your investment in your people (time, training, talent management)
•Accountability measures – “The checker gets what the checker checks!” (couldn’t resist that time-told saying!)
•Addressing short-falls and making plans to correct
•Repeat 1-5!

I could spend a day on recruiting tips. Perhaps for another post sometime. If you have any specific questions or want to chat, drop me a note! I’d love to engage in conversation! Stay tuned for the 3rd pillar soon!

Jeff Brittain, Sales Leader

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