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What it Takes to Develop a High-Performing Team

Our recent post about systems should have your gears turning already, but for your business to truly thrive, the best-designed systems alone won’t suffice.

You need people. But not just any people: You need a high-performing team. The kind of team that makes your systems—and your business—really work.

Think of any highly-structured, perhaps overly-bureaucratic government agency and ask yourself if you’d consider them a high-performing team. No? Of course not. That’s because simply placing a group of people in the same building won’t automatically produce a team with a shared purpose. They might have clarity about the steps that they need to follow in carrying out their functions, but that’s not all that leads to outstanding results.

At the same time, creating a Vision for your business that works, setting a clear strategy for what it’s going to take to get there, and creating the systems by which you’ll operate, while essential, only gets you so far. Because you can’t execute it all on your own and if you tried, you’d never leave the office.

When the right people—your people—leverage your systems to produce consistent, remarkable results that express your Vision, you wind up with a business that can operate self-sufficiently without your direct involvement. And a business that can operate without you is key to creating the freedom you’re looking for in your life. If you’re like most business owners we work with, that freedom is one of the main reasons—if not the reason—that you started your business in the first place.

So how exactly do you build the team that’s going to leverage your carefully crafted systems to produce these exceptional results?

As long as the solutions are placed on top of a shaky foundation without a real Vision or clear Values, they’re bound to fail. Your Vision will provide your people with a clear picture of what you’re setting out to accomplish and the impact you want to have. Your Values establish the standards by which you expect your people to operate. What will set your business apart from your competition is a Vision that serves both your customer and your life, backed by Values that define your company’s way we do it here.

Four Key Principles

Here are four simple but powerful principles to keep in mind as you set out to create and support a high-performing team:

1. Organize your business around functions, not people.

There’s a critical distinction between creating positions for people to fill and finding people to fill positions. People—and their unique skill sets—come and go. When your company is organized around people, your business becomes dependent on the skills of the people you’ve got, for better or worse. But when you create an Organization Chart around positions and the specific result each one is intended to produce, you can navigate employee transitions with ease—not to mention the clarity it creates for your team!

When thinking about the necessary positions for your team, it’s critical that you start with your Vision, and not with the existing set of positions on your Organization Chart of today. If a result (like ensuring the accuracy of financial records and reports) is needed to realize your Vision, that’s an indication that a position on your Organization Chart is needed. If you identify work happening that’s extraneous to your Vision, it’s also likely that it’s a waste of your resources. Every position starts and ends with how it helps bring your Vision to life. Nothing missing, nothing extra.

2. Standards set your bar.

Systems provide employees with the step-by-step processes for doing the work required to produce results. On the other hand, company-wide and position-specific standards create clarity about the way work is performed. Standards ensure that the work gets done according to your Values, particularly when you’re not personally there to manage the result. If in your business “all employees will document the processes of their work in an action plan,” then any time a Customer Service Rep gets a call that requires a unique response they will note the question and how it was handled for future employees to learn from. Your IT Support person will record the steps taken to troubleshoot a computer issue in a way that allows other people on the team to reference their flow and possibly solve their next issue themselves. Your HR Manager would ensure that every hiring process follows the same steps, same questions, and same documentation to ensure every candidate has an equal opportunity to be considered for the position. So systems and standards work hand in hand. The systems create consistent results, and standards ensure those results are consistent with the way you want your customers treated and your employees to behave.

3. Hire the right people.

Every business owner knows that hiring decisions are among the most important, consequential, and challenging decisions you can make. They’re also among the most painful and costly when you miss the mark. Setting a way we do it here in hiring and recruiting should increase your chances of finding people that are the right fit and will make a meaningful impact in your business. Your advantage will come from the clarity that you bring to who you are at your core. Why does your business exist? What is the Vision you’ve created for where you’re going? What are your shared Values? When you seek to create a team that represents diversity in thinking and is also rallied around a shared love of your Vision and Values, you end up with the ingredients for a strong team—one that will serve each other, your customers, and the business well.

4. Investment goes both ways.

Every business owner wants employees who are committed to the company’s purpose, and who also see your business as a vehicle for their own growth and for creating the impact they want to have in the world. But expecting a sustained investment from your team without making an investment in them is like a farmer planting no seeds and staring at the ground waiting for the crops to come. Investment in your employees is about truly getting to know what matters to them, and then showing them how their actions are serving that purpose, or not. What do they want their work and their life to be about? What impact are they trying to have? Reflect to them the times when their work is connecting to their purpose, and provide guidance when a behavior or limiting belief is getting in the way.

Becoming a true entrepreneur means designing and building your business in a way that it can grow to function and thrive without you. Your high-performing team is your assurance that your business will operate the way you want it to today, and continue to produce outstanding results that reflect your Vision long after you’re out of the day-to-day picture. Most business owners find building that team a complex process that takes not only time and dedication, but also a willingness to learn, grow, and course-correct along the way. But letting your employees feel your investment in them while also providing standards that ensure a consistent way we do it here will make creating your high-performing team some of the most rewarding work you’ll ever do.

Topics: Managing Employees, Company Culture, Management

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Martin Kamenski

Written by Martin Kamenski

Martin is our President and CEO. He's a CPA and former business owner whose passion for small business began with childhood memories of Al’s Carpet Cleaning—his grandfather’s business. Martin writes about leadership, strategy, finance, and entrepreneurship.

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