Don’t think twice about parting ways with the wrong staff

After rather more years than I care to remember in business, I find that I regularly have to stand back and refresh my learning. This is especially the case when I am taking stock, assessing what could we do better, re-assessing and re-evaluating problem areas.  

When I do that, I quite often find myself back on the net or head down in a book, reminding myself all over again of things that have slipped from the brain, worn away by running a business every day.

In the last couple of weeks, though, I have been soaking myself in golden rules for high-quality team building and performance. It’s very easy, when you’re busy, to become obsessed with bad performance and not go back and re-examine the basics. 

The internet is full of advice on building high-performance teams – much of it American – and if you watch too much of the high-velocity Americana on YouTube, it can get more than a little cringe worthy. 

Much is steeped in psychological terms and much is conflicting, all of which can get somewhat tiresome. I’m not sure which of us, as business people, sit back and ask ourselves if our sales teams are “storming” or “norming” today, however committed we are to team improvement. 

What we do know is the very real need for high-performing teams in every area if we want our businesses to grow.

I cannot argue with the basic premise that a team will outperform a group of equally talented individuals any day of the week. Nor can I disagree that groups of people do not equal teams. Looking at our own weakest area at the present time, that is exactly the issue.

While much is written about building individual teams, it is often forgotten that a company is made up of several teams, so team building has to be done on a two tier level, both looking at the individual teams and also the effects that they have on each other. You have a common overall goal and individual team goals and so forth.  

At team level and company level, the absolute key is of course that everyone buys into a common vision. In theory, you should try to get everyone to contribute to the common vision but, as most of us entrepreneurs are committed to growth, so you are onto a non-starter with any staff who is not aligned to the growth principle.    

Do you convert them – in which case you are not really taking on board their vision, but selling them your own, or do you part company with them? Many advice centres shy from the old inspire-or-fire argument.

The right people are absolutely key to your business success. Diverse but complimentary skills are a given, but if the individuals do not buy into the company values and overall vision of the company, you are onto a loser from the start. You simply cannot build a company if your staff is not the company’s most passionate champions.

Real teams put their individual needs to one side and concentrate on the team needs.  They support each other, pooling ideas, concentrating on not letting each other down, respect each other, trust each other and are committed to each other.

Of course there is more to team building – you must communicate that vision, plan well, share the plans so attaining the vision is believable. You must empower your teams, by training, communicating, supporting, evaluating, celebrating success with them. Much of that is pretty easy to achieve with good working practices.

But when all is said and done, you are looking for a team identity of committed, adaptable, co-ordinated and focused people who buy into the company vision heart and soul.  

That means every single person is on board with that – including their spouses and partners (often very powerful influences that we forget as business leaders). I do not believe that in this day and age, we can afford to shy away from parting company with anyone who is not a team player nor voluntarily buys into the company’s vision for a future.

Jan Cavelle is the founder of the Jan Cavelle Furniture Company.

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