Incredible things happen when teams focus on growth. But it doesn’t happen by itself and it’s not always easy to achieve.
Only 4% of businesses reach the £1 million turnover mark, and only 10% of those - that’s 0.4% of all businesses - get to £10 million. In our ever-changing world, many businesses struggle to keep up while others change so fast, they crash and burn.
Take Sunshine Property (not the real name). This firm almost doubled in size in just 12 months. It all got rather chaotic, so it had to put new systems and processes in place. The trouble was, this slowed the growth down.
Sunshine Property had encountered the stable/dynamic paradox.
Furthermore, getting things done became a lot harder. There were now lots of meetings and new layers of management, but nothing was actually happening.
Sunshine Property was failing to turn knowledge into action.
Finally, frustrations were brewing up among the team and the board became dysfunctional.
Sunshine Property had neglected teamwork as a strategy.
What happened at Sunshine Property highlights perfectly the three big challenges associated with achieving sustainable growth.
1. Solving the stable/dynamic paradox
This is about balancing a stable backbone with the dynamism you need to drive your business forward. Start-ups are chaotic but fast-paced. It's exciting and scary in equal measure because things are always happing and change is a way of life.
But you can get trapped and lose your way. Every day is then exhausting, the chaos is overwhelming and you lose the confidence and know-how to make the necessary changes.
This opens the door to bureaucracy. Form filling and box-ticking start slowing things down even more as authorisation processes bedevil every decision.
If the business is agile, however, change can happen quickly and effectively. It's exciting, but also organised, secure and flexible.
Information flows freely and leads to action at agile companies. And, because they don’t fear change, they’re able to rethink regularly and redesign their structures, governance mechanisms, and processes as necessary.
In this way, the agile company finds a balance between stability and dynamism.
2. Turning knowledge into action
As a business grows, it can become less effective at turning knowledge into action. This is because doing means learning - and learning involves mistakes.
So if you’re serious about making the transition from knowing to doing, build a forgiveness framework — a tolerance for error and failure — into your culture. A company that demands smart ideas and rapid implementation has to be willing to cut its people some slack.
Corporate memory is another factor in a ‘doing’ culture. Sometimes "how we've alwaysdone it" is interchangeable with "the right way to do it." The root of this is fear. We don't want to make mistakes, so we avoid risk by doing things as they've always been done. There’s a circular logic to this: "We do what we do because it's the best thing to do. And it's the best thing to do because it's what we've always done."
Also, don’t confuse talking, planning, presenting, reporting or making decisions with doing. These are errors that too many companies make far too often.
3. Making teamwork a strategic priority
When I was a kid, my dad used to come home from work frustrated by his company. He disliked the way he was treated there and how dysfunctional things were.
I didn’t understand what this meant at the time, but that changed when I started working with companies on strategy, finance and other operational issues.
I quickly realised that nothing improved unless we:
assessed how the business was structured
improved the way decisions were made
put teamwork at the heart of strategy
I now know that teamwork is a strategic priority. In fact, it’s the only true competitive advantage you have.
The good news is teamwork is not complicated. However it does call for courage, commitment and a lot of work. You’ll need patience too as it takes time to see the results.
When we work with businesses to develop teamwork, we use a model developed by Patrick Lencioni called The Five Behaviours of a Cohesive Team.
The behaviours are:
Trust. When team members trust one another on an emotional level, they’re comfortable about discussing their vulnerabilities, weaknesses, mistakes, fears, and behaviours. We call this vulnerability-based trust rather than predictability-based trust as it enables colleagues to engage in unfiltered, constructive debate.
Conflict. With trust established, teams are free to speak openly and discuss conflicting views, ideas and interpretations. Gone is the tendency to agree with the loudest voice. In its place is respect for every individual’s viewpoint and a focus on reaching the best decisions.
Commitment. Team members are more likely to commit to a decision if their input has been considered than if not. Far better to hear every opinion and explore every avenue than to deny people the chance to put their case.
Accountability. When people are fully committed to a decision and performance standards, they’ll hold their colleagues accountable for sticking to them. And rather than looking to the team leader to reinforce accountability, they’ll work things through among themselves.
Results. Teams that embrace the four behaviours above are highly likely to put the goals of the collective above their own agendas. This is the holy grail of teamwork.
When you build teamwork into your business philosophy, you’ll soon discover what a powerful weapon it is. Get it right and it changes everything - from how fulfilled your people are, through how delighted your customers are to how profitable your business is.
Now growth does not just happen - growth must be anticipated and planned for.
So every day, if you are asking yourself:
can I make my business more agile?
are we turning knowledge into action?
am I investing enough in teamwork?
Then every day you’re taking a step closer to a more successful, more satisfying and more valuable business.
For help with this journey, call me, Dan Egerton on 07879 845845, or drop me an email.