How to build high performing teams and embrace change effectively as your company grows
Growing a company can be chaotic. Identifying the right people, processes, and culture to energize and build your business takes courage, grit and disciplined focus. Over the course of my career, I’ve learned a tremendous amount about building high performing teams. One of the most challenging aspects is scaling effectively.
Forging strategic growth demands a balance between nurturing and risk-taking. The thrill of achieving success in this ambition is worth the delicate juggling act. My mentor and former Amazon colleague David Niekerk, former VP of HR for Amazon’s Worldwide Operations who now works as a Chief Employee Engagement Consultant gave me sage advice on how to scale: “The best way to predict your future is to create it.”
Here’s my three-step guide to shaping your future by scaling your team:
Nothing is more critical to your team’s success than the diversity of those who comprise it. Resist the urge to hire people who think, speak and work like you. Instead of targeting “culture fit,” pursue candidates who have the potential to be cultural co-creators. Aim for more than fit; seek cultural add.
All of your employees should be high performers but in different ways. A strategic blend of left and right brain thinking yields comprehensive output. Find and develop professionals whose intellectual nuances complement their co-workers’ as they enact their token modes of creation and execution: hunters, gatherers, nurturers all see different issues which they use their unique skills to address.
Data analysts and creatives, for example, can be robust co-creators, using coordinated viewpoints for holistic messaging, marketing and storytelling. In the same way, introverts and extroverts can solve problems effectively together because of the interior and exterior perspectives each champions. When looking to diversify your team, find the missing voices and perspectives.
Then create an environment that enables team members to thrive. Pat Wadors, Chief Talent Officer at ServiceNow, explains: “Only when we feel like we truly belong do we present our best unique selves, bringing more creativity and energy to the workplace each day.”
Each “way to be” has its unique spin on the truth, and when they work in concert, that truth is told multi-dimensionally. Empower your truth-tellers with a sense of belonging. Wadors asserts: “Belonging means I can be authentic, I matter, and I am essential to my team.”
Empower Your Team
Once you have secured your talented team, it is crucial to keep them inspired and focused. Define your team members’ roles, harnessing each individual’s talent by focusing on what they do best. Balance career development opportunities that drive them forward, while also keeping your superstars engaged in roles they were born to play.
You need the emotional intelligence to listen and encourage open collaboration. A bottom-up approach to listening and ideas can prove helpful. In order to retain your team and continue your growth trajectory, ensure that your team knows that each member’s voice is heard and valued.
Be pointed and purposeful in your messaging, reminding your team of their vital role as ambassadors of the organization’s continued health and growth. Niekerk points out: “As you grow you need to remember to reinforce the same culture message every day, never take for granted that the culture is understood. It is especially important for the senior leaders to talk about the culture in all of their meetings with others as a way to reinforce the importance and to make sure there is a common understanding.”
It is also key to remain tapped into your employees and their experience. Burnout causes up to half of annual workforce turnover, so keep your fingers on the pulse of your staff morale. Tone deaf leadership, unfair compensation, an unreasonable workload, and too much grinding after-hours work can cause employees to lose their heart for the work in which you need them engaged.
Remember to enact stellar people practices, despite the ways in which you might find yourself stretched. The work you do to retain your team stands to save you time:
Keep them motivated by setting individual and team goalsBe mindful of time-biases, which means funneling your time disproportionately to certain team membersGive and receive ongoing feedback
Technology has its own gravitational pull; if you are not moving with it then you are falling behind. Employees worry about this too, and they appreciate employers who help them evolve with the changing professional landscape. Especially when that means enhancing their experience during the onboarding process.
In a piece she wrote for TechCrunch, Jenny Dorsey describes how new technologies can streamline training. She explains: “Virtual reality can create a detailed visual world for employees to safely interact with their to-be everyday job surroundings and mentally and physically learn the tasks required. These VR lessons range from managing Walmart’s holiday rush to cooking noodles at Honeygrow to perfecting the espresso pull.”
Being a lifelong learner is crucial, especially when you’re in a leadership role. It helps keep you engaged and resistant to the groupthink that can happen when you’re too bogged down in your own cultural experience.
Focusing on these priorities can help you cultivate a successful team that is well-positioned to evolve and future-proof your business. Company growth is not about the quantity of workers or the space you take up, but rather it is about the quality of the team you build and the deftness with which it functions.