Five ways to create a business that buzzes

If you manage a team and you all really enjoy coming to work, it’s sometimes hard to understand why the buzz you experience doesn’t always lead to outstanding results. You have a laugh, you enjoy your meetings, it’s a pleasure being part of the team, but do you ever have the uneasy feeling that you could be achieving more if every member of the team was working to his or her full professional potential?

This was the case with a client I worked with last year: let’s call him Pete. Pete is an experienced professional in the property services industry. He had run his own office before, and his outstanding professional skills, coupled with his generous and inclusive team leadership, had resulted in record sales.

However, this role in a bigger organisation required him to manage a larger team than he had been used to and it quickly became obvious to him in our coaching sessions that it would not be possible, nor acceptable to his management, to make the challenging team target he had been set by simply doing the bulk of the sales himself.

He had always been able to motivate his team in earlier roles by getting his sleeves rolled up and ‘mucking in’ with the team. In his previous mindset, he had been simply another member of the team – an ‘elder brother’ kind of role, just more experienced than his generally younger team members. He was still working ‘in’ his team as a kind of super team member, rather than ‘on’ it – standing outside it and looking for and providing what it needed to be outstandingly successful.

In his new role, two things bothered Pete: firstly that ‘mucking in’ was clearly not going to work in this more sophisticated management environment, and secondly, that one or two members of his team were very experienced, having been with the company longer than he had, and one of these had tried and failed already to step up to the team leader role.

We discussed what management structures he had put in place for managing his team. His main meetings were:

  • A regular Monday morning work-in-progress meeting with the whole team
  • Tuesday ‘power hours’ with no incoming calls when they all made their sales calls at the same time, including him
  • A regular monthly work-in-progress meeting with the wider team including some contracted staff and occasional part-timers

These were working quite well, but had proved inadequate to ramp up results to the new level now being asked of the team.

We discussed the distinction between working ‘in’ and working ‘on’ the team, and I suggested that he added two further structures to the package of management meetings:

  • Regular monthly one-to-one (121) meetings with every individual in the team in which they discussed not just what the person was doing (this was covered by the regular work-in-progress meetings) but how the person was doing, and how they could develop in their job
  • Every third month, the big team meeting focused only on issues to do with how the team was doing its job and how it could improve the way it worked – again, working ‘on’ the team, rather than ‘in’ it

Pete was initially rather concerned at the amount of his time that would now be taken up by meetings, but was keen to give it a go. He quickly realised that the 121 meetings were the key to driving results and establishing his role as team leader in coaching and developing his staff. He was immediately comfortable doing this with the younger and less-experienced staff, but had an initial wobble with the two more experienced, older members of the team. He eventually realised that a good way to handle these people was to ask them to share their own ideas and experience with him, and he soon learned that they welcomed this opportunity to contribute, which they had never been given before.

Business took off, and each month, when I met Pete, I rather expected him to say that the 121 meetings had had to be taken out of his diary (they are often the first to go, and the reason why some clients don’t see the results they are capable of producing), but he was adamant that these were sacrosanct, and that they were making all the difference. The full package of five meetings, including the ones he had already set up (working in the business) and the ones we added as a result of the coaching (working on the business) was working outstandingly well for him.

In the four months from January to April last year, Pete and his team doubled results against every key measurement in their targets!

Make your team more effective

Start working ‘on’ rather than ‘in’ your business