O Captain, My Captain: What To Look For When You Need A Business Team

When you’re the one heading your own business, that means you’re in charge. But being in charge doesn’t always equate to being in control. There’s a certain threshold of detail and work past which you simply can’t cover everything all by yourself. Beyond that threshold is where a team can come in handy.

A team is simply a group of people committed to working on common goals. The smallest one you could have could be a duo, whether it’s a partnership with two people supporting each other, or an assistant-ship, with one helping the other manage the load.

The bigger the team gets, the more work can be spread out, and the more a definite leader is needed to help make sure everyone’s responsibilities, work project deliverables, and actions are aligned with the overall goals of the team.

Leadership has to come from somewhere, and since it’s your business, you should know what you need to do to get it to where you want to go. It’s your ship, you be the captain.

What’s more, whatever your particular leadership style, whether it’s authoritative,  more like a coach, or leans towards consensus-seeking (or a shifting mix of all three), there are points you need to be firm on when it comes to your style.

Tips on leadership:

  • It has to be clear. Clarity helps show the people involved the vision you have in mind for the business and the goals for the team.
  • It has to be consistent. Consistency leads to stability, an important part of helping operations run smoothly. Being consistent is also part of building trust— another important factor making for a strong team.
  • It has to be sustainable. You want your business to go on for the long run, you need to be able to pace yourself without losing ground, or running yourself and your people into it.

 

When the job expected of each member is clear in terms of expected performance, deliverables, and responsibilities, and the communication is consistent and responsive, people are more able to open up and create good interaction flows with one another.  What this does is minimize the chances of people fumbling things, wasting resources, stepping on one another’s toes or sending and getting mixed signals. It makes for a good working environment. Everyone involved wins.

Picking the right people for the job:
A good team is also a matter of fit.  People need to be able to work together as professionals, and if in the further development  of the team they get to honestly like and respect each other as good co-workers and friends, that’s great. But the key is is finding a good fit. You need to pay attention to the selection process. The more time you spend on getting the right people for the job, the more it pays off in the long run.

Can you see this person filling the job you need them to do, and doing it well?
Be clear about what your require this person to do (performance standard) and how it will be to work with you(professional expectations).

Issues can also abound when dealing across cultures. What you believe is a reasonable request from you could come across as a command or demand to someone from a different culture.  For example — “saving face”  can seem duplicitous to straight-shooting cultures, and “being frank” can be seen as being rough and ‘un-mannered.’

Getting down to brass tacks: So you have a candidate.

  • Do they have the skills required? What’s their proof? Where’s their portfolio? Ask, ask, ask — interviews are part of any job opening. They’ll expect you to ask.
  • Learning the quality of their work requires results. You can also have them work on a paid small project or assignment to see how good their work is, and observe them during the process to see how they interact with you.
  • Reliability comes from observing actions, and proving that takes time. You can set a probationary period and set clear expectations from the start.

 

Keeping things tight.
In remote jobs, especially across time-zones, it’s a juggling  act to ‘touch base’ and keep everyone on the same page.  Creating a ROWE culture (results oriented work-environment) helps enormously when the people involved are disciplined, good communicators,  and produce good results.

In-office, you can see each other and check-in on each other constantly (same time, same place.) When it’s not like that, the end goal is — does this person deliver what you ask of them, on time, and with consistent good quality? Are they proactive in informing you of their progress and deliverables? Do they inform you ahead of time if they’re experiencing issues or need some input?

Setting up a collaborative support system where you are ‘all in the same place,’  if not the same timezone,  is a good idea. You can use apps and services like Trello or Basecamp so you can all see each other’s progress and process. As the head of the team, you need to manage your communication with each member too, so don’t skimp on things which can support and aid you in doing so. Serious business asks for serious investments, whether in time, personnel, or tools.

What are we talking about again?
Who — not what. We are talking about people like virtual assistants. Freelancers. As well as full-time remote employees. People who  will compose your team. You know, professionals on your side, working to help you and your business run smoothly and succeed in its goals.

Clarity and communication help you deal with frustration in the selection process.  Hire the right people for the job and help them do their job — essentially training them up to specifications. They should be able to discipline themselves without having to have you looking over their shoulder and breathing down their necks. Micromanaging never helps anyone.

What’s your job?
Part of communication is feedback and responsiveness. Showing them you are actively listening to them in things like team meetings, discussions, feedback and regular follow-ups/check-ins is just part of the package. You’re the captain. It’s your duty to  know and guide as well as lead.

When you’ve got your A-team, it’s not a one-time thing you can set and forget.  You’re a team.  People help each other in a team, and that help isn’t restricted to doing ‘just the job.’ Being able to share resources and  offer open contacts points when asking for help is important.

Just as vital is creating and nurturing an environment where asking for help is not seen as weakness.  Management and supervision is the structure that keeps things stable and working — and management is part of your duty. When you have a strong team of knowledgeable, disciplined people helping you work towards the same goals, you can go much further than you can alone. The process takes time, but it is worth it.

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