At the heart of every great organization is one or more effective teams. A cadre of consultants employ many tools to get the most out of these teams, including books and training programs.
But what if the secret is to treat your employees like entrepreneurs? Eschew traditional roles and job titles, and encourage your employees to seek opportunities that further the vision of your company.
“The concept ties into the idea of creating an entrepreneurial type of culture instead of a corporate hierarchical type of culture,” says Terry Powell, founder of AdviCoach, a Southbury, Connecticut coaching firm that works with teams at small to mid-sized businesses. “When you do that, it tends to stifle creativity and takes away some of the key elements of power.”
It’s a different way of thinking and may require a significant cultural shift, Powell says. However, the payoff is an environment where people are thinking broadly, and spotting new solutions and opportunities, he adds.
Here’s how to integrate more of this entrepreneurial approach into your teams:
For teams to be motivated to move beyond their immediate roles, they need to get excited about something. Jonathan B. Smith, an Arlington, Virginia business strategist and founder of ChiefOptimizer, has seen different motivators work for various companies.
Teams at one of his clients are working hard to build the company large enough to have a Super Bowl ad in 10 years. Other teams are motivated by creating a great working environment where people like each other and are well-compensated, or by creating disruptive change in an industry.
“You can’t have an ‘us vs. them’ mentality between teams and leadership,” Smith says. “You have to find the thing that gets everyone excited and use that as the motivator.”
Emphasize roles rather than job titles, he suggests. At Powell’s own firm, he found sticking to defined roles created groups of “quick starts”–people who have lots of ideas and charge forward with them, and “fact-finders”–analytical types who are good at doing research and looking at the details.
But what the company lacked was employees with other abilities, such as project development and processing people who do the day-to-day work. When he started implementing diverse teams of people and giving them responsibility for getting things done instead of coming up with ideas or input, the company began to have more success.
“With a unique ability type of culture and teamwork it gives everybody an opportunity to work on teams rather than having a department or a silo that they’re kind of boxed into, saying this is your area,” he says.
When Powell creates his teams, he assembles people who have backgrounds in different areas of the company. They’re assigned broader objectives–like launching a new product or solving a problem–so, they’re not just working in traditional sectors like accounting or marketing. People still have roles and responsibilities to ensure basic operational functions like cutting checks and placing advertising buys get done, but these teams are given responsibility for making bigger picture things happen, too.
Let’s say the team is responsible for launching a new revenue stream. You may assemble about seven people into a team comprised of representatives from information technology, marketing, operations, and other areas. The team implements a method of accomplishing the objective that includes conceptualizing, planning, and following through on the steps it will take to achieve success. Powell says it removes the bureaucracy and allows members to focus on making things happen.
Smith says teams work best when a feeling of camaraderie exists among them, and when they trust everyone is being treated fairly. Getting to that point requires good communication, honesty, and transparency. Leaders should treat team members fairly, so everyone feels as if they have a voice, and the team isn’t driven by favoritism or other unjust factors.
If conflict arises, deal with it immediately, and encourage team members to share their challenges and frustrations in a productive way so it can be resolved. It’s tough to keep teams motivated to achieve if they’re mired in resentment and other negative feelings, he says.
Teams need to know what you expect for them to be considered successful. That includes outcomes and measurements so that teams can achieve the desired results, Powell says.
Too many companies get hung up on roles and process which inhibits teams from taking risks and being entrepreneurial within the organization, he says. Like entrepreneurs, they should also be given opportunities–such as public recognition and financial rewards–to share in the success.
“[This approach] creates an attitude among your team that they show up every day acting as if they own the company,” Powell says. “Their conversations together at the watercooler are a whole lot different. Then what that evolves to is you set up a structure like we have where not only do they act like they own the company, but then you give them incentives that allows them to benefit from the results as they grow in the profitability.”