10 Steps To Lead A Small But Effective Team

Small teams can make a big impact with a compassionate leader at the helm. Here’s how to keep your talented team focused and inspired.

10 Steps To Lead A Small But Effective Team
[Photo: Flickr user Kurtis Garbutt]

Who gets sent in when the environment is uncertain and risky, the task complicated and challenging, and the opposing force is overwhelming? It’s highly trained small teams such as SEALs or Delta Force. There’s nothing like the agility, focus, inventiveness, and esprit de corps of an effective small team of committed and talented individuals, willing to put the team’s success ahead of everything else to deliver the seemingly impossible.


The same is true in business. If the task is routine but requires many resources, big companies often win out. However, larger groups frequently have a hard time maintaining teamwork and unity of purpose.

For breakthrough results, small is where it’s at. With a small team, tasks stay focused, everyone knows everyone, and nobody can slack or hide. Michael Jordan once said: “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.”

Here’s a 10-step method how you can build your own effective small team and deliver miracles in the process:

Three Ways To Start Strong

1. Have a clear purpose and core values. If you want to get somewhere, you have to know where you are going and what roads you are willing to take. That will serve as your guide in hiring, and your team’s true north once you are up and running.

2.Hire the right people. This is critical. You want the best, most talented people, but only those who are willing to play together for the team’s success.


3. Be more selective about your customers. Only work with customers who are a good fit with your core values and your team’s competencies. Customers who are a bad fit will drain your team’s time and enthusiasm, and are unlikely to be good brand ambassadors.

Three Ways To Stay Effective In The Present

4. Create an inspiring working environment. We recently moved into a new central location where our talented, digitally minded people feel nurtured, allowing their creativity to flow.

5. Foster a strong company culture. Giving your team small perks, such as a fully stocked pantry and a space where they can relax while brainstorming, is great.

However, there’s something far more important. That’s the intangible team spirit that makes your team feel part of something worthwhile. This is what gets each of your people to do everything to help their colleagues succeed.

6. Help your team keep a clear mind and focus. To maximize productivity, take care of your team’s day-to-day concerns. In the words of productivity expert Robin Sharma: “Assets are not time plus money, but energy plus focus.”


Two Ways To Promote Future Effectiveness

7. Invest in learning. Help your people develop and grow as individuals, such as sending them to training and industry conferences. They will become more valuable to you, the team, and your customers.

We allow our people to buy–at our expense–any books they want to read, and then have a monthly book club where we discuss what we learned.

8. Support innovation. Your small size gives you an advantage over larger competitors–you can afford to “do things that don’t scale.

Give your team venues and time to share ideas and think about their projects outside of their workspace. The results will amaze you.

Two Ways To Keep Your Team Fresh And Happy

9. Treat your people right. If you support their work-life balance, then they will support your vision and goals with everything they have. According to a March 2015 survey by Totaljobs, a U.K.-based job placement agency: “Work-life balance is by far the most universal concern for 50% of the workforce.”


Encourage your team members to have lives outside of work. If you always run them at 110%, you will burn them out just when you need them to be on top of their game.

10. Have fun. Celebrate successes and arrange fun activities as a team. If you fail to take the time and acknowledge a job well done, after a while your team will see no point in giving you their all.

A Historical Effective Team

The ancient Roman army was devastatingly effective against Barbarian warriors. One on one, Roman legionnaires were strong and well trained, but not necessarily stronger than their enemies. Their world-dominating success came from their performance as a team, where each individual would willingly give his life to save his cohorts. They would march in step, shoulder-to-shoulder in a phalanx into hordes of running, screaming, mace-brandishing soldiers, each knowing he may die a painful death, but taking that risk for the greater good.

This exemplifies the crucial difference between a group of talented people and an effective team. Members are individually talented in an effective team. More importantly, each is willing to place the team’s success ahead of his or her own. Build your team with the above advice in mind, and they will perform like a finely tuned machine.

Kevin Gibbons is managing director at BlueGlass UK, a digital marketing agency, specialising in content and search, driven by data. Kevin is well known within the search industry, having been involved in digital marketing since 2002, and frequently speaks at leading events including SES and SMX, while writing for digital industry blogs such as Econsultancy, Search Engine Watch, and Search Engine Land.