How Many Partners Do You Have?

“I want to take my business to the next level. We need to grow by 40% this year and 150% over the next 3 years.  But…”

I heard this from a business owner just last week. His “but” was his concern that his staff wasn’t prepared to get it done. They didn’t follow procedures, spent time on unimportant tasks, didn’t think out of the box and looked to him for all of the important answers.  With those issues, taking his business to the next level will be difficult if not impossible.

What he needs are some partners. When I say “partners”, I don’t mean legal partners with a financial investment in the business. I mean people who have an emotional investment in the business. He needs to find ways to make people feel like owners even though they’re not. As the true owner of the business, he may never have a team that’s a passionate as him about growing the business. However, there are things he can do to dramatically increase his team’s level of ownership and passion. By doing this, he can create a team that feels ownership, even if they’re not true owners.

Here are some ways to make that happen:

1.       Conduct Joint Planning & Goal Setting – Typically, goals are set by leaders and passed down to the “rank and file”. Since the team had no hand in setting these goals, there’s never total buy-in. What’s worse, when goals aren’t met, the team blames unrealistic goals, rather than their own performance. Leaders should give their team enough information (company goals, historical performance, strategic objectives, etc.) to set their own goals. Of course, leaders should still be responsible for approving all goals; challenging those goals that are either too aggressive or not aggressive enough.

2.       Help Employees Understand the WIIFM – Most leaders try to motivate by rallying the troops around what’s important to the company. That’s important…but there’s something much more important. People are more motivated by What’s In It For Me (WIIFM). It’s not that they’re selfish, it’s just human nature.  Work with your team members to understand how they’re personally impacted by the business goals that have been set. Notice I didn’t recommend you tell them how they’re impacted. Everyone is different. You (and/or your leadership team) need to work with each team member to find their own unique “why”.

3.       Don’t Have All The Answers – Don’t let your ego get the best of you. Stop dictating decisions to your team and ask your team for advice. This doesn’t mean “management by consensus”. Ultimately, as a leader, you need to make the final decision, but it’s critical to make your team part of the process. Even if you think you know the answer, ask your team what they think first, before dictating a decision.

4.       Encourage Conflict – Does your team get along great? Do you always seem to agree with each other? Do you have trouble remembering your last major team conflict? This may seem strange, but if you answered yes to these questions…you’ve got problems. A team needs conflict to evolve. Think of it as Darwin’s theory of evolution for business. If good ideas don’t crush bad ideas, and great ideas don’t crush good ideas, a business (and its employees) will grow stagnant and die.

Implementing these ideas will certainly allow business owners to do a great deal more than just increase revenues. Having additional “partners” in a business will also increase productivity, improve morale, enhance customer loyalty, increase margins and maybe most important of all, reduce stress.

How are you cultivating partners in your business?

Leave a Reply