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Why Small Businesses Struggle To Develop Teams And What To Do About It

Author: Mike Jones

One of the most common mistakes I see small business owners and team leaders making is not prioritising the development of a healthy, high-performing team enough.

Now I'm not saying that they don't see this as something important, just that it's not high enough up the priority list.

For most business owners and team leaders, the main focus is on being good at their profession and providing a good service.

This is completely understandable as it's exactly this, being good at what they do, that has gotten them to where they are and created all of their success to date.

However, there comes the point where simply being good at what you do and doing more of it is no longer effective.

There comes the point where the world starts demanding something different from you.

You've clearly demonstrated that you are good at what you do and that others benefit from this. The world now wants you to increase your capacity not by working more but by developing others which eventually leads to working less.

This opportunity comes about by either the growing demand in your business allowing you to take on a team or you being promoted to a leadership position.

Once we find ourselves in a leadership position, our top priority needs to become the development of our team. We have to accept this and give ourselves permission to do less and lead more.

But most business owners and new leaders struggle to do this. They carry on working hard because it's what they know. This leads to leaders feeling stressed and burnt out whilst teams feel unfulfilled and undervalued.

Think about it in a sporting context. A great rugby player can't become a great team manager just by training and playing every week.

They need to shift to becoming a leader.

They need to focus on sharing their wisdom, coaching and developing the rest of the team.

They need to use their experience to create a compelling vision that aligns the team and creates optimal team performance.

When we think about this in a sporting context, it's obvious that a completely different approach is needed to transition from a player to a leader, but when it comes to business, we don't see it so clearly.

If you're responsible for a team, you need to give yourself time and permission to develop that team. It's the key to enjoyment and success.

You need to make this your number one priority.

Again it's worth reminding ourselves that most team leaders and business owners have got to where they are by being good at what they do.

They have been doing this for years so it's almost hard-wired in their mind to go into work, to get to doing and to address any problems themselves.

But this is the equivalent of the rugby team manager trying to address poor tackling skills in the team by coming on during a game and tackling.

We know, in a sporting context, this approach makes no sense. It wouldn't benefit the manager or the team.

If we want to grow our businesses, to enjoy our businesses and to have a decent work-life balance we need to develop our teams.

One person might not be able to do your job better than you, but a healthy high performance team will grow your business better than you.

And the great thing is, a healthy high performing team will enjoy doing this - it's the win/win that needs to happen.

The only challenge is getting into the mindset and giving ourselves permission to make this happen.

So here are four areas that, in my opinion, will help you shift from being a doer to a leader and develop a healthy high performing team in your business:

1 Shift from player to manager

I've already talked about this a lot, but it's essential that you mentally make this shift in your head.

Your job is no longer to do or deliver your service.

I'm not suggesting that you'll never be involved with this again or that you won't need to get involved and help out from time to time, but this needs to be lower down in your priority list than developing your team.

As long as you are still telling yourself that you are a player, not a leader, you'll struggle to develop your team.

You'll feel busy and stressed every week, and so will your team.

You'll struggle to motivate people, to hold on to people and therefore to meet the demands your business is generating.

If you start telling yourself you're a leader, not a player; you'll start doing things differently.

You'll see problems as training opportunities.

You'll think about who you've got in your team and who you might need more effectively.

You'll begin interacting with your team in a way that engages and empowers them.

This will feel harder and more uncomfortable initially because you're not used to it, but in a relatively short period of time, you'll notice your team getting better, you're business getting better, and you're life getting easier.

2 Prioritise the time to develop your team

You've started to make the mental shift to leader. Now you need to create the structure that supports that.

You're probably used to going into work, pulling your sleeves up, dealing with problems and working to please clients.

That's the approach of the player, not the leader.

You've now got to become more strategic with your time.

Again this will feel unnatural and challenging at the beginning because it's not what you're used to doing. But in a very short time, this will become natural and save you a ton of time and stress every week.

All humans are social creatures, even the ones that seem unsocial.

We crave human connection, feedback, to know we're developing and to know we're appreciated for doing a good job.

All of this requires time.

Your team aren't motivated the same way you are. They need and will thrive of your time and attention. You don't need to spend all day every day chatting to people, but you should at the very least make time for quarterly check-ins, a weekly meeting and daily feedback.

3 Start making yourself redundant

Your goal as a business owner or team leader is to make yourself redundant ultimately.

You want your team to want but not need you, and the same is true for your business.

Most business owners don't implement this mindset. They build their businesses to be reliant on them.

This isn't healthy; it isn't good for the owner, the team or the business.

The truth is you don't want to be in your business or role forever.

So get real thinking about that. How's this business or team going to function without you?

The team is there ultimately to replace you, so treat them this way.

Again, if you start really emotionally connecting with the thought that you are making yourself redundant, you'll start approaching the team and business differently, which is better for everyone.

I'm not sure where you are at in your career or business but get into the mindset that you will no longer be there in three years.

If you struggle to accept this, then consider the possibility that you might be sick in three years, unable to work.

4 Define and communicate your strategy

Most small business owners would say they don't really have a defined strategy. The truth is they do. It's just all in their heads.

To achieve anything, you need a strategy.

A strategy is defined as:

"a plan of action designed to achieve a long-term or overall aim."

The bigger the team gets, the more important this strategy becomes.

Having a rough idea in your head of what you wanted to achieve and how you were going to do it is enough to get a business off the ground, but it's not enough to leverage a team.

Humans are motivated by more than just money. In fact, for most, money is actually quite low down on the priority list.

Yes, money is important, and I'm not implying that what you are or arent' paying your people isn't important, but it's not the only or most important thing.

People are heavily motivated by meaning and value.

In your business, this is your strategy, your long term vision and mission.

If you have a vision and mission, you can communicate to your people what you are all about and how they are helping you achieve that.

You can create yearly and quarterly goals aligned with that vision and mission-aligned to each individuals job and outcomes.

Having your strategy begins to free you from the business and empower your team.

Developing a healthy and high performing team isn't as difficult as it might seem, but it has to start with you giving yourself the time and permission to focus on it.

About Mike: Mike believes that a structured pathway to health and happiness is the solution to individual, business and global challenges. Mike was never made to feel good in the schooling system, experienced poor management in military and burn out in his first business. Seeing these problems were widespread Mike Co-Founded Better Happy to help other business owners and employees achieve their visions faster with health and happiness.

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