By Patti Newcomer
You’ve likely seen a lot of articles about the importance of building teams within large companies, but building productive, inclusive teams are also critical to the success of small businesses, even if there are fewer and potentially smaller teams. In fact, one might argue that in a small business it’s even more critical that teams work well, as the margin of error is often razor-thin.
First, a team must have a purpose. A mission. Something to aim for. Something to work together toward. Your own “take the hill.” It’s easy to understand this point when you consider sports. Winning the Super Bowl? The World Series? The NCAA Gymnastics championships? These are the missions for sports teams. In business, it’s also important for the team to have a purpose. One of my favorite recent stories is the Bombas mission to give away 1 million pairs of socks – have you heard this story? The founders were inspired by the fact that socks are the #1 requested item at homeless shelters. They started the company with a purpose to donate a pair of socks for each pair purchased. One of the founders thought it would take 10 years to get to a million pairs of donated socks, and he committed to getting a tattoo when that happened. It only took 2.5 years, and yes, he now has a tattoo on his arm! I love that story and the mission that inspired it.
Second, a team must be diverse. Diversity and inclusion is about bringing differences together to the team, in order to achieve better results. If we all think the same, then we could just get the same result with one person and we wouldn’t need a team. My first boss at Procter & Gamble used to say “it’s your job to share your point of view, you’re the expert on your project. And it’s even MORE important when your view is different from your boss’ view, because that’s where the opportunity is.” The data clearly shows that diverse teams get better results. How? Well, diverse teams introduce conflict and different ways of thinking. In order to get “better results”, a team must be able to take conflict and turn it into positive, productive results. In order to do that, team members must trust each other, because dealing with conflict is difficult. We must be open to others’ ideas and challenges.
We must be willing to be humble and believe that others have better ideas than we do. How do we build that trust? Build our relationships with each other. Get to know each other and what’s important to each of us. We learn about what motivates each member of the team and how their life experience shapes their views and their ideas. This helps build trust, which allows us to take the conflict that arises in diverse teams and build ideas into better ideas, delivering better results.
Finally, a team must be held to high standards. At Intuit, we look to our values to define these standards. This is a great way to establish and share what’s important to you and your organization. We have an “integrity without compromise” value that is aligned with an important value my parents instilled in me and my sisters from a very young age – the importance of telling the truth. In our house, my parents valued honesty above all else. A lie was a severely punishable offense, even if it was relatively inconsequential. It’s important for leaders to establish values and standards that are most important to them, and to ensure that the people they hire also hold the same standards. It’s also critical to remember that everyone you hire is a role model for the rest of your organization. Our CEO at Intuit often says “what you don’t correct or allow becomes the new standard for what’s acceptable”.
As you build your team – either for the first time or as you rebuild a team for the umpteenth time – paying attention to these three things will be critical to your success as a small business. Good luck as you build your team.
Patti Newcomer is the VP of Marketing at Intuit.