Warning: Is Isolation Costing Your Micro Business?

0 QnVzaW5lc3NfMTIyLmpwZw==I get it. You like to work alone 🙂

And whilst it may be just you in your micro business, there will come a time when you need to (and you should) work with others. Whether that’s your clients, colleagues a collaborative project or through your informal support network.

That’s because teamwork is such a valuable asset for micro business owners. You see in a good team the individuals together are much more than the sum of their parts.

So in part two of this week’s Team Work theme, we’ll explore the power of teams for micro business owners and get clear on what you can do to make them a success.

Achieving team success

Successful team work takes effort.

When you work with a team (whether they be your own staff, or a virtual team of people you are contracting to complete a particular project) the key to success is understanding roles and boundaries.

Working in a team gives you the opportunity to find others who complement your skills and talents.

Studies have shown you are very likely to want to work with people who are very similar to yourselves, but try to resist this temptation because diversity brings creativity and opportunity.  For example, if you are a passionate person driven by your head, seek out thinkers and doers to make a powerful business team.  If you are great at generating lots of new creative ideas, seek out those who could help you turn them into realistic plans and see them through to completion.

Embrace PURE Teamwork

Creating a ‘team character’ or a common team purpose really helps achieve focus, in real or virtual teams.

We’ve all got sick of ‘SMART’ objectives, I’m determined to eradicate this tired model and replace it with ‘PURE’… So try working to an agreed set of objectives that are Positive, Understood, Realistic, and Ethical.

Whether you are working as part of someone else’s ‘virtual team’ or creating your own… there are some keys to success:

  1. Be clear who is in charge. Appoint a ‘virtual project manager’.  It’s crucial that the whole team knows who is responsible (and importantly who is legally liable!)  It’s worth considering who has the POWER in any given relationship – it can get really frustrating if that’s not the person who’s nominated to be the leader!  How do you decide who has power? Think about who controls finance, who can give orders!  It’s much more effective to have a calm discussion about this up-front than to have an unpleasant power struggle mid-project.
  2. Be specific about expectations & deadlines & get in writing.  Tag lines such as ‘as soon as possible’ or ‘urgent’ are massively unhelpful because they can be so subjective!  It’s much better to be positive and specific in your instructions:  “I need this done by noon on Friday”.  It’s even more effective if you can give a specific reason for your deadline “To make sure it gets to the printers on time” or “because I want to have it ready for a meeting that afternoon”.  Setting deadlines with colleagues should be treated like making a contract – you need to make sure that they’ve ‘signed up’ to your deadline – either by getting a reply to your e-mail, or checking in with them in person or on the phone.  Getting angry when the deadline is missed is too late to sort it out!
  3. Get wise to collaborative technology.  Part of the joy of being a small business is being able to choose how, when, and where you work (at least some of the time!).  Technology can really be your friend here, but think carefully and use it wisely.  Don’t rely too heavily on e-mail – it collects like snow, looking pretty for a while, but soon it stops useful traffic, and eventually falling in an avalanche!

Rather than e-mail, try:

  •  Skype for effective  conversations
  • Doodle poll to save time checking availability for meetings
  • Public shared calendars such as Google to keep track of where team members are
  • Version control of documents updated and shared in Dropbox
  • And other file sharing tools
  1. Be clear about payment / reward. Specifically make sure you understand when your payment is due; will you be paid a fixed fee for you contribution or a percentage of the team reward on completion of the whole project? If the boundaries of the project change you should feel empowered to negotiate.  A contract price for a project that completes within a month might be fair; but if the end date gets pushed back and back, you might want to negotiate instalments.
  2. Seek out diversity in teams, enjoy the benefits of the creativity, and take time to manage the relationships. Remember that it is natural for teams to quarrel before they settle themselves to be effective (think either of the classic ‘forming, storming, norming, performing’ model, or if you prefer something more agricultural the noise of chickens establishing a pecking order in a new flock!).  The trick is to realise this is a natural phase, to manage it, minimise it’s impact, and to move on quickly.

How has teamwork worked for you?

What experience do you have of working in a team? How has your micro business benefited from collaboration with others? Please let me know in the comments below.

Book Club: Management Teams, by M.Belbin

This is an absolute classic in the field of team work, and sadly become a bit of a worn out training cliché.  But there’s still much of value in it, and it can give amazingly useful insights into the work of a team.   Belbin identifies a number of ‘team roles’ including the creative ‘Plant’ the ‘Completer Finisher’ the ‘team Worker’.  The premise is that everyone has a dominant preference, and a number of roles they are comfortable in, and that teams work best when all the roles are present.

The book is a very achievable read and clearly sets out the individual roles and provides the questionnaires for you to do an analysis on yourself & your team.  Most interestingly it describes (very accurately in my experience) how teams with various members are likely to function, what their strengths and weakness are likely to be.

Don’t rely too heavily on the analysis itself, but rather use it as a tool for team discussions.  Ask team members if they agree with the portrait of their colleagues, and get them to point out the worst case scenarios, or best possible outcome for the team based on the roles identified.  Crucially you can also encourage the team to think about which team roles are missing, and how the team might compensate for that.

Buy from Amazon

micro business actionToday’s Micro Action

Set your boundaries.  Do a quick health check on any of the virtual teams you are already a part of, and make sure you are clear on responsibilities and boundaries.  If you spot something that makes you feel uncomfortable, don’t delay taking steps to fix it.

Clair Fisher

Clair Fisher specialises in developing effective leaders, high performing teams, and productive partnerships. Clair is a lecturer at the Brighton Business School, is a fellow of the Chartered Management Institute, and a reviewer for Evidence & Policy Journal. Clair has trained as an ILM executive coach and has recently launched Microbiz coaching in Horsham, Sussex.