Getting your team on board

Your team are an integral part of your business. Whether they be full time or part time, internal or outsourced, getting your people onside is critical to your success. Recruitment and retention are a problem in this post-pandemic era, requiring a different approach to both, but the performance benefits of having an engaged team go beyond the issues of finding the right people. This is about whether you want to face the challenges of growing your firm alone or with a genuine team alongside you. It’s about getting the best out of who is around you.

I hear much boardroom talk in accounting firms about now being the time for the team to ‘step up’. These are the areas to consider if you are to achieve this :-

#1 Vision – sorry to be predictable but everything does start here. If you haven’t shared a clear vision with your team then what are they supposed to be buying into? Don’t criticise your team for “just treating it as a job” if that is all you’ve given them.

#2 Plan – again, predictable (just proves that you know this stuff  but, of course, you have to apply it!), but communicating your plan converts your vision into a clear route for the team to follow. Be aware, they’ve probably heard your plans before so there could be some cynicism here. This is just the next step, don’t expect lift off just yet.

#3 One team – full or part-time, internal or outsourced, in the office or at home, fee earner or not, your whole team are engaged in one process which is to deliver a great service to your clients. Your strategy has to be to engage your team as a complete unit, whatever they do and wherever they are based. A chain is only ever as strong as its weakest link.

 #4 Organisation – hard to be part of a team when you don’t know your position, what the formation is or who the captain is. A clear and communicated organisation chart not only brings clarity but demonstrates that you have a clear model to back up your plan. My advice is to start with your theoretical chart, what it should look like in order to process your plan. Then populate it with where you are today so that you and your team can see the gaps. This helps them to become part of the solution.

#5 Roles and responsibilities – just as hard to be part of a team if you don’t know what is expected of you. The confidence, decision making and progression of a team member are held back by not having a clear understanding of their role and responsibilities and of the roles and responsibilities of those around them. Creating clear job descriptions to meet every position on your organisation chart allows the team to approach their job with greater confidence and ownership and provides aspirational targets for those looking to progress.

#6 Safe space – if you want your team to step up then you need to give them the space to step into. Trying to create mini versions of yourself or pushing back on anything not done the way you’d do it only suppresses their progress. But you stepping away is only half the story as they have to be confident in stepping forward. You have learned by your mistakes so give them the opportunity to do the same. By all means build a safety net between your firm and the outside world but allow your team the space to explore and learn.

#7 Trust – the most powerful statement you can give to your team is to show that you trust them. Trust in a work environment shouldn’t be unconditional, we all have our limits, but trusting them to fulfil the clear role that you have given them and to their level of experience gives them the confidence to then trust themselves. If you don’t trust your team then why should anyone?

#8 Adapt to their world – King Canute made the mistake of not changing his position in the face of an unstoppable incoming tide. Your clients and team members are increasingly representative of the Millennial and GenZ generations. Like it or not, they have different mindsets to older generations. They have a different approach to work, careers and life balance. Feedback, learning and progression matter….and they are NOT work shy (don’t even get me started on this one!). You can argue all day long that you travelled along a different path but you’re not going to win. Take the time to understand later generations. Listen to the thoughts of your team. Change your position and adapt your approach to harness the power of the incoming tide. Don’t be KC!

Your team can be your greatest asset. It’s easy to dismiss them (not literally!) but I’ve seen so many ‘wrong’ teams excel once they are given the opportunity to do so and the time and support to build their confidence. Some of the answers to your big challenges could be in front of you right now!

Richard Brewin

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