Andrea Ubhi explains how to take your team from mediocre to amazing

How can we build a team that is strong, focused and working in harmony towards the same goals and sweet results, without the bitter conflict that haunts so many of our businesses? Does this sound like a dream when you are faced with petty in-fighting every day?

Three years ago I was faced with a division in my team so great that it threatened to implode my whole business. Eighteen years of business experience wasn’t cutting it. My old methods of counselling, cajoling or last ditch reprimanding weren’t working. We had 100% job dissatisfaction amongst the team, including myself. There were daily staff tears and weekly resignation threats – all due to team interpersonal relationships. Something had to change quick as profits were about to plummet under the weight of bitter conflict. We were all in the same boat, but rowing in different directions, and one of these days, that old boat was going to capsize.

Now I know that I am not the only business owner that this has happened to. You know why I know? Because over time as I have told my story to many directors of companies, they lean in slowly with a haunted look and ask me with utter seriousness to tell them how I solved this problem that plagues them.

Making changes

I am going to tell you the secret of the strategy that I applied, that turned my team around within a month, resulting in each of the team individually rating their job satisfaction as 5/5. My team turned around into one of the happiest of teams that I have ever come across. Today you could have an in-depth interview with any one member of my team, from the most junior to the most senior and they would radiate about how great a place it is to work. The change was tough and challenging, but the results were amazing.

How did we do that in such a short time? Sit back, enjoy, but concentrate hard, as what I am going to tell you is easy to read, but no easy ride to apply. This will be worth every ounce of effort that you can bring to the table.

But let’s stop talking mush, group hugs and team building, let’s talk money. Does this fluffy team building talk make money? Well, within12 months after our team turnaround, instead of an implosion, we raised our game and the total practice gross had increased by an additional 49% over the previous 12 months. Yep hello. Perhaps worth reading on.
As Henry Ford said ‘If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.’

Here comes the magic

What does your perfect team look like? Your team can’t be ‘your kind of perfect’ until you have defined it. Name exactly what it is that you want your team to turn into, then we can cast the spell and make the magic. What is the personality of your business? What are the core values that you work by? Tell me. Tell me now. Write it down.
Finding this tricky? Here is a two minute exercise to help you.

Table 1 shows a sample list of core values. You are going to need to do this exercise by yourself or with your business partner/s, but not with your team. These are your values. Your very own. This is the essence of who your business is. You cannot move any further along until you have made that definition.

Table 1: Core values
1.    Fairness        2.   Learning
3.    Integrity        4.   Results
5. Treating everyone with    6. Always exceeding
respect and dignity    expectations
7.    Discipline        8. Self-improvement
9.   Selflessness    10.Environmentally aware
11. Risk averse    12. Diversity
13. Community interaction
14. Competitive spirit    15. Improvement & innovation
16. Fun        17. High technology
18. Dependability    19. Determination
20. Informal        21. Formal
22. Determined    23. Accountability
24. Development    25. Risk taking
26. Charity focused    27. Longevity
28. Intuitive        29. Resourcefulness
30. Investing        31. Down-to-earth
32. Kindness        33. Results-oriented
34. Approachable    35. Efficiency
36. Level-headed    37. Content
38. Humility        39. Loveliness
40.  Hunger

Take this list, add more values if yours aren’t listed, then reduce the list size to about 20 by striking out those that are less important to you, leaving those that are more so. We are not saying that any of these values are un-important, we are just saying they are not your top values, your essence, you. Then again, whittle the list down to 10. Then again, trim down to 4. What remains is who you are. Who you want your business to be.

Now those of you who have just skim read that list and not done the exercise, and are waiting for the secret to be revealed. You haven’t got the point.

I know you have heard about core values before, so had I, but you cannot be the team that you want to be until you know who you actually want to be. Get it? Don’t worry if you aren’t this kind of perfect now, this is who you want be. Your dream team.

This isn’t a discussion between you and your team. It is for the leader/s to define the core values of the business, so don’t try to duck out of this responsibility and try to get unanimous team vote on this. No, this is your bag, you have to do it yourself.

The big next step

Now that your core values are defined, communicate them with your team. Do you think it will be weird after all these years of mediocre to bring this new stuff up? Ah just say it! ‘Team, I’ve decided our core values are w, x,y and z.’ Easy!

Now the hard part

These values must now weave their way into every aspect of your business. They must seep into every decision you make, every interview that you do, and every patient that you have interaction with, every team meeting. They are your heart, your core, your essence.

Some days you might think that you can’t be bothered to address a matter so small but that goes against your core values, and you might want to let it ride. Trust me when I say: a short term discomfort prevents long term pain. Deal with it. Deal with every small, seemingly insignificant event. Deal with it. How can you address the big things if you let the small things ride? Where is your consistency?

Let me share our four team values. They are humility, hunger, competence, and being emotionally smart (aka ‘simply lovely’). So to work at our place:

1.    You are humble – open and honest enough to take criticism and help – me, you, specialists, dentists, nurses, receptionists, and treatment coordinators. Everyone.
2.    You are hungry – hungry to learn, improve and passionate about the work we do, whatever your job title.
3.    You are competent – you know your craft, ours isn’t a place to learn basic skills, that’s not what we do.
4.    You are emotionally smart – you are simply lovely, not leaving a wake of awkwardness or throwing emotional baggage around.

Ask any member of my team, and they know these values. At team meetings, we remind ourselves every time. When we are making decisions, we discuss how the core values fit in with our decision making. When we hire, interview questions are based around these questions. When we give a job offer, we discuss with interviewees our core values, and let them know that this is what they are signing up to, and that they must consider very carefully whether this is who they are and who they want to grow to be, as they will be judged by those values by every member of the team, and quickly asked to leave if they don’t measure up. When we do appraisals, we measure ourselves by these values.
Now not every team member is going to be 100% of all the core values all the time. Including you and me.

So, in an open and trusting environment, we discuss the core values together and how we each measure up, admitting our weaknesses and asking for help. We are all going to need reminding and challenging to work to the standard of our values, every day and every week. Your team needs to be given permission and required to hold you and each other to these values, and you them. One of my favourite authors said: ‘Remember, teamwork begins by building trust. And the only way to do that is to overcome our need for invulnerability.’ Patrick Lencioni.

Within one week of starting to live and breathe these core values at our place, it became crystal clear to everyone which team members were pulling in a different direction to the business. Simples. Obvious even to them. And within two months, each of these outliers had left. The heat was too strong to stay. There are other businesses that will suit them better and where they can be happy and thrive in their own way. And our remaining team? They are seriously happy, thriving and living our values every day.

Core values are the essence of who we are as a team. They are what we live and breathe, and how we are measured up. Don’t underestimate the significance of knowing who you want to be and defining it. Do this, and you will become it.