Small-business entrepreneurs have a love-hate relationship with teamwork. It’s gets even harder as they grow into a big enterprise. Too little teamwork creates skill and knowledge silos, too much to duplicated efforts and bland conformity.
Achieving a balance is difficult. Getting the ball rolling in the right direction takes more than a little push. For one thing, the ball isn’t round. Some people like teamwork than others.
It’s heavy, too. Gaining momentum takes effort, steering it the right direction constant attention.
Small wonder, then, that so many entrepreneurs send their staffs flying off the rails in either one direction or the other. This is true even at small companies, and even truer at growing ones.
Teamwork at the Threshold of Complexity
In a startup, culture is built on close relationships. Everyone knows each other, every meeting is an all-hands, and a softly spoken message is heard as loudly as a big announcement.
Getting a startup to work as a team usually falls to a few senior leaders. As long as they’re on the same page about what good teamwork looks like, chances are decent the culture will spread uniformly throughout the organization.
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Things get a lot more complicated as the business outgrows its “small business” label. Not only is it important that team members work with other team members, the need for interdepartmental teamwork — teams working with teams — adds another layer of complexity.
As owners refocus from entrepreneurship and team management to organizational development and stewardship, the duty of incubating the right teamwork culture becomes less centralized. Management duties are distributed further from senior leadership, and what’s wished for in the boardroom is less likely to resonate down the corporate ladder.
This is where many business owners swim or sink, when they start to question whether more growth is worth losing the teamwork balance that made their businesses successful in the first place. If it’s simply growth for growth’s sake, maybe stepping back to preserve the balance is best, they suppose. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
The folks here at Unique HR get why owners take pride in fostering a culture where team members work well together and enjoy each other’s company. It’s one of their most important responsibilities through their first few phases of growth, and they’re uncertain if others can perform it as well.
A Changing Culture Means a New Kind of Leadership
It can be hard to let go the reins once your growth exceeds your grip, harder still to develop programs and policies that take the team dynamics you’ve worked so hard to build and replicate them throughout the organization as it expands.
The key is an adjustment in leadership and good communication between senior leaders and managers.
As your company grows, senior leaders become less involved in supervising how teams function (management) and more in preserving the things worth building and caring for (stewardship).
Managers, on the the other hand, get more responsibility. Now are they not only responsible for coordinating workloads, but also acting as ambassadors of senior leadership and conduits of company culture.
Hiring the right managers is essential. This may even mean you need to invest more into recruiting at exactly the moment when quick hiring becomes a priority. But it would be a mistake to move forward with hiring the people responsible for expanding your small business culture across your budding enterprise without knowing whether they can carry your energy and distribute it the right way, believe in your company’s mission and stick around to achieve it, and appreciate the awesome amount of trust you put in them and rise to the responsibility.
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This is where HR can prove its value to your company a hundred fold. A great human resources strategist can help you define the kind of teamwork your company needs to grow without slowing down. Great recruiters can attract candidates and profile the ones that will facilitate the kind of collaboration your company needs. Great hiring managers, in turn, will hire great employees, who will amplify your culture even more.
Great Teamwork Culture Works for Itself
And the cycle continues with no need of your day-to-day oversight, no need for speeches and pleadings cajoling the ever more difficult task of teamwork. Once you become the steward of your culture and find the right ambassadors, the teamwork you’ve worked so hard to foster will thrive in your business long after it becomes a big enterprise.