For better or worse, everyone on your team has a hand in designing the brand and the customer experience in the early stages of starting a business. Together you create the touchpoints and set the mood that shapes perceptions of the company and its relationships. It's hard work to steer a team of strong willed, independent people, especially when they're volunteering, working on faith and promises of sharing in the profits to come. Here are 6 ways to inspire and rally your team to move in alignment with you.
1. Go beyond the vanilla vision statement. Define an amazing, attainable future that inspires the team, and spells out who (and how) you'll serve them to get there.
As the leader, you need to provide a clear vision that pinpoints the path of opportunities for personal advancement and abundance for all involved. Creating the value for customers is obviously critical, but you can't neglect the leadership duty of motivating your team with a purpose that serves them too.
Framing is everything. The benefits of coming together as a team, in service to a common purpose, must be followed up with realistic, potential upsides that are personally meaningful to all involved. Too often, entrepreneurs house their vision in vague statements about changing the world or building a unicorn. These statements fail to resonate and motivate. In fact, these are trust busters for the team, the customers, and investors. Plainly said, this is about defining the culture and brand of your organization in a way that adds value to employees, customers and stakeholders.
When you dig deep, people are motivated by more than just money. Your vision needs to be believable, and touch their real lives both materially and personally. Establishing a vision up front, gets you a higher degree of faith and buy-in and stronger alignment in all aspects of your endeavor.
2. Align the work with the needs, goals, and personalities of the team (if and where possible).
You can deepen trust and increase performance of the team by showing you care about them as individuals and by aligning their personal and career goals with the organization. This is usually less about tailoring the work to fit them and more about uncovering how the work already connects with them in deeper ways.
Pro tip: Have everyone on your team craft and share personal vision statements that spell out their growth strategies over the next few years and how it aligns with the company from their perspective.
3. Present the company story, supported with facts and anchored in the main business goals.
Your story should connect the goals of the business, customers, and the team. That story should be reinforced with appropriate data points. Make sure you're well versed and have the team measuring what matters most. Early on, this usually includes prospecting goals, quality of the engagement and touch points along the way, where prospects connect more deeply with the brand. A powerful story will inspire the team, and the facts will make their next steps clear and concrete.
4. Show authenticity by being the first to open up, admit shortcomings, and ask for help.
Chances are your team has a different mix of expertise and various degrees of strengths. As the leader, you can foster trust and comradery by being quick to publicly call out your weaknesses to the group and recognizing the strengths of your team. You can do this by seeking and acknowledging the right person for the job, providing the plan and asking for help with the details where you lack expertise. By acknowledging that you don't know everything and seeking expertise from your team, you'll foster greater trust and buy-in through your leadership.
5. Focus on honoring agreements, not unspoken expectations.
An easy place to practice this idea is in the meeting room. During meetings, focus on action items. At the end of the meeting review the action items, who owns them and when they'll be completed. At the beginning of the next meeting, review the last actions and ensure things were appropriately executed, and if not, find out why. It's important that the team as a whole has an element of accountability to each other that's rooted in explicit agreements, versus top-down vague expectations. This requires regular and clear communications.
6. Champion personal and operational integrity.
This is the hardest and most important tip. Keep your promises, and be quick to apologize if you do not. The leader is the one who demonstrates a capacity to perform and take care of his or her people as they pursue a common goal.
Ultimately, much of leadership comes down to the ability to create trust, build faith in a vision that truly serves everyone involved and upholding integrity at all stages of the journey.