“What is the point…”

  • What’s the point, or the purpose of your team?

    Surely that’s such an obvious question it shouldn’t even be asked, let alone answered?

    • You need a team because you’re busy.
    • Business is booming you need more hands to the pump.
    • You’re so busy doing the necessary but routine tasks that you’re not getting to do the things where you add most value.
    • You’re working so many hours that friends, family, hobbies and holidays fall by the wayside.
    • And a 101 other reasons…

    What makes a pointless team?

    • The leader of the team isn’t clear about the purpose and life of the team
    • The overall goal for the team isn’t set clearly by you, so people make their own versions of what was needed
    • The purpose of the team and its duration are at odds.
    • Team members aren’t clear about purpose and timescale.
    • You don’t break up the team or change it because you are too nice, they’d done such a good job before.

So, what do YOU need YOUR team for, what is its purpose and how long do YOU need it for?

What do you mean “For how long? Always of course!”

Think about this, how many times have you seen the situation where people come together, they gel as a team, things work well and then at some point it just falls apart?

What happened and how did that come about?

Was it because the point of the team and the timescales were out of step?

Look at a typical example of an early hire for business owners, the admin/PA/office person.

  • You’ve recognised that you shouldn’t be doing the important but routine tasks and need support.
  • There’s a whole pile of stuff that’s accumulated, quotes and invoices to process, it needs sorting!
  • You recruit someone either, part-time, full-time or virtual and they sort out the pile.
  • Then what do you do next? Task finished, pile sorted means there’s not that much that needs doing now on a daily basis.
  • Do you say thanks and goodbye? Or because they’re a good person do you look for other things they can do to keep them? Because good people are hard to find, right?

That depends on the purpose of bringing them on in the first place.

  • Was the REAL purpose to bring in support that could grow with you and the business and the first task to be done was to get things straight?
  • If so that’s a long-term requirement and therefore the capabilities and scope for that person are much broader.
  • If the purpose was to get stuff sorted, so that you could get your head above water and then look at the long-term, short-term efficiency and effectiveness was the priority.

The danger was you recruited based on long-term relationship and growth potential when the focus was, now and task. Or you did it the other way around. Whichever way, because expectations on both sides were out of step at some point it become clear “this isn’t working”.

  • Yet it started out so well.

How many time have you seen that happen in all areas of business? The principle applies to every level in the business including senior management and the Board room.

Where this mis-alignment of time purpose and time can really hurt you is when the desire to hold on to the “high-performer”. You start to bend the business to fit them and you overlook some of their behaviours that don’t fit with your values and culture. Because of their “star qualities” you rationalise it away with “yes but they are so good at…”

  • How long did it take, and how much did it cost you to put that right?
  • The most painful thing to realise is that you actively contributed to the situation.

Some of you are now saying “Rubbish” or something less polite and are about to stop reading. The rest of you are probably asking “What do you mean? I only ever try and do the right thing and do the best by people”.

Of course you do, so think of it like this. When you started out you were everything from MD to bookkeeper, sales director to marketing assistant and everything in between.

You’ve now promoted yourself out of some of those roles and are working on the others.

With that first promotion came acceptance that you could not be a single person team and change was inevitable. You would need to bring in new people and the team would evolve.

  • The biggest change in how you thought was that the people you bring in are going to be better at those roles that you ever were.

What you had in mind (consciously or sub-consciously) was a long-term purpose (promote myself out of these roles) because I’m not playing at my best. If I’m not at my best the business and people around me won’t be able to meet our business goals and purpose.

  • Did all your hires work out?

Possibly not, but you dealt with that, reviewed your processes and got more of the right people. As things moved on, you realised that building and managing your team was a constant process. From that grew recognition that there are teams within teams and that different purposes exist alongside each other and overlap in time.

  • Let’s pull all these threads together and look at how it can help you deal with that inevitable day when you exit your business.

However you leave your business there are only two and a half versions, full exit, partial & hand over.

Unless you plan (have to) shut up shop and just walk away, the long-term purpose is to build a business that runs without you. It must be commercially robust and generate enough cash & profit to be worth someone investing in. That will require at least 2 levels of teams within the business, one capable of leading the other capable of delivering great results, day in day out.

Depending on where you are in your business journey the short and medium-term purposes may include

  • Get clarity on your strategic purpose and timescales
  • Identify and nurture the businesses that may want to buy you. What value would you add to them?
  • Develop a senior management capability and board structure
  • Create a management development programme
  • Find people that can make things to meet demand
  • Create a robust admin and support function
  • Build a sales and marketing team aligned to the business strategy

Recognise and accept that great people that do excellent work at different times in your business may not be the ones that fulfil the long-term purpose. That’s why building teams demands constant activity. Constantly looking for great people, actively recruiting – nurturing relationships, retaining and developing people, at least do regular, useful, relevant reviews with your teams! Set the environment for you and your team’s success, how else are you going to keep them?


·       Be clear about the strategic purpose of your team.

·       What is the purpose of the team you are currently building?

·       How long are you going to need this team in this form?

·       Teams change, influenced by internal and external demands and your leadership skills.

·       What are you doing to raise your leadership capabilities?

·       Increasingly teams include directly employed and contract employed people. They don’t and won’t have the same context and understanding of their purpose and timescales unless you are clear…and tell them

·       Working with people is and should be engaging and rewarding for everyone, including you, if it’s not you need to work on that… now.

·       Reality – Good people leave if you’re not a good business to work for.