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Team Development: Refining Your Dream Team

Identify and replicate the “lights” that make your staff's “stars” shine.

Your team is on a winning streak. Everyone is performing at peak efficiency. Productivity is through the roof because you have a solid group of people leading. Sales are increasing, members and clients are pleased and new customers continuously walk through your door. Staff meetings are engaging and productive, with everyone contributing great ideas and taking action. The future of the business looks bright. You could not be happier.

Then your alarm clock goes off.

In the cold light of day, reality hits you. Your team might not be so dreamy after all.

But your dreams can become reality if you find ways to draft the right people onto your team and then retain them.

Drafting Your Dream Team

Look and Learn Within Before You Recruit From Without
Recruitment is an essential ingredient for putting together a winning team. Finding the exact mix of skills, talents and abilities is not an easy task. No one holds the secret to building great teams. However, you can create a great team by looking at the bright stars around you who already shine—people who naturally excel at what they do and are already at your facility. Some of them may be the right person in the right job, while sometimes you might have the right person but in the wrong job. In the second instance, you’ll want to keep those stars, yet move them to another “firmament” within your organization.

To further understand the commonalities among your star performers, consult with your achievers and ask these three questions:

  • What external factors related to their jobs help them excel?
  • What personal traits or characteristics contribute to their ability to excel?
  • How can you find others who have this same spark?

The answers to these questions will help you uncover the specific behaviors, traits and preferences of your bright stars. You can then focus on giving them the support they need to shine, as well as looking for new hires who have those same skills. For example, a staff member who loves to make people happy and has a natural inclination to be helpful might excel in a customer service role. People-pleasers naturally smile and are engaging. It’s who they are. Your job is to put them in the spotlight.

If you have a bright star who gains deep satisfaction from closing a sale, the sale itself is the reward. The person feels good when a deal is closed. Give that employee the authority to make decisions, and then step away. People like this are rare, and their enthusiasm is “catching.”

Having information about your bright stars and what makes them shine makes it easier to hire to fill specific roles. If you don’t have a bright star in a role you currently need to fill, think back to someone you remember shining in that role, and make a list of attributes from what you remember. Then you’ll know which traits to look for when hiring.

Every addition to your team changes the team’s dynamics. Rushing into hiring could have a detrimental effect on the people already on your team, so take a methodical approach. Don’t be in a hurry to fill a position—choose wisely.

Be constantly on the lookout for potential candidates—even when you go for coffee. If you meet someone who excels at customer service, casually hand that person your business card along with an invitation to tour your facility. You never know who may be looking for a new challenge.

Enhance the Hiring Process

Another way to help you find the right fit for your team is to lengthen the hiring process. Instead of taking the common three-step approach to hiring—job posting, interview and reference check—add a few steps. Here’s the complete sequence:

  • job posting
  • phone interview, in which you assess a candidate’s personality, responsiveness and telephone etiquette
  • reference check
  • facility tour
  • practical assessment, if needed
  • primary interview with key managers in the organization, focusing on skills, abilities and whether the person is a good fit for the job
  • second (peer) interview with potential teammates, so the staff can interact with the candidate and provide you with feedback

Try “dating” prospective candidates before rushing into a full employment commitment. As in a marriage, once you make a commitment it’s hard to undo what’s been done. The hiring process laid out above allows you and your team to interact with potential employees on several occasions and get a better sense of who they are. It also allows current employees to see how the prospective new hire fits with the team and its culture.

Don’t skip the extra steps when you’re interviewing an experienced candidate. It’s just as important—maybe more important—to check an experienced trainer for proper fit as it is to check an inexperienced one.

Keeping Your Dream Team Together

Finding, hiring and training staff is such a large and costly part of running a business that you don’t want to have to do it often. Once you put your dream team together, you have two objectives: increase productivity and keep the team together.

Even when you’ve done the extra work required to put your perfect team together, you can’t just assume that the team will be productive. So take an active role in directing the team and keeping it motivated and challenged.

Within any organization, productivity drops significantly while new employees are finding their place. For example, a new trainer can take 6 months to a year to bring about the monetary success of a long-time staff trainer. On the other hand, experienced trainers may take as much time—or more, as they have ingrained habits—as new trainers to fit in with the existing group.

Make expediting this process part of your team’s goals. Have each team member guide and support new teammates in getting up to speed. If everyone on the team takes an active role in training and development, the new employee will be working at peak efficiency in a shorter time.

In a perfect world, your dream team would stay intact and work harmoniously and productively forever. But the real world is quite different. Some team members quit in order to relocate, change careers or go back to school—all acceptable reasons for leaving an organization. However, if you sense that employees feel dissatisfied, feel that they lack recognition or support, or feel stuck, it’s your job to turn things around before those people decide to leave.

The first thing you need to do is to bring the people on your team together. Why? Because team members who stay together the longest do so because they have built relationships with one another. When team members feel connected, their job satisfaction may increase, which means that the staff turnover decreases. You can encourage this connection by creating ongoing opportunities for interaction among team members during staff meetings, social gatherings and parties.

A sense of family or belonging, along with a clear company vision and purpose, gives employees a solid reason to stay. Find projects, tasks, rewards and assignments that give your staff a sense of purpose and motivation, then watch the light that emanates from your stars! Building your dream team takes time, effort, skill and a certain amount of luck. But the results are undeniable.

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Stick Together

If you really want to keep your team together, take the following actions:

  • Connect with your team, and have them engage and connect with each other.
  • Give your team members projects or tasks that stretch their abilities.
  • Encourage new ideas, and recognize people for their contributions.
  • Provide opportunities for advancement or leadership.
  • Appreciate, recognize and encourage all your staff members.
Donna Hutchinson

Donna Hutchinson owns On The Edge Fitness Educators. Based in North Vancouver, British Columbia, she is a fitness business coach and author of How-To Guide to Starting Your Own Personal Training Business. In 2007, she was nominated for the Women of Excellence Award and the Business Person of the Year Award. Find out more at www.edgefit.ca.

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