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How to... build a winning team

Sharing the load 

Hiring your first employee should provide a welcome bit of help. But many people who’ve done it will admit it comes with considerable challenges, says Nikki Faulkner.

Simon started and ran a small business on his own for several years. His business grew, and in time he took on his first employees. He was expecting this would reduce his workload, but he’s now more stressed than ever because now he is also responsible for his team.

He has to look after the development, training, motivation and engagement of his team members, and to set objectives that not only align with his business objectives but are also relevant to them as individuals.


He is responsible for reviewing their performance, coaching them, recruitment, interviewing candidates, and the induction of new hires. He has to communicate with his team, deliver difficult messages, manage conflict, and get used to delegating, influencing and negotiating. 

Simon is learning that when you have a team, your success will be determined by your team’s success – it’s no longer all about you. The following tips should help you to build a successful team.

1 Seek out people who fit 

If all the important attributes for the role and company are not considered during interview, a new hire is likely to fail.

Before interviewing, identify the top 10 attributes the job you are hiring for needs. These attributes should be a combination of technical – such as fluency in a foreign language or software proficiency; cultural – aspects that fit your company’s culture, such as collaboration or customer focus; and individual – such as coachable or diligent.

2 Dig down when you interview

Use behavioural interview questions. Ask for past examples of decisions, actions and results that show the attributes you are looking for and will tell you how someone might perform in your role.
If you’re looking for a waiter, you might ignore someone who has never done this job before. But if you dig down to find out exactly what they did in another role that demonstrates great customer service, such as a shop assistant, you might find the right person for the job. 

3 Build on new hires’ enthusiasm

Take advantage of the enthusiasm and energy of a new hire. Most people starting a new job want to make a great impression and meaningful contribution, start developing skills and knowledge, and be successful fast. 

Develop a structured induction process that educates a recruit on the things that might be second nature to you, and those that are more specific to your firm’s products or services. Ask yourself what someone would need to know to be successful quickly.

4 Set SMART goals

Setting SMART goals allows an individual to be successful while helping the firm achieve its goals. They allow you to guide the person’s work, show what success looks like, and enable performance feedback and reviews. 

SMART stands for Specific – the who, what, when, where, why, and how; Measurable – you will recognise when you have achieved the goal; Achievable – the goals are within the person’s control; Relevant – they help you achieve your overall objective; and Time-bound – they have a defined completion date.

5 Keep them on track 

Provide continual feedback against SMART goals throughout the year to help the individual understand their progress and to give them recognition in real-time.

Giving this feedback allows both of you to see when the person is off-track, giving them time to remove ‘roadblocks’ or fix problems and get back on track before any final review or end of a project. 
The process becomes ongoing coaching to help keep your team on track, since problems can be identified early.

Nikki Faulkner is founder of Mulberry Bush Consulting and an FSB member.