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How to Lead Your Team Successfully – Without Compromising Your Brand

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As an entrepreneur, how to motivate teams especially as a small business has always been a topic worth exploring. With technological advances and societal changes plus the fact that 46% of the workforce will be Millennials by 2020 & 50% of the workforce will be freelancers by 2020, understanding how to motivate your team members in these changing times is necessary to successfully lead your team while staying true to your brand and brand story.

Questions of Drive & Freedom

What drives us? If you’re solo, you have to learn how to motivate your best self day after day – and how not to bullsh*t yourself.

But if you have support staff, lead a team, or train others using your material or brand as I do, you definitely must live in this question. It’s this question of motivating others I’m curious about today, and I also will depart from my normal mode of writing and give you a “behind-the-scenes” peek into one of my businesses.

Part of the question about what drives us and others has to do with other questions about freedom:

How much freedom do you give the people on your staff or team, or among your trainees and franchisees? How much latitude do you give team members to make their own decisions or assume projects within your organization? How much leeway do you give franchisees to build upon your brand?

One theory of management and leadership goes something like this: Articulate your vision and values to your workers or team. Be sure they buy into it. For workers who interface with customers or clients, give them a script to follow.

Similarly, for entrepreneurs, the same theory goes like this: Give franchisees strict guidelines bound by a legal contract. A customer’s experience in a TGIF or a Starbucks should be the same whether that TGIF or Starbucks is in New York’s Union Square or in McKinney, Texas.

In either case, allow no variance. A customer service rep or an assistant should not improvise or make decisions on her own. A franchisee should not add his own flavor to your brand. Otherwise, you risk brand confusion if not dilution.

It’s a popular theory that’s shaped corporate culture, franchising philosophy, and customer service for about twenty years. I’ve found merit, for instance, in Michael Gerber’s articulation of it in his E-Myth material.

Clarity, consistency, correctness – these are chief implicit corporate values.

But are these values the best ones to guide you as a leader who must motivate others, whether you’re CEO of a corporation, COO of your solo-S-Corp, the founder of your own training program, or the employer of a small support staff?

After all, it’s not faceless corporations you want to model your creative enterprise after – especially when several corporations are learning from and emulating small business practices these days.

My own experience and research in social psychology, business psychology, and the psychology of motivation consistently challenges parts of this franchise wisdom.

What’s at Stake with Your Brand?

When you invest your heart and ingenuity into developing your brand – even if you come into developing your brand through the creative back door as I have – you feel you have a lot at stake when you hire someone or train someone to carry out that brand. How do you let that brand grow with a little love, trust, and wonder instead of so much fear?

I’ve had my own pulls and tugs with the “franchise” theory above. I’ve built my brands through two decades of intensive study, teaching, speaking, consulting, and publishing.  In other words, there’s a lot of energy and emotion invested in raising this baby.

It’s one thing to describe to customers what your or business’s value is. It’s another thing to train other people to do what you do with the level of excellence your inner boss has come to expect of yourself.

How do you train other people to do what you do well – and still carry on your brand’s integrity?

It’s a common tug between giving freedom and maintaining consistency. Here are a few take-aways:

  • Share with your team your compelling, genuine vision imbued with values you and they share.
  • Empower them with information, skills, and tools that will help their innate strengths flourish.
  • Give them opportunities to test things out for themselves and to emulate what you do, not simply imitate.
  • Provide opportunities for them to inspire and support one another. Team SYNERGY works.

What Drives Us?

I’ve confirmed and re-learned two key tenets for effective team and group leadership that actually are consistent with the latest research in social psychology, business research, and motivation.

1. Let team members go off-script. Researchers at the University of Birmingham, Business School have found that employees with higher levels of autonomy in their work reported positive effects on their overall well-being and higher levels of job satisfaction.

Consultant Shep Hyken, author of the NYT best-seller The Amazement Revolution, gives numerous examples of corporations from FedEx to Atlanta’s The Fudgery that let their employees go “off-script” when engaging customers.

Give your team autonomy within a collective vision and shared values – that’s a tenet that drives us on the Tracking Wonder Team.

Caveat: Giving autonomy doesn’t mean you abnegate leadership. You still have to monitor and check in. You have to be sure excellence is offered and that everyone embodies the collective vision. Giving employees or team members autonomy also means you need to give them the right information on which to base their decisions.

Woe to the solo-preneur who hires an assistant and lets her take over without any accountability.

How are you empowering your team, trainers, or franchisees with autonomous decision-making?

2. We thrive by learning. Again, Spretizer and Porath’s research confirms that those employees who continuously learn thrive significantly more than those workers who do not. Psychologist Carol Dweck’s work in motivation also confirms that college students driven by the desire to learn and to master – versus to perform and to please – ultimately feel more fulfilled with their lives in the long run.

There are so many other take-aways that have to do with compassion and passion and communication, but these two tenets remain true: Autonomy and Learning. How delightfully human and fundamentally humane.

How are you providing learning opportunities for your team, trainers, or franchisees?

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One Comment

  1. Delightfully human and beautifully humane. Since listening to this year’s Quest Roundtable on collaboration, I’ve wondered what would happen if internal teams and staff members were treated as valued collaborative partners.