Having employees is one thing, but then getting them to work together as a strong team is another thing entirely. So, in this article, we asked Heather Townsend, author and founder of The Accountants Millionaires’ Club to share her best tips to bring together a team within a small accountancy firm.
Before we get into how to get your employees to become a strong team, let’s first look at what prevents your staff from forming a strong team to begin with. This may become uncomfortable reading for the leader of a business, as many of these problems can rest with them. A core component of any under-performing team is a lack of clear direction and priorities. Alongside this often comes competing priorities, with individuals being pulled in different directions. For example, is the priority to retain clients OR put up fees for all clients? Some teams become talking shops. In other words, lots of talking and little or no action. Or, and I have seen this a lot, teams prioritise harmony over growth/innovation.
It’s about the culture you foster
When you read the list of what may prevent your staff from forming a strong team, a large contributing factor to every reason is the culture that you grow within your firm. There has been lots written about this and what goes into making a team’s culture, but a really simple way of looking at it is that any bad behaviour ingrained into the team is there because it has been tolerated by the leader. For example, if the leader is personally always late to meetings or cancels at the last minute, this gives licence for their team members to be late. If they let a team member get away with poor behaviour, it signals to other team members that they can also get away with the same behaviour. If your team has got into this situation, your answer is to sit down with them and agree how they should act as a team from now on; what behaviour is acceptable and what isn’t. Our members often do a ‘values’ exercise together where they explore their values as a team, and then discuss how they as a team carry out their values. This results in the team having the right conversation about how
they want to be act.
There needs to be a clear sense of direction and purpose within the team
Do you have a team, or just a collection of individuals working in the same office? Very often the difference between these two states is how well established the purpose and sense of direction is for the group of individuals. When this is established, you often have the makings of a team. Without it, no chance to create a strong team! It is your role as the leader of your firm to set the direction and purpose. For example, within the club we are big believers in using Rhythm Meetings (see later in this article) and ONE BIG FOCUS.
Let’s start with the ONE BIG FOCUS. This is where you and your team identify the biggest thing that the firm needs to do or change in the next 90 days to get the firm further along its journey. Then you and the team root cause everything, which can be done to help achieve the ONE BIG FOCUS. Then the team decide on WHAT will be done, i.e. Growth Tasks, and WHO will do it. Using a ONE BIG FOCUS drives alignment between individuals, but also stops initiative overwhelm.
There needs to be more communication and more commitment to action
Too often, meetings become talking shops with little commitment to action or accountability for action to take place. This is why we recommend that our members hold Rhythm Meetings in their firm. These are a set of regular meetings which happen daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly.
The daily meeting is a quick daily operational huddle. Each attendee at the meeting has 1 minute to answer a series of questions. And these questions can be altered to suit your firm’s requirements
– What am I happy about
– What am I doing today?
– What do I need help with?
– What will I finish which can get billed?
Attendees at a Rhythm meeting should turn up with their diary and to do list. This quick operational huddle needs tight facilitation otherwise it turns into a talking shop. If your team is remotely based, this can be done over Whatsapp, Slack or Microsoft Teams.
The weekly Rhythm meeting is about planning ahead for the next week and seeing what Growth Tasks have been done. If they haven’t been done, what is the root cause for this.
Then the monthly and quarterly Rhythm Meetings are with the leadership team to review the Growth Plans and reset the ONE BIG FOCUS if needed.
Help team members feel comfortable with challenge
The strongest teams are ones where people feel psychologically safe and able to challenge without fear. This means you have to encourage people to go out of their comfort zones, safe in the knowledge that you will support them if they don’t get the result they intended. But not just this, the team needs to be happy with challenge and see if positively. Therefore, your role is not to chastise if things go wrong, but help your team bounce back and learn from their experiences. Your role is not to close down conflict in the team, but make sure it is treated healthily and openly. Healthy conflict in a team is often what fosters growth and innovation within a business.
At the end of the day, as an owner of a small accountancy firm you get the team you deserve. Strong teams and supportive team cultures don’t justhappen. They take work AND leadership.