Understanding the alchemy of business growth has been a research focus for over 50 years. Why? To fuel global prosperity.
Understanding the alchemy of business growth, especially small business growth, has been a focus of research for over 50 years. The motivation is simple: to fuel greater growth and with that the social and economic health and wealth of businesses, towns, cities, regions, nations and the global economy.
Never have the findings of such research been more pertinent than now as we emerge in different speeds from a global pandemic.
Research suggests that three factors influence significant growth in SMEs and owner-managed firms – factors that also influence growth in medium-sized and large multinationals: (1) the entrepreneur(s), (2) the strategy and existence of a business plan, (3) the culture of the firm including teamwork and collaboration (internally and with external partners). Let us use the lens of teamwork to explore all three factors.
We know that high performing teams display five characteristics. Combining major strands of research, including Lencioni and landmark studies at Google in 2015, as well as substantial experience across SMEs and global organisations, we see that these five characteristics underpin the three factors that influence exceptional growth:
Teams with transformative purpose know why they exist – the purpose for which individual team members (often, in the context of scale-up/high-growth firms, “intrapreneurial” people) come together and the results they need to deliver. Such teams have an agreed strategy/project plan that governs how they intend to deliver excellently.
Teams that have aligned collaboration are clear on the roles of individual team members. Those team members have the right capabilities for those roles and they understand their interdependencies. Such team members are woven together by clear accountability, supported by recognition, participation and communication.
Teams where decision-making is trusted refer to their strategy/ project plan. They know the key facts to which they bring diverse perspectives - to unleash creativity and foster a sense of fairness as decisions are made in pursuit of agreed results.
Teams that enjoy wholehearted commitment have clear norms, create cultures of belonging, care and psychological safety between team-members.
Teams that pursue continuous learning share a growth mindset, drive for continuous improvement, encourage reflection and conflict resolution. Key questions that such teams dare to frequently ask themselves: What went well? What could have gone better? What could we have done that we didn’t do that would have made it better?
The absence of strong teamwork, the absence of the above five characteristics of high-performance teamwork, impedes scale-up and high growth. Why? Take each in turn:
- Lack of transformative purpose? Without a team purpose that trumps “individual bests”, individuals, especially entrepreneurial/intrapreneurial types, will pursue their personal purposes and question the point of the team.
- Lack of aligned collaboration? Initial enthusiasm will diffuse into chaos and disconnected activity.
- Lack of trusted decision-making? Lip service, politics and passive aggressive behaviour may ensue.
- Lack of wholehearted commitment? Individualist behaviour, personal agendas and silos or tribes develop.
- Lack of continuous learning? Fixed mind-sets may set in. Glass walls and ceilings may arise. Growth will be stumped as early wins are over-celebrated, mistaken for total success.
Scale-ups and high growth firms are businesses that pay attention to and develop all five characteristics of high-performance teamwork. They are run by entrepreneurs and driven by intrapreneurs within the organisation who team-up to deliver results to which they have committed and to refresh their business continuously. They are firms in which leadership is widely distributed from the top and through all layers and parts of the business, joined together by strong teamwork that fosters open-minded agility in the face of uncertainty, creativity and innovation.
Want help in developing high performance teams in your organisation – to scale-up for exceptional growth? Book a call with us for a no-obligation exploratory conversation.