Small Business and Startups: Build Teams, Have Fun

Who says business can’t be fun? Leadership is not just about productivity, strategy, and tactics – much more important is the fact that great leadership is about people. Strong leaders never lose sight of the individuals who make up their team and never stop working to make the team stronger. A great team is at once a reflection of its leadership, but it also defines its leaders.

A leader should focus efforts on building community, creating and supporting company culture, and paying close attention to employees and their needs. This starts with valuing each member of your team as an individual, and recognizing the unique strengths that each brings with them. The corollary to this is identifying each individual’s weaknesses and deficits and being ready to help them develop in those areas and grow into even stronger members of the team.

One of the ways we do this is by spending time together – not just in meetings and on conference calls, but outside of work, in a relaxed atmosphere where people can be themselves, and learn about their co-workers. Outings, activities, parties, and meals are great ways to get to know the people around you even better, and too build the strong bonds that enable a company culture to develop and thrive.

1. Eat together. Instead of each person sitting at their sad desk, eating a stale sandwich, and drinking a flat soda take the time whenever possible to sit together for lunch. Share your food, share your ideas, and share stories. Talk about the TV show you watched last night, the book you just finished reading, or the presidential debate you drank your way through. Taking time out of the work day to relax and enjoy one another’s company is an invaluable way to build bonds and create intimacy; this is the stuff relationships are built on.

2. Take time to relax. Recognize that people are not robots and that everyone needs some moments of relaxation in the course of their work day. Some folks get this by taking a short smoke break or going for a walk. Others like to play a game of ping-pong or do some online shopping. And some just like to have a little chat about something – anything really – as long as it is not work-related. When you see your folks chit-chatting for a few minutes here and there instead of focusing on their tasks, smile and join in when you can. Remember that people thrive on the small things and create an atmosphere that respects that.

3. Be kind to one another. Paying attention to the people around you means asking them how they are – and then listening when they tell you. Everyone has a life outside of work made up of countless moments, both happy and sad. Their health and the health of those they care about, their hobbies, their passions; these are the things you can only learn about if you ask and then listen. Remember people’s birthdays and anniversaries and (if you have musicians, actors, or artists amongst you) attend your colleagues performances, shows, and exhibitions. People appreciate the fact that their co-workers truly care about them and the kindness and respect you show will be paid back many times over.

4. Create events. Go skiing together, rent kayaks and paddle, take in a movie (or even take a break during the day and watch one together in the conference room). There are countless things that you can do as a team and by creating events large and small, you give your team the opportunity to strengthen their relationships to one another, to the company, and to you.

5. Party togetherPeople love to party. So have one – do a cookout for a holiday or a birthday; take people out for special birthday lunches, or just do a get together for no special reason. If you’ve done a good job hiring the right people, chances are excellent that you already like each other and enjoy each other’s company. So go for it – buy some hot dogs and buns, whip up a batch of potato salad and have everyone over for a lazy summer afternoon.

6. Drink beerLastly, after work today invite the team out to your local watering hole and buy them a beer dammit. They deserve your thanks and having a quick drink at the end of the day is one of the simplest and most effective ways to show your gratitude for what they do and who they are. Cheers!

7. Create events. Go skiing together, rent kayaks and paddle, take in a movie (or even take a break during the day and watch one together in the conference room). There are countless things that you can do as a team and by creating events large and small, you give your team the opportunity to strengthen their relationships to one another, to the company, and to you.

Photo: cS Team members out for a special birthday lunch!