Building an In-house Team: How to find your way back to Kansas
Building a successful in-house agency team might feel a bit like skipping (not confidently) down the Yellow Brick Road. Why the nod to the “Wizard of Oz”? Dorothy built her “team” along her journey to Oz. Each team member brought unique strengths to the journey, which led to successfully arriving in Oz and ultimately achieving the goal of getting Dorothy back to Kansas.
So to bring this analogy home – you’ve most likely been navigating the day-to-day at work just fine, but then, one day you wake up just like Dorothy, not recognizing your surroundings. You are definitely NOT in Kansas anymore! What happened? Did your in-house agency enter a high-demand period? Is there a new corporate direction that necessitates evolution of the team? Have you been tasked with providing new or higher-level services? Whatever is driving the need to evolve your group, building and/or enhancing your team becomes a critical requirement, and once your team is assembled, there are three essential steps to ensure you create and sustain a cohesive, high-performing team.
1. Establish clarity
Clarity starts with clear mission and vision statements, and a value proposition. These are the foundation on which you can build your business and your team and establish a powerful culture. An effective mission statement clearly defines your purpose. At Cella our mission is quite simple, “Solving complex challenges is hard. We make it easier.” To bring our mission to life, as leaders we ask ourselves if what we are doing is making it easier for our clients, partners and each other.
A vision statement is forward-looking and aspirational. It will clearly state your company or team goals. It’s an expression of the kind of organization you’re striving to be in the future.
Your value proposition is a clear statement of specific, tangible benefits the customer – your clients and upper management – receives from engaging your team rather than a competing alternative, in which value = benefits – cost: in other words, “Why use us?”
Equally important is ensuring that each of your team members has a clear understanding of their role. Not only clarity around their responsibilities and accountabilities, but also those of their colleagues. Knowing what is expected of them, how they will be evaluated and how their role supports the organization’s success, positively impacts employee engagement and performance. A good place to start is with a thorough job description and a team RACI.
2. Be the coach
A great coach establishes team and individual goals (making it to the Emerald City), sets expectations and holds the team accountable.
When setting team goals:
- Focus on no more than two or three that support your greater organization’s goals.
- Engage your team members in the process of goal-setting.
In addition to establishing goals, it is essential that you set clear performance and behavioral expectations for your team. Clear expectations in these areas positively impact how your team will conduct themselves and consequently set your team up for success, while having a positive impact on morale. Here are a couple examples of performance and behavioral expectations we’ve established for the team I lead:
- Performance expectations: Prioritize quality. Without it, we don’t have a place here. This applies to your individual work product and that of the team.
- Behavioral expectations: Show genuine care and concern for team members.
If your studio is anything like ours, the goals and expectations you establish can get lost in the whirlwind of day-to-day activities making it essential to promote a culture of accountability. Many managers consider this to be one of the most challenging aspects of their “coaching” role. Here are a few steps you can take to help encourage accountability within your team:
- When assigning a project, agree on a final due date.
- Schedule regular check-ins and leave your door open for questions.
- If a deadline is missed, ask why. Then be quiet. This puts the responsibility where it belongs— on your team member.
- Be consistent with follow-through and follow-up.
- If this is a repeat issue, a performance coaching discussion should take place.
The more you hold your team accountable, the more natural it will become for you to assume that role, and the more likely it will become unnecessary over time.
Once you’ve created a strong foundation for your team by establishing clarity and providing clear expectations, you’re ready to invest in them. Trust, collaboration and strong communication are hallmarks of high-performing teams and, if planned well, team-building activities can powerfully strengthen these pillars that support a positive culture. Investing in team-building not only helps build a cohesive group, but also shows your team that you value them. One tip: don’t use team-building activities to force or teach your team lessons. Team activities that encourage a little fun, informal conversation and interactions in a relaxed environment are more effective in creating strong supportive bonds among your team members.
Establishing a collaborative, high-performing team goes far beyond selecting a group of A-players. With clarity of purpose and responsibility, powerful coaching and investment in your staff, your team can grow in transformative ways and ultimately reach your Land of Oz – just like Dorothy and her “team”.