5 Team Leadership Tips for Small Business

By Pedro Hernandez | Posted May 24, 2013

Behind practically every success stands a strong team.

Whether in the Air Force, the NFL or in business, effective team leaders bring the best out of their colleagues and accomplish the goals they set for their groups. Former Denver Broncos general manager and one-time Air Force Intelligence Officer, Ted Sundquist, is an expert in teamwork. And now, as an author, he's sharing the knowledge he's gleaned in a new book called "Taking Your Team to the Top."

Sundquist drew from all three of those arenas to share some tips with Small Business Computing on building teams, keeping them engaged and leading them toward success.

Leading with a Clear Objective

In the Air Force, the environment is "very mission oriented, [there are] no gray areas with what your responsibilities are," he says. In professional football, too, the objective is clear. "Your mission is to win football games." How do those views help small business team leaders?

The Air Force's by-the-book approach—regulations books spell out military processes and guidelines— pro football's hypercompetitive environment, and his own experiences with entrepreneurs and business leaders, have shaped Sundquist's outlook toward team building and management. Certain themes emerged as he explored how teamwork helped successful leaders get to (and stay at) the top of their game.

5 Steps for Building Successful Teams

Sundquist summarizes his outlook with the acronym, FUDES (pronounced 'foods'). Hungry to learn more? Keep reading...

Focus

As simple as it sounds, it's just as easy to lose.

Sundquist suggests asking your team, "What are we here to do?" Define a goal and weigh your decisions on whether they bring you closer toward accomplishing it. This will prevent project derailment, help contain costs and save time.

FUDES itself provides a way to focus (or re-focus) your team's efforts. "Everything that you do should go through that acronym," advises Sundquist. Whether a making a personnel move or expending a resource, he says, FUDES will keep your team on track.

Unity

"There is nothing more important than making sure that everyone is on the same page," says Sundquist.

Communicate well, often and unambiguously. Also, make absolutely sure that everyone on your team knows their role. This promotes team harmony, prevents duplicate or wasted effort and allows your team to seamlessly handoff tasks.

Keep unity in mind when you hire new people, suggests Sundquist. While a candidate may look good on paper, consider whether the applicant is going to "fit into the chemistry of the group." We all have our quirks, and some personalities are stronger than others, but you want to avoid someone that will "tear at the unity of your group."

Unity binds teams and helps ensure success. Preserve it.

Direction

If success is the destination, you're going to need to know how to get there.

As a team leader, it's your job to guide your team. This is where your expertise comes into play. Assign tasks that further your goals, and then support your team in completing them. Watch out for signs that they're veering off course, which can result in a costly side trip.

Above all, be careful not to overstep.

"As a leader, you walk a little bit of a fine line," warns Sundquist. Don't allow guidance to turn into micromanaging. After all, your team won't gain valuable experience if you hold hands every step of the way. Worse, it can erode your team's unity. In short, learn to give direction but don't take the wheel.

Excellence

What do visionaries, innovators and business aces all have in common? "Good enough" are two words that they rarely put together.

Great teams don't coast; they always set the bar a little higher. And the secret to leading a truly exceptional team, says Sundquist, is to set "high standards for yourself and have ways of measuring those standards."

Additionally, "identify what the standard is and hold [your team] accountable to that standard."

Don't just fixate on evaluating your team's progress; seek perspectives from other organizations or business leaders that inspire you. "True leaders in their industries—people at the top of their game—they know what it takes to stay one step ahead of their competitors," informs Sundquist.

Learn from their experiences and find ways to make those experiences work for you and your team.

Success

Ultimately, following the above steps will lead to success, boasts Sundquist.

Realistically, "it's going to be very difficult to be focused 100 percent of the time," he concedes. That's normal. Success is the "ultimate byproduct" of making an earnest and sustained attempt to focus your team's efforts, promote unity, establish direction and strive for excellence.

Achieving success hardly closes the book on effective team leadership, adds Sundquist.

"There's always room for improvement," he says. Harking back to his tips on pursuing excellence, always keep a lookout for the extra "step that you can take that will allow your team to reach that success."

Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Small Business Computing and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.

Do you have a comment or question about this article or other small business topics in general? Speak out in the SmallBusinessComputing.com Forums. Join the discussion today!

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