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Working With People: How to Create a Company of Hearts and Minds

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If you are starting a business, a project or a family, you are starting a company of people. When you get a bunch of people working towards a common goal, then you are starting a company. Attracting the company of other people is the quintessential human activity. Building connections and relationships is the most natural thing that biological organisms do. We do it every day when we work and play in the company of other people. We also know that some teams really work, while other teams crash and burn. So, what are the key elements that make the difference? Have you ever been involved in a group of people where everything just seemed to work like clockwork? Each member of the group had a purpose, and nobody got in anybody else’s way? This type of rare union does exist, and it is apparent that with the right leadership, these teams can be created.

Trust vs. Experience

Trusting only your experience can be dangerous because each business is very different. There is no doubt that experience is valuable, and the experienced person will feel more confident about building a new team or managing an existing group, but it cannot guarantee success. Building a productive, healthy team of people is not a function of how much experience you have in creating harmonious teams, but rather, it’s a function of the trust within the group. Trust is what binds our thriving relationships, and the lack of it is what will lead to the union’s collapse. Building trust is not something that can be done instantly, but it is possible to remove doubt fairly quickly. The best way to initiate a pathway to trust, is to remove doubt. The best way to remove doubt, is to never, ever lie and always keep your partner and team members up-to-date with relevant and useful information.

Managing Expectations

If you have ever made a promise you couldn’t keep, then you understand that awful feeling you get when you know you have let somebody down. In a way, promising something that you cannot deliver, is as bad as flat-out lying. By under-promising, you not only save face, but you retain the advantage of being able to exceed expectations. Executive coaches guide their partners to use the principle of under-promising and over-delivering. It is a powerful tool in managing expectations.

Automatic vs. Time-Tested

A group of great individuals does not guarantee a great team. There is nothing automatic about creating a team that will lead to greater productivity. It is more likely that the great people, and their great egos, will find it more productive to act for their own good. This is one of the serious problems with modern companies. It is assumed that buying the best of the best and fencing them into teams will automatically lead to success. Not true!

Be Selfish

Advice like this may seem counter-intuitive at first. The first rule of lifesaving is that you cannot help others if you cannot first help yourself. If you intend on starting a company or being the member of a group, you need to be sure you can help yourself, first and foremost. Be selfish and consider what you want from the group, but make sure that the group understands this. It is another way of managing expectations. If every member of the company is aware of what the others want, and are each willing to meet those expectations, then the work will flow a lot more smoothly. This means that you are ready to accept responsibility and the tasks that are set out for you.

Startup Management is Different from Ongoing Management

If you understand the difference between these two management skills, then you are probably already a great manager. This is the hardest lesson that any leader will ever learn. Starting a revolution and rebuilding once the smoke has settled, each requires its own, very distinct character. Don’t be fooled by the likes of Bill Gates, who was both the founder and then the senior leader of Microsoft. This combination of skills in one person is very rare. If you are good at attracting people to start something from scratch, you will probably want to be starting something from scratch in a few year’s time. Being a starter with low follow-through skills is not a failing, it’s just one of the many different types of leaders that any economy needs to survive. Think of it this way: if the fast-growing plants don’t take hold when the earth is ravaged by floods, then the top soil will be blown away and the big trees will never get a chance to take hold. It takes all kinds.

Learn to Listen

Can you remember what the person that was just in your office said to you? Probably not. Even though each of us has two ears and only one mouth, we are not very good listeners, preferring to talk and not hear what people have to say. Listening is a skill, but more importantly, it is a sign of maturity. If you can stop yourself from interrupting or speaking during a meeting, you will be astounded by the things you will hear, both said and unsaid. When we stop to listen, we open ourselves up to hear the subtleties of what people are really saying. Is the manager who repeatedly shares her own experience with everyone really so experienced, or is she asking for more recognition for her achievements?

Judgment

Apply loads of judgment to advice. It is a common fact that people prefer to dispense advice, rather than receive it. When you receive advice from your advisors, it is excusable to initially ignore it and continue to ask for more input. Knowledge is a powerful motivator when making tough decisions.

Intuition

Intuition is the greatest advisor you can have, in all aspects of your life. This is especially true when working in the company of other people. Listen to your gut, even after you have gathered your advice. Learning to listen to your gut will be the greatest intellectual achievement of your lifetime. The amazing biophysicist, Candace Pert, PhD, in her work on the relationship between emotions and molecules, identified receptors on every major organ that respond to the same external stimuli that the brain responds to. Every cell in our bodies is studded with hundreds of thousands of these receptors. Because of their crucial role in guiding our body’s responses to inner and outer cues, they have been called informational substances. By being aware of what your body is telling you in a situation, you can make better decisions that will benefit yourself and, ultimately, the team you work with.

First, Build the Company

If you have any desires to build a business that will generate profits, then you must create a company first. A great company leads to a great business. People are the core of all businesses, successful or unsuccessful. But getting those people to work harmoniously with one another is what is standard among successful businesses.

The Mind of The Group

Having served in the army, I know that, in many cases, there is nothing so mindless as a group of people. The individual’s thinking and acting power, far outweighs the power of the group. Group energy is the direct result of the ability of the individuals in that group to remain independent. Give your teams the power to think and work as individuals. If you remove the ability of the individual to think, be productive and be innovative, you will never build a strong team. The team is just a support structure for the individuals in the group. The purpose of creating companies, is to unify this power, not distribute it.

Author Richard Banfield

As CEO, Richard leads Fresh Tilled Soil’s strategic vision. He’s a mentor at TechStars and BluePrintHealth, an advisor and lecturer at the Boston Startup School, and serves on the executive committees of TEDxBoston, the AdClub’s Edge Conference, and Boston Regional Entrepreneurship Week.

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