Every time your team grows, you’re changing its culture. For this reason and many others, growth is not only exciting – but also challenging. The operational demands of an expanding organization are already difficult; add in a growing team of people, and that makes a leader’s job even more complex.
Here, we’re going to dive into the unique challenges involved in leading well while scaling up. We’re also sharing best practices for managing fast-paced team growth successfully.
What makes leading through growth hard
HR best practices are hard to focus on when you’re managing an expanding customer list or a time-sensitive opportunity. Yet, it’s important to not minimize the people factor in the growth equation – it’s essential to sustaining healthy growth.
Adding people to your team is a sign of business success, yet it can be quite challenging to accomplish when you have to scale up quickly to meet growing demand.
First of all, most leaders are in a rush to get empty seats filled with people who can help them achieve their goals. Every new person that you add is going to impact everybody else on the team, and the culture of the team, significantly. Even when an extra set of hands is desperately needed, new help can be unsettling to a team if not brought on board effectively.
Healthy headcount growth involves maximizing your time investment and efforts to support each team member even when business challenges are vying for all of your attention. This investment up front will pay off tenfold.
8 practical tips for leading a growing team
Wondering how you can help support the people on your team – both the new and the tenured – through times of rapid growth? Start with these tips.
1. Be intentional when making new hires
Hire with your whole team in mind. Resist the urge to fill an open role quickly. Waiting for the right person is better than quickly onboarding someone who doesn’t have the right skills for the job. And remember not to fall into a pattern of looking to hire replicas of yourself or a top employee. Instead, look to broaden your team’s collective skillset with new people who bring something unique to the table.
Also keep in mind, you can spend the time either selecting, developing and retaining the right folks or cleaning up a mess after making a rushed and poor hiring decision that impacts clients and team members alike.
2. Build a sense of belonging
Work to establish your team culture by design – not by default – to create a palpable sense of belonging and a shared sense of purpose among your team members. Help new employees meet all the right people. Highlight your mission, vision and values often and consistently with team members.
Shed light on your unspoken rules. For example, do you have a particularly service-oriented culture where all employees work to help each other and your customers? Highlight these great cultural expectations rather than waiting for new hires to figure it out.
3. Encourage employees’ sense of ownership
Ownership and autonomy are especially important to every team of professionals. You need to give people room to make decisions and manage their work processes and deliverables. Great leaders know that their way isn’t always the best way.
Find ways to help everyone consider how they are making the team function successfully through growth. Regularly ask questions that encourage employee ownership, such as:
- What ideas do you have for how we should work together?
- What does success on X project look like to you? How will that be executed?
- How should we manage delegating the work, especially during busier times?
- What do you need from me to support your work?
- What roadblocks or barriers do we need to address?
4. Share the “why”: Assigning meaningful work
It’s not just a millennial thing. Nearly every employee wants to know the work they’re doing matters and is connected to something bigger than themselves. So, leaders should strive to give every person on their team meaningful work – or more importantly, explain the meaning in their work. When you fully explain why the work is needed, even administrative tasks can become purposeful.
For example, by recording and updating notes on all of the clients talked to in a day, the next person who works with that client will know what’s current, relevant and how best to serve. Without current notes, the next person has to operate in a black hole. Even seemingly insignificant tasks can help a team serve its clients best, which in turn helps that team, and organization, grow.
5. Expect, and model, inclusivity
Leaders set the tone regarding how welcoming and inclusive a team will be to new staff and everyone’s ideas. Look for ways to communicate how everyone has value and adds to the strength of the team. Model that, by working together, you can make better decisions and generate more creative solutions. Expect and encourage the whole team to keep an open mind and maintain an environment where no one shuts down ideas.
6. Empower everyone to address conflicts
Most employee conflict does not require leadership to step in. Instead, talk to employees about how they’re going to problem-solve, by asking:
- What is the issue, and how do you plan to address it?
- How do you think that will work for you and your peer? Play that out to the end.
- What’s the goal? How do you want to move forward?
If employees are not successful resolving their own conflict after two attempts, then it is time for the leader to intervene.
7. Leverage a mentoring program
Buddying up employees through a mentoring program, formally or informally, is a great strategy to use when leading a growing team. Not only can this arrangement help you get new hires productive more quickly, but it’s also a great way to help more tenured employees develop their coaching skills.
8. Show a genuine interest in people’s lives
When your employees know you care about them, they’re more likely to follow suit with each other. In meetings, spend a few minutes asking about employees’ personal lives and investing in relationships before pivoting to business matters. Leaders need healthy boundaries but should show interest in employees’ hobbies, families and weekends. When people know that you care about them, they are much more willing to provide discretionary effort.
Summing it all up
With these strategies, you will find ways to support every employee on your team, despite the challenges you might face when your company is growing rapidly.
As a leader, it’s up to you to make sure your company culture supports your mission, vision and values. To learn how, download your copy of our free magazine, The Insperity guide to company culture.