How to set up your team for success

Do you have a new team or are you starting a new project? Most teams rush straight into the work without having clear agreements in the beginning about where they are going or how they want to get there. The key ingredient for a successful project is clarity. If you want to set your team up for success, you should be clear about your project’s objectives and each team member’s role and responsibilities.

Don’t wait until you hit a bump in the road and then be forced to work out agreements in the midst of frustration and confusion. This is when conflict can arise in teams. Therefore, it’s important to clarify your expectations upfront to set up your team for success.

To lead a team effectively, you should try to establish rapport with each member. The most successful managers build their relationships on trust and loyalty, rather than fear or the power of their positions.

Here are a few ways to set your team up for success.

Start before your team does

The first thing you should do, before sitting down with your team, is to clarify your project’s objectives. This step, which is essential to successfully complete the project, is likely to be dictated by the client. Or if the project is an internal initiative, by your company’s management. It’s best to create a resource plan before starting the project. This plan should include details of the budget, hours needed for the project, the number of people included and the required skills necessary to tackle the work.

Many team members may work only part-time on the project, stealing time away from their regular responsibilities. If that’s the case, speak to their line-managers first before the project begins. That way you’ll have some understanding about what to expect from  each team member.

Clarify the roles and expectations

Try to reach out to each individual team member and nurture a relationship. Do this before the team’s first meeting. In doing so you’ll be aware of each member’s personality type and skill set. As a project manager, you should try to make the lives of your team members easier. While they are working on their individual tasks, you can clear obstacles from their path. Help them to meet deadlines, look for more resources or find more time to complete the project, if you must.

If your project involves both the business and technical side, make sure both share the same goals. Different agendas and opposite expectations often delay the progress of the project.

Set the right tone

You will play a big part in explaining the work tone of your team, especially at the beginning. You should talk to your team in a way that makes a positive impact. Remember that negativity can poison a team’s mood and effectiveness. Try to strive for an upbeat team spirit and an undivided team attitude. As the well known French author, Alexandre Dumas, said: “All for one and one for all.”

Having a sense of humour in a team is key. A fun environment can prevent a stressful situation. It’ll also help to get the most out of your team members. Instead of focusing on the problems why not turn your focus to the solutions? It can go a long way in maintaining a cheerful and positive atmosphere.

Foster the right behaviours

It’s important that you show your team how you expect them to work with your own good habits. As the saying goes, “actions speak louder than words”. A lot of obstacles will arise and you should overcome them calmly and openly. That way your team will learn the right way to respond to difficulties. You should have a life outside work to maintain a sense of balance and calm. There will come times when you have to work overtime to support team members to meet stressful deadlines. You should do things the way you’d like your team to do it. Try to set an example.

Deal with individual team members

If problems arise, don’t deal with the team as a whole. Instead, talk to team members individually. Some people will need hand-holding while others hate it. Some team members respond to a strong push in the right direction and others go into a mild depression if you’re too hard on them. It’s important that you know how to deal with each team member individually. You can do a project management training course to learn how to deal with different types of personalities you can find when working in a team. This course will also teach you about team management.

Being a project manager is quite a big role and you should be ready for what’s coming. And it all starts with getting your team ready. Together with your team, you should set goals in order to reach your full potential and make a success of the project.

What to look for when hiring for your finance team

finance staffThe hiring process is a daunting one. Any business owner or even manager can find themselves suffering anxiety when making a decision to hire new staff members. Each department has specific job roles that need to be filled or the department won’t be able to operate at optimum. But finding people to fill these roles can be a long and difficult task. Often times there are many job applicants who can do the role but not everyone is a good fit for your business or the other personalities in the specific department.


One of the first departments to be created in a new business is the finance department. This is a crucial part of any business and the employees who work in the finance department are often times slightly separated from the rest of the staff. The job of an accountant, bookkeeper and so on is a serious one. There’s no room for error and when mistakes do happen the consequences can be rather dire. This means that those operating in a finance department are number smart and the majority of them have some sort of formal tertiary education in finance. They’ve been through a degree or course which has prepared them to work in a career that focuses on balancing the books. But financial minds also focus on planning the financial year ahead, handling all aspects of corporate finance, investment strategies, cost controls, raising funds, company growth and expansion and keeping profit margins thick and healthy.


Finding the right financial person to employ is imperative to the company and can be a nightmare for the manager or owner making the final decision. This is because having a financial qualification is not really enough in the working world. When a job advert is placed, the qualifications listed as requirements are imperative and as an employer you will expect to receive applicants who can boast the necessary. But when browsing through the CVs that are sent through, there are other factors to bear in mind.


Consider applicants who have had some exposure to management and problem-solving tools


There are many part-time courses available to students and graduates that will boost their problem-solving abilities and give them a management skill set. If an applicant has taken the time to invest in these additional types of courses, you as the employer should pay attention. Their abilities will have been expanded by having studied the principles of management and things like time keeping, teamwork and business economics. This means that they will have a greater understanding of business operations in the real world.


Look for applicants with a mathematics background


Many of us feel like mathematics in school was, at best, an odd thing to learn. But in truth, complicated maths subjects, such as algebra and calculus, help give you the mental acuity needed when managing complexities in the financial markets. Those who have completed an additional tertiary level mathematics course will have been put through their paces with statistics too. This often results in them having better decision-making skills when they need to take risks based on likely outcomes and conclusions. What’s more, statistics offer insight into why a company would move around its stock.


Those adept at numbers aren’t always adept at communication


Even though financial professionals spend their working lives in a fairly quiet space, it’s important that they understand their colleagues and teammates enough to successfully communicate. Also, it is so worthwhile to have critical thinking as an attribute. This will be developed through studying psychology. Being able to evaluate human behaviour in financial decision-making sessions is invaluable, especially if client interaction is a part of the job spec. Being able to observe people within a financial environment is a talent and one which, if nurtured, will assist with identifying mistakes and correcting them quicker.


Those with business writing and presentation skills are generally just more confident


By employing a finance person who has completed courses in business writing and presentation skills, you’re employing someone who has already identified the need to appear professional at all times. They’ve put themselves in a position to learn how to create a great report, a comprehensive overview of ideas and suggestions and will be able to offer answers to question immediately. They’ll be practised in the art of presenting and their confidence will be one notch up from the average finance graduate. These courses don’t result in major qualifications but they’re so worthwhile. You cannot nurture a newbie into your next CFO if they’re not confident and become overwhelmed by presenting to making a strong case for their decisions.


Most common staff problems in the workplace

staff problelmRunning a business, whether you’re the owner or the manager, is all about the people you have working for you. How you treat them on a daily basis can have more impact on their productivity and happiness than any other aspect of the business. You could dangle hefty bonus structures, medical aid cover and fun corporate functions in front of them. But if their experience of the daily grind is negative, you’ll find yourself managing a miserable bunch.


Possibly the worst part of having unhappy employees is that they can be difficult to communicate with. If your staff members have been festering feelings of unhappiness or confusion or are demotivated, the chances are that when you finally realise they’re unhappy, they’re passed the point of wanting to share. Therein lies your first problem though. Why have your employees been less than eager to share their feelings? Do they feel that management is unapproachable? Or perhaps they feel that their concerns won’t be heard. If this is the case in your place of work you must correct it.


Often times, the employees who are most unhappy are that way for simple reasons. To them it may feel that they’re sinking in unhappiness but most times you, as the manager or owner, can rectify their situation quickly and easily. Having open lines of communication with your staff is crucial to running a successful business. After all, a high-functioning business relies on a high-functioning team. Therefore if your team is less than completely happy, your business will suffer.


Some of the most common problems that arise among staff members have to do with communication and understanding. Here are three examples of the most common staff issues that you’ll find easy to fix.


A staff member isn’t performing because they don’t know what you expect


This will inevitably result in the staff member constantly under-performing because they simply don’t know how to hit the marks you require. Unfortunately, this problem is yours to handle from the outset. You cannot actually place any blame on the staff member if you haven’t communicated correctly (of course, assuming they are in fact qualified for the position). You cannot just give an employee a job description. You need to supply them with expectations and practise goal setting with them. You could offer them an example of what excellent performance standards look like. Set up quarterly Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for them to achieve. This will keep your staff motivated but also completely aware of what you need from them.


Your employees have no idea of their impact on your business


This is something that many business owners don’t spend enough time communicating to their team. If you employ someone to perform a specific function in your company you should definitely let them know that they impact the bottom line. In their performance reviews, you should show them the successes and losses the company has had and explain just how important their role is in maintaining a sustainable business. Through this you will almost immediately pick up if you’ve perhaps hired someone who, while they have the skillset on paper, doesn’t have the necessary knowledge to completely fulfill their function. This can happen quite easily if the employer doesn’t train the employee correctly because they’ve assumed that the listed education is enough. For instance, an employee might have a journalism degree but that doesn’t mean that they necessarily have the know-how to write three high quality blogs for your digital agency everyday, straight out the gates. They will need guidance and training.


Non-performance still gets a reward


This has to do with accountability. Perhaps you have a staff member who you really get along with. They have a great personality and are extremely creative but they don’t finish the work they don’t enjoy but that is required. Perhaps they even have legitimate personal issues, but you have to ask how many times their second hand Ford can realistically breakdown before they do something about it.This staff member needs to be held accountable for the work they’ve left incomplete regardless of their car, family, kid issues.


No matter how well they have done in the areas of work they enjoy. The standard should be that an excellent employee should be rewarded for their good work and you cannot claim someone is an excellent employee if aspects of their work is left incomplete. Similarly, you can’t spend all your time with your problem staff members. You need to manage how you attend to them or they will feel “special” and been seen as such by your other staff members, who’ll land up feeling resentful.


To manage the team’s requirements for them to keep operating at a high level of productivity, you need to create clear channels which they can use to communicate their concerns. By having these channels set up right from the start, you’ll have created a sense of trust among your team members. To create the correct channels of communication and ensure that your staff know what they can do if they feel unhappy, you should consider completing human resources and legal courses. These will give you keen insight into how to manage your staff and how to make sure they know and feel that they’re truly the most important asset in your company.


Should you give your employee a company car?

buy a carIf you are a business owner who employs staff who need to drive around to do their job, you’ve likely asked yourself this question. Many small business owners will offer their staff members a petrol card to cover the costs of fuel. After all, fuel is the immediate expense when a vehicle is in constant use. But is a petrol card enough? What about wear and tear? Maintenance costs? If the employee decides to trade in their vehicle and purchase something bigger, will you still happily cover the fuel costs? Or perhaps, they purchase a smaller car that costs half the amount of their previous vehicle’s fuel costs – will you use that saved money as a bonus or reward?


These are tricky questions to ask. Often, business owners provide their staff with company vehicles when driving is expected as this way the company will cover the fuel, maintenance, insurance and so on. But this means that the staff member can expect a slightly lower salary as they use a company vehicle for their transport needs.


These stipulations can be a challenge to figure out. There really isn’t a blanket idea on how to deal with the company vehicle situation. It’s about what the business can afford and what the employee is happy to accept. Often times, companies offer a cost-to-company (CTC) package which will include things such as a company vehicle, a petrol card, a cellphone allowance, medical aid and a pension fund. If the employee accepts the CTC package then they have no say in the matter of what vehicle they drive. Things become extremely challenging when the company wants the employee to use their private vehicle for work purposes. After all, maintaining a vehicle, the tyres, the fuel and so on costs a lot of money.


Employees can appreciate a company car more than you think


In the case of an employee who doesn’t own their own private vehicle, the setup of having a company car can change their world. Even those who rely on only one car for the family to use for personal needs will find a second car extremely beneficial. In the case of those who earn in the lower income bracket and do manual labour, making use of the work truck to take their kids to school might be the very best benefit they can imagine receiving from their job.


But as a business owner, you need to make sure that you can afford the vehicles. The outlay of capital needed is enormous. Even when the car has been financed by the bank, it’s a couple of thousand out of the profits each month plus insurance, plus fuel. What’s more, if your staff are driving often or long distances, you will need to replace tyres more often than on your normal car. Also, you won’t be able to get away with anything less than comprehensive insurance considering you won’t be able to control how your staff drive the vehicle.


The tax man is on your side


On the positive side, you’ll be able to claim from the tax man off the company vehicles, the fuel costs and a portion of the maintenance too. Which means that tax season sees the business receive a hefty chunk of change, which can be used for something like a major service on all vehicles. What’s more, by offering the vehicles to your employees, you can include this benefit in the CTC package as mentioned earlier, which means their salary expectations are lowered.


Do as much research as possible


When looking into buying company vehicles, you should do your research before you simply purchase. Have a look online at what the resale value of the vehicle is. This is vitally important as you will likely want to trade in your company vehicles once they’re paid off, or even beforehand. You can do your research by playing around with a car book value calculator which will churn out results of different types of vehicles with a variety of different weaknesses or problems. In fact, if you see a vehicle you like for a good price, you can do a price comparison by using a car book value calculator. It’s best you make use of one that’s a feature on a reputable financial institution’s website so that you can rest assured of accurate results.
You see, vehicles are depreciating assets. Now, while a business could do well to have some company vehicles (they can work as branding and advertising opportunities too), they’re not going to bring in any concrete income. You need to put this down to basic company infrastructure that you believe is a must and not a nice-to-have.

Why you need to improve your writing skills

You might think that you don’t need to be a writer. But the truth is, we’re all writers now. Every email, text message and social media caption shows your friends and colleagues what kind of writer you are. And there are two options. The kind of writer who makes an effort to create copy that’s error free and the kind who’s happy to send out content which is riddled with mistakes.

You might not think that writing is important. There are so many other things you need to think about every day. How can you possibly find the time to worry about whether your writing is up to scratch? The reality is that every piece of communication you send out says something about you. It tells the world how much effort and pride you put into your work. It speaks to your professionalism and how seriously you value your career. Every single email you unquestionably dash off or text message you bash out says something about you. So it’s important that you know what it is you want the subtext of your written communication to be.

Impact of bad writing on your career

Still aren’t convinced? There’s a study and statistics to back this up! Consider a Grammarly study of 100 LinkedIn profiles. Each of the employees looked at had worked at no more than three employers during the first decade of their careers. Of these, half were promoted to director level within this time. The other half were not. What were the differences between these profiles? Here’s what they found:

Those with few grammar errors in their profiles were promoted to higher positions. Those who didn’t progress to director level in this time had 2.5 times the number of grammar errors in their profiles when compared to their peers who had been promoted.

Fewer grammatical errors correlated to more promotions. Professionals with only one to four promotions in this time period had 45% more grammar errors than their colleagues who were promoted six to nine times.

Fewer grammar errors are associated with more frequent job changes. The reality is that if you’re changing jobs often and looking out for promotion opportunities, you’re going to be looking at your LinkedIn profile more often. This means these professionals were able to look out for errors and make changes more often. People who stayed in the same job for longer periods of time often overlooked their profiles and didn’t catch the errors.

According to Grammarly, writing skills are indicative of a person’s work performance in these ways:

  • People who care about their writing show that they have the skills of credibility, professionalism, and accuracy in their work.
  • Knowing how to structure a grammatically correct sentence is a signal that they can analyse and explain problems a complex nature.

Says Grammarly chief executive Brad Hoover: “People with better grammar may be more ambitious in their search for promising career opportunities.”

It’s clear then that bad writing can have a negative impact on your career and future job prospects.

Tips to improve your writing skills

Some people think they aren’t good at writing. They convince themselves that they aren’t a writer and so don’t need to improve their writing skills. They don’t make any attempt to become better. They’re fine with just being okay at best and shoddy at worst. But the reality is writing is a skill which can be improved over time. It takes practise and work, and it’s worth it. Writing is something which can be taught and learned. There are many courses available online, whether you’re interested in improving your report writing skills or merely your general communication skills, you’re sure to find one which can assist.

If you’re in need of a few quick tips, here they are:

Keep it simple. Never use five words when one will do.

Know what you want to say. And be clear about it.

Put the most important information at the top. Cut the rest.

Keep your sentences short. Alternate between long and short sentences to create rhythm.

Reread and rewrite. Never send anything out without checking it over first.

Writing is something which can be improved over time. And the most simple way to improve your writing is to read. By reading more often, you’ll be exposed to examples of both good and bad writing. It’s important you are able to take these in and tell the difference between the two.