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"I want to take my business to the next level. We need to grow by 40% this year and 150% over the next 3 years. But…"

I heard this from a business owner just last week. His "but" was his concern that his staff wasn’t prepared to get it done. They didn’t follow procedures, spent time on less important tasks, didn’t think out of the box, and looked to him for all of the important answers. With those issues, taking his business to the next level will be difficult if not impossible.

What he needs are some partners. When I say "partners," I don’t mean legal partners with a financial investment in the business.


I mean people who have an emotional investment in the business. He needs to find ways to make his team feel like owners even though they’re not. As the true owner of the business, he will likely never have a team that’s as passionate as he is about growing the business. However, there are things he can do to dramatically increase his team’s level of ownership and passion, even if they’re not true owners.

Here are some ways to make that happen:

1.  Conduct Joint Planning & Goal Setting – Typically, goals are set by leaders and handed down to the "rank and file." Since the team had no hand in setting these goals, limited buy-in often results. What’s worse, when goals aren’t met, the team blames unrealistic goals rather than their own performance. Leaders should give their teams enough information (company goals, historical performance, strategic objectives, financials when possible, etc.) so that they can set their own goals. Of course, leaders should still be responsible for approving all goals and challenging those goals that are either too aggressive or not aggressive enough.

2.  Help Employees Understand the WIIFM – Most leaders try to motivate by rallying the troops around what’s important to the company. That is important, but there’s something much more important. People are more motivated by What’s In It For Me (WIIFM). It’s not that they’re selfish, it’s just human nature.  Leaders need to work with their team members to understand how they are personally impacted by the business goals that have been set. Notice that I didn’t recommend that leaders tell the team members how they’re impacted. Everyone is different. Leaders (and/or their leadership teams) need to work with each team member to find their own unique "why."

3.  Don’t Have All The Answers – Leaders often let their egos get the best of them. However, strong leaders don’t dictate decisions to their teams, rather they ask for their input and advice. This doesn’t mean "management by consensus." Ultimately, leaders need to make the final decisions, but it is critical to make the team part of the process. Even when leaders think they know the answer to an important question or challenge, they should still ask their team what they think, so they’re not dictating a decision.

4.  Encourage Conflict – Does your team get along great? Do you always seem to agree with each other? Do you have trouble remembering your last major team conflict? This may seem strange, but if you answered yes to these questions…you’ve got problems. A team needs conflict to be effective and evolve. Think of it as Darwin’s theory of evolution for business. If good ideas don’t crush bad ideas, and great ideas don’t crush good ideas, then a business (and its employees) will operate based on bad ideas, grow stagnant, and die.

Implementing these ideas will certainly allow business owners to do a great deal more than just increase revenues. Having additional "partners" in a business will also increase productivity, improve morale, enhance customer loyalty, increase margins and, maybe most important of all, reduce stress.

How are you cultivating partners in your business?