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Top five tips to build a resilient, high performing team

Tuesday, 6 August 2013 | By Rose Powell

No entrepreneur launches a business thinking it’s going to be easy. Most are ready to work harder than they ever have, but taking a team on that journey with you can be challenging.


Stuart Taylor is a managing partner at the Australian branch of the Resilience Institute, a global initiative that works with businesses to build organisational strength and is speaking at an upcoming innovation conference In the Room in Sydney.


Taylor told StartupSmart most entrepreneurs already have the make-or-break quality leaders need to build resilient and effective teams: optimism.


“Entrepreneurial business owners have a natural tendency and thinking style that is optimistic. That’s a huge strength that can be leveraged to bind together the organisation, because in start-up days and weeks and months and years, it’s a challenging time to get a sustainable cashflow happening in a new market or wherever you’re seeking to play,” he says.


Use your passion to find and unite the team


According to Taylor, the starting point for any strong team is to unite around a clear and exciting vision.


“Most entrepreneurs go into their start-up with a huge passion for the offering they’re bringing to market. So crystallising a team around that offering builds a sense of resilience,” Taylor says.


By placing every success and challenge in the scope of that vision, founders can keep their team focused and energised.


“You need to stay focused on the passion and build a level of mindfulness. Because as the entrepreneur, if you don’t have it, it ain’t going to be in the staff group,” Taylor says.


Start-up recruitment takes time


Interviewing and recruiting is always challenging, but in a start-up, a bad hire can be devastating.


“The challenge in a smaller start-up is you don’t have a lot of room for mistakes. It’s costly in anyone’s business, but as a start-up the relative percentage is much higher. So making good decisions at the recruitment level is fundamental to having a resilient business moving forward,” Taylor says.


Taylor recommends entrepreneurs focus on initiative and cultural fit.


“Always socialise a prospective recruit over time, among the team and see them in action in their own current environments and get to understand them as a person rather than as a CV,” Taylor says.


Helpful interview questions can include asking the candidate about a time they’ve created something out of nothing, how they’ve thrived under challenge, or dealt with disaster and trauma and grown stronger because of it.


Don’t create a culture that celebrates all-nighters and burn out


Long hours and high stress levels are part of most start-ups, especially when they start to take off. But Taylor cautions entrepreneurs against accepting this as unavoidable or good practice.


“Long hours may be setting yourself up for failure. It’s a key act of leadership to say ‘how do we do this’ and maintain our energy and capacity through that process,” Taylor says. “Anyone can do an all-nighter and it’s not about that. Your job is to build a sustainable business with sustainable high-performance.”


Manage the periods of intense work and long hours well


Taylor says the health issues of burn-out cultures are undisputed, and entrepreneurs need to manage any periods of long hours carefully.


“It’s about acting smarter in intense periods and seeking to maintain positivity throughout that. There’s no question we can hold high performance better when it’s linked to that positive emotion. That can be through strong emotional leadership from the entrepreneur and clarity about how your individual work links to the bigger picture goal,” Taylor says.

He adds that during busy periods, staff should be encouraged to take short breaks.


“It’s very clear from the research taking a break every 90 minutes allows your brain to refresh and re-engage for a higher performance outcome,” Taylor says.


Master the high performance personal supply chain


By encouraging people to tend to their own “performance supply chain” of body, heart and mind, entrepreneurs can have happier and high performing teams.


“Realise that underpinning a resilient person is looking after their bodies. It’s not just the cognitive level,” Taylor says, adding people who exercise, eat and sleep well and have relaxation practices are better equipped.


Taylor says allowing people to look after themselves is a cultural choice every entrepreneur makes whether they realise it or not.


“When you go into meetings, think about how everyone’s heart is going. Meetings usually are all about tasks, but you need to check into emotions too, and stimulate positivity through celebration and gratitude,” he says.


Taylor says the third and final aspect of the performance supply chain is to encourage your team to be mindful of how they think about challenges.


“We call this the ‘performance supply chain’. Body, heart and mind create sustainable high performance,” Taylor says.