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a blog by Chris Barrow

What makes a great team?

1. The Dance

Over the years I have often been asked “can you fix my team?” and constantly reply with a Steve Covey quote – “if there is a problem with your team, the problem is you.”

That sounds a bit “blame ridden” and also seems to offer a full dispensation to team members who just don’t want to dance.

As in all things, there are elements of both parties having to tango to make for a perfect routine.

As an Employer you have to create an environment in which people can become motivated (you cannot motivate them – its impossible, don’t try, carrots and sticks don’t work – they are for uncooperative donkeys, not people).

As an Employer you have to:

  1. hold the vision – where are we going?

  2. make the vision personal to each team member – what’s in it for me?

  3. pay fair wages

  4. create a career pathway

  5. conduct regular Personal Progress Interviews and request/give feedback

  6. be the example of the standards of performance and behaviour that you want to see

  7. tolerate little, expect much

  8. be slow to chide and swift to bless

  9. love the job and show it

As an Employee you are responsible for creating the perception that you are indispensable – a Seth Godin Lynchpin in the organisation.

As an Employee you have to:

  1. accept and buy in to the vision

  2. understand the blessing of working for an enlightened Employer in an engaged business – and be grateful

  3. accept a fair wage

  4. request and desire a career pathway

  5. attend regular Personal Progress Interviews and request/give feedback

  6. be the example of the standards of performance and behaviour that are expected

  7. expect much, tolerate little

  8. be slow to chide and swift to bless

  9. love the job and show it

Funny how these lists are almost mirror images – two who tango or teams who tango – perfectly in step after much rehearsal and frequently enjoying the moment.

Life is too short for a job to feel like a job – if your’s does then its time to move on.

If you walk on stage most mornings, ready for the thrill of the dance – then as Employer or Employee you will have the best of times.

2. The Conversation

How often do you communicate with your internal support team?

Not enough.

How do I know that?

Because part of my work is to deal with the consequences.

Remember my all time number one saying:

“All problems exist in the absence of a good conversation.”

Those conversations can be 1:1 or team meetings.

Here’s a meeting schedule I devised some years ago for “perfect practice” and also to minimise the risk of relationship and communication problems in any business:


  1. a daily huddle before the curtains are raised, to review the good and bad points of the previous day and to preview the day ahead

  2. 20 minutes


  1. a weekly reflection on the best and worst bits of the previous week and agreement on what we can learn and how we can evolve

  2. 30 minutes


  1. a monthly review of all key aspects of the business

  2. Financial Performance

  3. Marketing results

  4. Patient Journey highlights

  5. Pipeline and Sales

  6. Operational issues

  7. Team well-being

  8. a half-day for a 3-hour meeting


  1. morning as per monthly meeting, afternoon as training on any of the above topics

  2. full day


  1. a getaway that includes an overnight

  2. day one morning – same agenda as quarterly but with the annual review

  3. day one afternoon – fun

  4. day one evening – party and awards

  5. day 2 morning – plans for the coming year

  6. day 2 afternoon – fun

  7. Strongly suggest location away from home town

You might be wondering where the annual appraisal falls into this schedule.

Ditch it.

If people require 1:1 time with you then deal with it in real time – as it happens.

The concept of sitting down with an employee once a year for “judgement day” is Industrial Revolution stuff – not the connected society of today.

3. The Personal Progress Interview

I agree that individuals require PPI’s (personal progress interviews).

If you do decide then here is your meeting agenda:

Part 1 – Questions for the team member to answer:

  1. what do you like best about working here?

  2. what do you like least about working here?

  3. what would you most like to change about your work here?

  4. in what area would you appreciate some further training?

Part 2 – Feedback I would like to give to you:

  1. what I like best about the work you do is………

  2. what I like least about the work you do is……..

  3. what I would most like you to change about the work you do here is…….

Lets remind ourselves that just about every survey of employee satisfaction ever undertaken came to the same conclusions, that people stay in a job when:

  1. they feel genuinely appreciated

  2. they can see a career pathway for themselves (Maslow again)

  3. they feel well paid for what they do

  4. they are having fun

In that order.

Its not all about the money.

4. Real Growth

Conversations with prospects and clients, like buses, can sometimes come in threes after a long wait.

When that happens, as a consultant, you learn to realise that you are spotting a trend.

The conversation that I’m involved in frequently right now starts with:

“There aren’t enough hours in the day”

“I’m doing 35 hours week clinical and then running my business in the evenings at at weekends.”

“My existing manager doesn’t seem to be able to cope with the demands of the job.”

“I ask for things to be done and they just don’t get done.”

“We haven’t grown as a business in three years.”

There can sometimes first be a moan about the inadequacies of the existing team. Managers and people who can’t quite seem to get it right, don’t know enough or don’t do enough.

Most often, the solution is to hire fresh people.

People who are consciously competent in the areas of finance, marketing, customer service, sales, compliance, operations and HR.

For a smaller practice in the areas of finance, compliance and HR, this may have to be part-time sub-contractors but when it comes to the other categories it can be difficult if not impossible to sub-contract people who will care as much as you do – care enough to get the job done.

Marketing, customer service and sales are the three areas that require total immersion and commitment – and the challenge for the owner is that you will never have the time to make a proper job of it.

I was with a prospective new client the other day, running a very profitable £1.3m turnover dental business but doing all the marketing, customer service and sales management himself, on top of a 24 hour clinical week.

“Not enough hours in the day” and the practice is stuck.

I explained to him that he would not like my solutions but he asked me to take the shot anyway.

Solution 1 – increase your internal marketing spend from (currently) 1% to 5% of gross – that’s £65,000 per annum.

Solution 2 – hire a business development manager – full time – that’s £35,000 per annum in his post code.

Solution 3 – hire a treatment co-ordinator – full time – another £30,000 per annum in his post code.

Solution 4 – hire me as a business coach to mentor the two new hires – 12-month contract at £12,000 plus VAT.

Total investment in his business in year 1 – £142,000 plus a bit of VAT.

Result – I can help grow his business to £2.6m in sales within 18-24 months – and I’m VERY confident I can do that – with an increase in pre-tax profits of £500,000 per annum, after the extra expenses outlined above have been paid.

By the way – this meeting was a word of mouth referral from his trusted friend – an existing client who have doubled their turnover and profit in 18 months working with me.

Can you guess what he said?

“Leave that with me and I’ll think about it.”

Actually, I’m pleased he said that. It means my solution hurts – and that’s a good sign.

I’m not interested in growing his business 20% – it will simply make him and his existing team 20% busier and 20% more burned out.

I want to work with clients (and teams) who desire massive growth and are a little bit scared of the commitment – because that will ensure that they do their homework.

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