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The secret power of small teams: How to harness your potential

Posted 5 years ago in Small business by Aaron Palardy
Posted by Aaron Palardy

Bigger isn’t always better when it comes to productivity. At WorkflowMax, you can count the members of our global marketing team on a single hand. We’ve learned that small teams can create significant potential.

Together we’ve been able to overcome challenges, embrace our size, and punch above our weight on a global stage. In the last 3 years we’ve more than doubled our subscriber base, and we’re now used by 8,500+ customers globally.

Here’s what I’ve learned from working in a small, scrappy and resourceful marketing team.

The big advantages of small teams

One of the best things about working in small teams is that brilliant ideas can into action immediately. You’re not stifled by communication barriers, there are less hierarchies, and you’re not drowning in red tape. You have the freedom to act fast.

Small teams are also motivated. Several studies in social psychology have shown that individuals work harder in small groups. The larger the group, the more likely members are to slack off and let others pull their weight. Social loafing is less prevalent in a tiny team — everyone’s contributions are visible.

That’s why Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos famously coined the ‘Two Pizza Rule’ for productivity. Bezos recommends keeping project groups small enough to feed with two pizzas. In a group of 5-8 people everyone has a chance to speak, raise unusual ideas and collaborate. Anything bigger is too large to function effectively.

But despite all this wonderful potential relying on a tiny team can be frustrating. Everyone is battling the clock, you’re sharing insurmountable workloads, and the 5pm finish can feel like a desert mirage. There’s greater pressure on individuals and projects can slip through the cracks.

So what’s the secret to managing a small team? How do you nurture a dynamic, pocket-sized workforce that moves mountains?

1 – Hiring the right people is crucial

Dedication to the company and its values are paramount in a small team. You need a team who live and breathe your mission statement. You also need employees willing to grow in their role, expand their skill-set and juggle deadlines, tasks and priorities.

Sometimes this will mean hiring the right person instead of the right CV. It is possible to teach most skills on the job, but changing someone’s attitude is harder. Invest in tenacious, resourceful, and committed people – you’ll be better placed in the long run.

2 – Decide priorities on a daily basis

Every small team has one thing in common – big workloads. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by your team’s daily responsibilities instead of moving forward. You planned to launch a new marketing strategy by the end of November, but suddenly it’s March – where did that time go?

If you don’t have clear directives, your long-term projects will get relegated to a dusty corner.

That’s why continually re-defining team priorities is critical. Whether you use daily stand-ups or a sprint board, make sure everyone is on the same page before you’ve swigged that morning coffee. Then let them work their magic.

3- Avoid micromanagement at all costs

No-one likes being micro-managed but it’s particularly frustrating in a small team environment. Trust in each other is crucial, and everyone’s efforts are transparent anyway. Once you’ve set clear priorities it’s important to take a back seat.

Instead of controlling how your team work, managers should focus on giving them the tools and support they need to succeed. Set clear expectations, empower individuals and let them take ownership of projects.

4 – Understand individual strengths & needs

The best managers understand their individual team member’s strengths; this is especially important in a small team. Meet with each person to discuss what they see as their core competencies – and how they can apply these to company objectives.

You should also have a frank discussion about career paths. In a small team your roles and responsibilities tend to evolve at a fast pace. To keep employees passionate and engaged, make sure this development path aligns with their own career goals.

Hiring with precision, setting clear priorities, and nurturing individual strengths are crucial when managing a small team. But don’t let your size hold you back. Here at WorkflowMax we’ve learned that a small, dedicated group can achieve incredible things. All they need is a big dream.

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