There’s no ‘I’ in team, culture or growth

Find your team and use their voices

Philip Stiles, from the Cambridge Judge Business School, outlines how you can assemble the best team, and retain them as your business grows.

“Organisational behaviour is an umbrella term for leadership, culture, change, people management, talent – those kind of things,”* says Philip Stiles, Senior Lecturer in Corporate Governance at the Cambridge Judge Business School and Co-Director at the Centre for International Human Resource Management (CIHRM).

Philip breaks leadership down into 3 things – leadership of the self, of the team and of the organisation as a whole.

Self leadership

Leadership of the self is the skill required to be an entrepreneur, to build a business, to network, to collaborate.

“It’s about the emotional drive required, the courage and the resilience it takes to grow a business in a competitive market,” Philip says. “What about when doubts come in? When you have your first set-back or when issues around the product are not so well received. How do you bounce back from that?”

Being self-aware and true to yourself is incredibly important, and even more so as an entrepreneur. The decisions you make will directly impact the direction of the business, the success, the failures and the culture from within. In a large corporate setting, self-development is a standard part of performance management. However, this doesn’t always exist in high-growth scaling businesses, which are working all hours simply to keep on top of the day-to-day customer needs.

Taking time out for reflection and engaging your peers can be incredibly powerful in your own personal development journey. Understanding your faults and strengths in a 360-degree review will ultimately reap rewards, especially when it comes to Philip’s second point: leadership of the team.

Team leadership

Leadership of the team is critically important in a scaling business when all hands are to the pump and your team is burning the midnight oil to build your business.

Philip thinks there’s a common error made by start-ups: “Often businesses can place emphasis on the heroic leader; but in reality it's important to recognise the teams that underpin the business’s operational success.”

“We see teams fail, particularly in the start-up and scale-up area, because the leader or founder dominates, and everyone else is just executing their will. You can see why that kind of dynamic would be powerful, but trying to make the most of the team's expertise and talent is crucial, and that requires the leader to allow those voices to appear.”

For this to happen, the composition and dynamics of the team need to be right, and a common problem for start-up and scale-up companies is recruiting the talent they need, when often they’re unheard of and can’t offer attractive remuneration or benefits.

“For a blue-chip company, it's easy to get great talent, because of the name, the opportunities for promotion, self-development and – most obviously – salary,” Philip says. “But when you're in a start-up or scale-up, those things are harder to come by. That said, within a smaller company it’s easier to be a big fish in a small pond – the chance to make a difference is potentially huge.”

But once the right team is in place, with the right dynamic, how do you keep them? Leadership of the organisation plays a pivotal role in answering this exact question.

Organisational leadership

“There's a company I was with recently that normally retains staff for an average of 2 years,” says Philip. “They get exposed to this whizzy technology then they'll leave for some of the established players, and so the retention issue is a big, big deal.”

Retaining and developing talent in a high growth organisation is a challenge, particularly when business leaders are focused on driving market share. The pace of change, new faces and change in culture needs to be managed carefully. Individuals rarely leave organisations because of the physical business – it’s more likely to be a result of poor management, or not integrating with the team and culture.

The businesses that are most likely to succeed, says Philip, are those with a strong leadership team, dedicated to self-development and building a recognisable culture across its workforce. If employees have a sense of belonging, they are more likely to remain loyal to the company and feel empowered to drive the company forward with fresh ideas.

Philip’s workshop on recruitment, which forms one of the modules for the Barclays Scale-Up UK Programme at Cambridge Judge Business School, not only brings the theory of recruitment to the fore but also the practicalities learnt though peers.

The Scale-Up UK Programme’s workshops are united under one aim – to give businesses a tangible growth plan to support their growth ambitions. Find out more about the programme and its modules.

*Quotations have been edited for length and clarity.

Content

  • Exploring leadership and talent issues in organisational behaviour
  • Leading yourself
  • Leading a team
  • Leading an organisation
  • Attracting the right people
  • Motivation
  • Retention
  • External networks

Output

  • Understanding and sharpening of your business’ direction
  • Identifying the best way you can lead
  • A framework for recruitment, motivation and retention