Ask the expert: your questions on growing the business answered
In this fortnightly column, Ask The Expert, we aim to provide readers with practical advice on how to grow their businesses.
Greg Watts is our resident expert. He is the founder of Demand Creation Partners, a London-based growth consultancy that helps fintechs and paytechs to scale. A visiting lecturer at the American University in Paris and regular industry speaker, he was previously head of market acceleration at Visa Europe.
QUESTION 11: What’s the best way to create a winning team?
Here’s a situation I often encounter with fintechs:
- They’ve secured significant investment.
- They’ve launched into at least one market.
- They’ve signed one or more partnerships.
However, there’s pressure from the board and investors to do more – faster.
With hyper-growth comes the requirement to identify and secure top talent. The question is, how can you create an environment that attracts the best and the brightest, then allows them to grow and thrive?
In this column, we’ll explore ways to find, secure, retain and develop the right people for your business.
- Focus on behaviours, not just technical skills.
When recruiting, it’s a given that a candidate should have the technical skills or subject matter expertise to perform the job at hand.
However, it’s equally important that the candidate demonstrate behaviours that will allow them to thrive in the role.
Hyper-growth fintechs typically operate at a frenetic pace – sort of a managed chaos. Such a culture is vital in the early stages of a company’s development because it helps secure investment and gets deals done faster.
Some people will relish the opportunity to work in such a dynamic environment, but others won’t – particularly those who prefer more orderly, process-driven conditions.
Therefore, it’s critical to frame recruitment questions around identifying key behaviours to ensure there’s a fit. For instance:
- Provide an example of how you delivered something from scratch. How did that make you feel?
- When did you last “break” a rule or process to get something done? What was the outcome?
- What’s your approach to creating lasting relationships with colleagues?
Use their answers to glean insights around humility, willingness to roll-up their sleeves, ability to form relationships, appetite for innovation and risk, and so on.
- Play to people’s strengths.
Ten years ago, the culture within many organisations was to create solid all-rounders and address any weaknesses through training and development.
Today, there’s more of a focus on playing to people’s strengths. For example, if a designer loves designing, why pressure them to do something else? Let them do what they’re best at.
Research backs this up. A recent US survey of 500 employees in the professional services industry revealed that members of high-achieving teams felt “empowered to do their best work” and that team leaders “encouraged them to apply their strengths every day”.
Additionally, a Gallup report indicated that strengths-based leadership can deliver improved business outcomes: employees who say they use their strengths every day are 8% more productive and 15% less likely to quit their jobs.
In summary, empower people to do what they love the most, and you’ll see the benefit.
- Create a safe environment.
We all make mistakes – the key is to learn from them and move on. So why are some people so scared to fail at work?
The ultimate test of team effectiveness is psychological safety: the ability of group members to think and act without fear of social repercussions. In other words, to simply be themselves.
Google discovered this first-hand when it studied 180 of its own teams to learn why some were successful and others were not. After multiple trials, researchers identified only one consistent pattern of high performance: psychological safety.
Leadership teams can promote psychological safety by demonstrating vulnerability. When leaders acknowledge mistakes, ask for feedback, or demonstrate a willingness to listen, they show that failure is just the first step towards progress.
Bringing it all together.
There’s no secret formula for creating a winning culture. For the most part, culture develops organically, over time.
However, by focusing on behaviours, strengths, safety and communication – leaders can induce a positive, productive culture that can scale and flex with the growth of the business – and one built to last.