Growing a business

Episode 10: Leadership and team alignment

There's only room for one person to stand on the winner's podium, but it takes a team of people to get them there. No one knows this more than Olympic skiing champion Alexandre Bilodeau. He spent years training in freestyle skiing before he won the gold medal at the Vancouver Winter Olympics in 2010. He couldn't have done it — or successfully defended the title four years later in Sochi — without a team of coaches and expert advisors behind him.

Leadership and team alignment is one of the most important skills an entrepreneur can have. A lack of these skills is a big reason why a third of new businesses close within five years.

While Alex ultimately had to venture onto the slopes alone to win the medal, he never forgot to listen to the team that stayed with him all the way. Now, as a senior business advisor who works with some of Canada's most promising entrepreneurs, he's a strong believer in the value of team leadership.

A strong, supportive team is essential to enhance an individual's performance, whether in sports or business. Athletes rely on coaches, trainers, and teammates to keep them physically and mentally sharp. Entrepreneurs depend on their employees, partners, and mentors to keep the business operating well, spot potential speed bumps, and identify opportunities for growth.

The power of team leadership

The leader's job is to inspire their team to pursue a common vision. You can begin this process by writing a shining mission statement. This also requires a mindset that can focus on that vision in times of adversity.

"It's great to find somebody with talent to run a business with a lot of tailwinds and positive macroeconomic trends," Alex says. "But you also must have somebody who's passionate about that business. That's key."

Just as light is more powerful when all rays focus in the same direction, so a team is more powerful when everyone works toward the same common goal.

"It takes talent to rally all these people and align everybody's interest," says Alex. One size doesn't fit all when it comes to aligning a team; what inspires and motivates one person might leave another cold.

A younger team member just starting out might emphasize the need for a stake in the company. A seasoned team member with experience in other startups might be more interested in having that experience acknowledged and in contributing to the company's strategic direction. Someone else might be more interested in maintaining a work-life balance.

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Soft skills are the key to success

Interpersonal skills are crucial for leaders unifying a diverse and motivated set of talented individuals. A compassionate and empathetic leader who is in tune with other people knows to listen to what is not said as much as what is.

Your responsibility to your team goes beyond acknowledging each member's needs — you should also feel compelled to deliver results. It's easy to feel as though you've let your team down if you don't meet your targets for the company.

But that's not the right way to look at it, Alex warns. "If you can say that you've tried your best based on the information you had, they will back you and they will understand."

A well-aligned team, inspired by a visionary leader, is both an engine for a growing business and a stabilizing anchor during tough times. Building and maintaining that asset is one of the most important things an entrepreneur can do.

The best entrepreneurs understand the importance of digitizing and streamlining operations so that they have more time for team-building. QuickBooks Payroll is a powerful solution that handles your payroll needs — ensuring your team is always paid accurately and on time — so you can keep your eye on the bigger picture. Try QuickBooks Payroll today and see what it can do for your business.

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