Last week I posed two questions about your professional advisory team:

  1. How strong is the professional advisory team for your business?
  2. How do you manage your team of experts for the revival and success of your business?

I’m using the term, “team,” quite liberally; however it takes more than putting a group of people together to make a team. It takes strategy, effort, and endurance to realize the benefits of a high-performance team. If you’re a solopreneur, you might be thinking, “I don’t have employees. The professional advisory board I’m forming is not beholden to me in any way. How could I possibly get everyone to work as a team?”

The answer to the second question is both new and evergreen. Lead your team with S.U.C.C.E.S.S. and you and your advisory members’ businesses will all win.

The S.U.C.C.E.S.S. Method

In last week’s post, as we explored the strength of the relationships on your current advisory team, the post illustrated how to focus on the composition of your team and your dynamic.

As I did last week, I’m going to plug into the learning from the Focus on your Strengths: Outsource the Rest event I recently attended. I took notes furiously as Kristy Gusick of PSM-Marketing talked about the questions you should ask a potential marketing partner before you outsource. Speaker after speaker echoed the same kind of information. Why? To build a team with your advisors, you need to do the work of clarifying expectations, making culture explicit, and elevating processes. You need to build a team focused on results.

To explore all the steps in the S.U.C.C.E.S.S. Method, I’d recommend my ebook, Leading Teams That Get Results.

Clarify Expectations with Your Advisory Team

I remember those vocabulary tests I had to take in elementary school. I always wondered why we had to take them, memorizing list after list. Now I understand. When we clarify the vocabulary we’re using, we also create a common understanding of the expectations around the language we use. To clarify expectations with your advisory team, define the meaning of words/terms you might be taking for granted.

Here are some example questions to use in meetings with your team:

  • What does advisory mean to us? On what do we advise and for what purpose?
  • What does compensation look like on our board? Is the exchange in-kind or cash?
  • What does success look like for each member of the team? What definition of success is common to us all?
  • As the team’s leader, how will you give as well as receive support?

Clarifying roles and expectations is just the tip of the iceberg. Culture goes much deeper than that. If I asked you how quickly you should receive a return email or phone call from a member of your team, you could answer definitively. Miscommunications begin when team members’ answers don’t match.

Call-Out Culture – Elevate Processes

Culture is intangible, but it does have structure. This Harvard Business Review post summarizes Six Components of a Great Corporate Culture. I’ll use HBR’s components and relate each one to how you’d lead your advisory team.

  1. Vision – Start with transparency around your team’s vision. What is your purpose as a team? How does everyone expect to work together? Review the answers to the questions you used to clarify expectations and determine which answers power the inspiration of your team.
  2. Values – Where vision is about what you want to accomplish; values involve the way you want to accomplish that vision. Teams that have values like, “We do whatever it takes,” can find themselves struggling with ethical issues. Teams that express values about their stakeholders, like, “We vow to serve the interests of the small business owners who support their families and communities,” gives the team a higher purpose. As you determine your advisory team’s values, ensure that they are consistent with each members’ professional associations as well.
  3. Practices – How quickly are members expected to return phone calls or emails? Is the timing the same during times of crisis? How often will you meet? Will it be in person or through video conference? These are all important questions to agree upon to avoid unnecessary disappointments. The most important practice for your advisory team to agree upon is how you’ll identify and deal with conflict as it arises.
  4. Place – Where will you meet? It sounds like a small detail, but the answer can inform your team’s culture. Does everyone meet at your offices? Do you take turns hosting the meetings? Do you meet at a local restaurant? A bar? Think carefully about your answer as your meeting locations will become part of your team’s narrative.
  5. Narrative – I remember getting to know a new teammate when I started working at General Mills many years ago. We went out to dinner, and I asked her, “How did you end up in your role?” She answered, “Are you asking me for my story?” With my nod, she told me about her journey from college, through her internship, and eventual move to Golden Valley, MN from Atlanta to take her current position. We had so much in common we had to ask the rest of our team for their stories the next day. Stories, or narratives, are tremendously powerful. Pay attention to the stories your team members tell over and over again. These stories will become part of what binds you to each other.

As you can see from this list, culture incorporates the inspirational and the operational. It both guides and constrains your work. When you are not explicit about your expectations and your team’s culture, you are at the mercy of misunderstanding and unexamined assumptions.

Take charge of your team’s S.U.C.C.E.S.S.

Have you ever been blindsided by fuzzy expectations or an opaque culture on your team? Please share your experience in the comments. Let’s learn together.


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