Ten tips for building your dream team

Team word cloud in the shape of a lightbulb

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Building a dream team is not as simple as pulling individuals together and expecting that they will be a great team. Without effective trust, respect and engagement, you simply have a group of individuals that work for the same business.

Here are 10 tips to help you grow and develop a team that works well together and is safe and productive:

1.      Vision and goals

There is an old saying that if you don’t give your team a vision and goals, then you are asking for average performance. Being laser-focused on results – yields, market price or dollars in the bank – are not motivating and meaningful without giving the team a purpose and direction.

Modern employment relationships go beyond the exchange of time and money – employees want to feel like they are contributing to the bigger picture beyond the wages you pay them.

2.      Values

Values should be embedded in everything you do. Leaders need to live up to the values that they expect. Having a values poster pinned up on the lunchroom wall that no one works by is pointless – a leader needs to be prepared to ‘walk the talk’ and manage performance aligned to the values.

Here is an example of how one of my clients operationalised their business values, which is helping them drive performance in their business:

3.      Career development

Showing interest in an employee’s career growth is a great way to build rapport. A critical part of career development is understanding what your employees are trying to get out of their current roles and looking for ways to support their growth.

In a family business, it’s not always possible to provide the next opportunity for your team members. If that is the case, be transparent about what is possible and look for other avenues to support them. For example, you might be able to open doors to future opportunities through an introduction.

4.      Training

Training is essential to help employees acquire or improve skills that will help them perform at a higher level in their role. Employees who get regular opportunities to learn, develop and advance are more likely to stay in your business longer.

Training can either be formal or informal. Inviting your team to attend field days or business management workshops is a great way of helping them stay abreast of industry changes or advancements in technology.

There is even value in supporting micro-learning opportunities by subscribing them to industry publications aligned to their interests or picking an operational task to discuss at a toolbox meeting.

5.      Team building

Teams that perform well together and who trust, respect and support each other are a valuable asset to a farming business (or any business for that matter).

Team building activities are a great way to grow communication, problem-solving and conflict resolution skills. They also provide an opportunity for your team to step away from their everyday tasks to refresh and re-energise.

Some ideas for team activities include:

  • Run a football tipping competition
  • Provide some board games for the lunchroom
  • Host a lunch-and-learn session
  • Organise a potluck lunch

6.      Communicate well

Teams that foster good communication are always the ones that grow to their full potential. It starts with having quality conversations, even the ‘prickly’ ones. No-one likes having difficult conversations, but the benefits of learning how to have them will outweigh any discomfort.

Taking the time to understand each team member’s communication style and preferences is vital for building stronger relationships and achieving quality outcomes.

To determine how you can best communicate with your team, think about your team members and ask yourself:

  • Do they do their best thinking out loud, on the spot, or on paper?
  • Are they an introvert or an extrovert?
  • What type of meetings or tasks are most energising for them?
  • Do they best process information in writing or verbally?

7.      Engage employees

Employees who show up each day with passion, purpose and energy will always do more than is expected. In contrast, a disengaged employee will only do the minimum amount to keep them off the bosses’ radar. The difference in contribution between an engaged employee and a disengaged employee is called discretionary effort (see below).

Leaders who make employee engagement central to their business strategy give employees clear expectations and provide them with the tools to do their best work. These leaders will see a significant reduction in absenteeism and employee turnover.

Some ideas of how to engage employees include:

  • Organise an impromptu team lunch or smoko
  • Provide an opportunity to contribute to designing policies and procedures
  • Celebrate birthdays, milestones or anniversaries
  • Give a genuine thankyou or a compliment for a ‘job well done’

8.      Review performance

A performance review is an excellent way to help employees understand what they are doing well, what needs improvement, and how employees can reach their fullest potential.

Performance reviews work well when they are a part of a wider strategy of having quality conversations. Shame-and-blame style performance conversations, on the other hand, are not only demotivating, but also do not contribute to an environment where the team can thrive. A good performance review process is based on two-way communication and leverages any feedback or insights to create positive change for the team.

9.      Manage underperformance

Poor performance, inappropriate conduct and unmanaged conflict top the list of concerns. Left unmanaged, even if the person concerned is the best employee, a family member, or the one with the most experience, the conduct will hurt the culture and performance of any team.


The four C’s of performance management:

  1. Be clear about the standards, outputs and attitudes you expect in your business – people perform to the lowest standard you tolerate.
  2. Provide employees with a chance to perform to the required standards.
  3. Be consistent with your approach to managing performance, i.e. not just when it suits.
  4. Define potential consequences if expectations are not met.
Tip: To read more about managing underperformance and to find templates, visit Fair Work Australia’s website.

10.                Recognise and reward

A good way to show your employees that you appreciate their efforts is through reward and recognition. When employees feel valued, they’re more engaged, motivated, and likely to go the extra mile for their company.

There are many ways to show your appreciation to your team – it does not always have to have a price tag attached. Try to match rewards to an employee’s personal situation and goals by understanding the reward that will motivate them the most. Some ideas include:

  • Give them a special project to manage
  • Reimburse self-funded training
  • Give them a paid day off (in addition to leave entitlements) after a busy period
  • Take the team off-farm for a lunch
Tip: If you want to give recognition in the most personal way possible, then why not take the time to ask employees how they’d prefer to be recognised?


Further information

Over the next few months, we will be sharing a series of articles to help you better understand the human part of a successful farm team written by Sally Murfet, Chief Inspiration Officer of Inspire AG. These articles are designed to provide a basic awareness and, where appropriate, lead you to additional resources to help develop your HR systems & process.

Other articles in this series:

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