I’ll be honest: This whole Spartan thing has been anything but easy. It’s been an obstacle course filled with barbed wire for 18 years.
Starting a business, especially when it’s something that’s never been done before like Spartan, is a giant leap of faith. My team bought in and has followed me with heart and resilience the whole way, even in the darkest of times.
We worked brutal hours with low pay and had the constant threat of bankruptcy hanging over our heads. We stared failure straight in the eyes, like most startups. It wasn’t easy, but we did it. And the reason we succeeded is simple: We put team and mission first.
Leading a team effectively requires drive, determination, patience, and persistence—especially during times of uncertainty. You need to inspire loyalty and confidence, while at the same time pushing people beyond their comfort zones. If your team isn’t firing on all cylinders, you’ve got some work to do.
Here are five reasons your team might be failing—and important tips to help turn things around.
Failure #1: You’re Not Setting the Right Example
If you have expectations for how your team should perform, you’d better be able to hit (better yet, exceed) them yourself.
If you insist that your employees show up to meetings on time, you need to get there 10 minutes early. If you expect them to abide by a dress code, you’d better outdress everyone in the office every day. If you expect them to stay calm in stressful situations, you’d better not ever lose your shit.
You have to model the way—never ask anyone to do something you wouldn’t do yourself. Your team looks to you for guidance and will notice when you fall short.
Fix it: Own up to your shortcomings and mistakes. Take responsibility for why your team isn’t living up to your standards. Change your habits and reevaluate what you’re asking them to do. Maybe your expectations are too high or your deadlines aren’t realistic. Start asking your team what they need from you to succeed, not the other way around.
Failure #2: Your Team Has a Fixed Mindset
Under-performing teams assume they can’t improve, change, or re-frame their situations. Team members feel stuck when the proposed solution doesn’t work, so they give up or wait for further instruction. If you’re not encouraging your team to take chances, try new things, and fail, you’re not going to get the results you’re looking for.
Fix it: Cultivate a growth mindset—one of purposeful risk-taking. When team members have permission to take risks, they learn more quickly, take action in a creative and efficient manner, and pick up new skills and techniques along the way.
Failure Factor #3: You’re Not Communicating the Purpose
If your team lacks purpose, you’ll see it play out via apathy, low engagement, and increased conflict around the office. Why should your team complete a project on time? Why should they do it efficiently? What’s really in it for them?
If your team doesn’t feel like their work matters, it will never be a priority.
Fix it: You should care about what gets your team members out of bed in the morning. Maybe it’s not burpees like me, but it’s something—ask and listen. What inspires them on a personal level? What do they all wish to accomplish as a team? You need to prioritize their individual and collective goals.
Do you think my team wanted to hand out flyers to people who didn’t want them and work an insane amount of hours? No, but they did it because we all shared the same purpose of making Spartan a success.
Failure #4: You Refuse to Ask for Assistance
Maybe your office technology isn’t up to date. Maybe your budgets are bootstrapped. Maybe you have too many tasks to accomplish and not enough people to accomplish them. A lack of resources could cause things to fall apart quickly. If you’re at that point, you need to swallow your pride and ask for help.
Fix it: I didn’t write a check and start a multimillion-dollar business. I never shied away from asking for help. I reached out to old friends and colleagues for financial support and advice, and I was fortunate that they shared my vision.
You don’t have to hang up your dream just because you’re struggling with resources. Ask around, do your research, and make sure your team has the resources it needs to succeed.
Failure #5: Your Team Fears Failure
I’ve seen the “what if’s” cripple a team’s progress. Your team may be terrified of failing because they don’t want to let you down—or they don’t want to make mistakes. But there are a lot of lessons that come from failing.
Fix it: Encourage your team to fail fast. Failure can be an incredible motivator. Use it to propel you forward in a more focused direction. Trust me, you’ll get farther faster than if you play everything safe. My team certainly wasn’t successful every day. We struggled, learned, and kept moving.
This strategy will work for you too. But you need to put in the work. You need to lead by example—know when to pull and when to push.
Do all of this, and your team will follow you to the finish line … and beyond.