In Pittsburgh, Pa., the “City of Champions,” we hear a lot about team. While managing my office team, and coordinating care for my elderly parents, I have learned that success depends on teamwork.

What makes a good team? How do you motivate a team? What are the challenges and rewards of developing and leading teams?

In my early retail career, I focused on accomplishing tasks—how much work I could get done—working harder and longer than others. I gradually learned it was not all about me, but about those who worked with me. As I managed and guided construction teams across the country, I learned about different communication styles and about the individuals who made up our team of 45. I truly had to understand “them” to help “us” achieve common goals. I can honestly say it was an ongoing effort to keep all of us focused on our customers, co-workers, and the completion of projects. I was criticized for being hard-nosed in a mostly male world. I was fact-based, very direct in my communication style, and not patient with learning.

Fast forward to 2007, when I became a franchise owner of Express Employment Professionals. Selecting individuals who would adopt my work ethic and who share my passion for serving others through employment opportunities was critical. Now, my money and success were on the line, and like many new business owners, I made some bad hires.

What did I learn?

1. You must know the whole person

2. You must care about them and what they want and need

3. You must support their goals in parallel to the business goals

Through Express’ Leadership Academy, I am fortunate to have access to ongoing leadership training. Our focus is on a culture of accountability with communication being the link between trust and performance. My approach to staff development now focuses on our vision, culture, values, expectations, development, and continuous learning.

I have learned that my business depends on each individual’s overall development as well as how they contribute to company goals. I must understand their motivators, show gratitude, provide rewards, be patient, and integrate varying personalities for a seamless offering to our customers.

I have learned to focus on retention versus recruiting and turnover. To retain a connected, cohesive team, I must always find empathy and compassion without enabling or condoning less than honorable behavior. I must strive to support each member of my team—many of whom are single mothers—and to understand their life challenges while maintaining our workplace code of honor.

One of my daily goals is to help my team members grow professionally, financially, and personally. As they grow, so does their confidence and their passion for serving our business clients who need good workers and our candidates who need a good place to work. I see it as proof that developing a human connection with team members leads us all to success.