What is a cross-functional team?

When you are a business owner, you grow and evolve along with the business. If you’ve been in business long enough, you know that there are inevitable growing pains to overcome along the way. Problems with your business’ day-to-day processes, difficulty creating an innovative team and an unhealthy workplace culture can all wreak havoc if you do not strategize to help your business reach its maximum potential.

One of the most important strategies you will ever embrace is your team-building strategy. Take the reins now and learn how to customize a cross-functional team that will help you succeed. With effective leadership and the support of a diverse crew, you’ll find renewed energy and problem-solving resources. You are not an island, and you cannot run your business alone. When you embrace your own professional identity as well as that of each team member, you’ll build passion and drive into every business decision.

What is a cross-functional team?

A cross-functional team is comprised of diverse members who have varying skill sets who are unified by a common end goal. The purpose of cross-functional collaboration is to facilitate creative problem solving by all participants, each of whom bring unique skills and drive to the collaborative team environment. By harnessing talent from all levels of your organization, you’re able to leverage your firm’s deepest asset: its people.

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Importance of cross-functional teams

The importance of cross-functional teams cannot be overstated. When you strategically select your teammates, you achieve two fundamental outcomes. First, you build a healthy, collaborative culture that allows every participant to exercise his or her full problem-solving capacity. Second, by learning to delegate effectively, you’re able to distribute the workload so that no one person or department shoulders an undue burden. When cross-functional communication and collaboration is working as it should, your entire business almost seems to run itself.

Achieving a healthy workplace culture

A healthy workplace environment is becoming more and more important as millennials enter the workforce. This generation, more than any other, values finding a home away from home with their colleagues and will leave a job quickly if they are unhappy at work. Having a cross-functional team allows team members to interact and collaborate freely so they are able to develop and harvest innovative ideas and strategies. The entire team shares responsibility. Well-designed cross-functional teams are also staffed with a mixture of personality types, leadership styles and professional skills, which builds inherent agility into the team.

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Balancing the workload

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As a business owner, having a team with effective cross-functional collaboration is your key to peace of mind and successful business outcomes. Having a team of competent, like-minded professionals means the difference between being a business operator and a business owner. Nurturing a cross-functional team allows you to transition from being a business operator (someone who fails to delegate effectively and, as a result, is overwhelmed) to a powerful business owner (someone who not only understands his or her own goals, strengths and working style, but also strives to infuse that understanding into the collaborative team).

Business personality

For any cross functional team, having focused leadership is essential for success. As Tony Robbins says, one of the six basic leadership skills is being able to inspire others by discovering our own strengths and encouraging employees to do the same. This makes them produce consistently higher results, even in the leader’s absence. Cultivate your own state, and always hire people better than you.

As an entrepreneur, you must first embrace your professional identity, which includes three components: your business personality, leadership style and working style.

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  • Business personality. An effective cross-functional team must have each type of business personality represented: an artist, a leader and an entrepreneur. Take our business identity quiz to find where your passions lie and discover the complementary personality types you need to recruit for effective cross-functional collaboration.
  • Leadership style. The cross-functional team must thrive under your leadership style, which hinges on your mindset toward engaging your team. Common leadership styles include servant, democratic, visionary, coaching, affiliative, pacesetting and commanding approaches. There is no right or wrong leadership style, and yours will hinge on your personality, temperament and skill set. 
  • Working style. Since you will be collaborating with a team and need to facilitate cross-functional communication, you must also understand your working style. Whether you prefer to work independently, in collaboration with others or alongside others, your working style (and your team members’ styles) will impact the systems you put in place to organize workflow.
Tips for cross-functional collaboration success

Once you have your cross-functional team in place, it’s a mistake to think your work is done. You need strategies to keep your team happy and constantly striving toward cross functional communication and innovation. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Have clearly defined goals. Even the best team will flounder if you don’t give them clear, actionable goals to achieve. While long-term and big-picture goals will always come from you, you should also empower your cross- functional team to develop short-term goals among themselves.
  • Celebrate successes. A good cross-functional team will thrive on success – and they want to be acknowledged for it. Make sure you take the time to celebrate when you have a big win as this will motivate the team to work even harder.
  • Continue to re-evaluate cross-functional collaboration. Your cross-functional team is extremely agile because of the broad range and mix of skill sets and talents, and they need to continue growing. This means constant re-evaluation and tweaking to make sure each member is reaching their potential.
  • Put tools in place. If you have a large team performing daily cross-functional communication, it’s easy for things to get confusing. Make it easier on everyone by implementing project management software that will help everyone stay on track and on the same page.

Ready to customize the team your business needs?

Discover how you can become an effective leader and build a cross-functional team with Tony Robbins’ 7 Forces of Business Mastery free content series.