Enlist a sister: twenty tips for creating a squad to support your cause
There seems to be a trend towards people looking for purpose beyond their day job; exploring side projects to that aim to drive real change in the world. Often this can manifest as wanting to take on a particular societal cause, which can be pretty daunting unless you have a team behind you.
I’ve built these kinds of teams via projects I do in my spare time (mainly focused on gender inequality), and wanted to share some of the lessons I’ve learnt along the way to help you create a squad which can support you. Some of these are deceptively simple, but it’s advice I’ve passed on to others setting up their own initiatives who have found it useful for focusing thinking, and motivating their groups.
- First of all, define what it is you want to do. What’s your cause? What’s your vision? Sometimes just writing it down on paper very simply can force you to clarify your thinking.
- Create a bigger picture plan of what you want to achieve and when, but also how that breaks down into smaller goals.
- Define what success looks like for you. Is it putting on a certain number of events, getting a newsletter out, or just recruiting a few people?
- Once you’ve got your core plan sorted, you need people on board. Use your network, and their connections. It can be surprising to discover how many people you actually know, once you start trying to get a team together.
- Get the right balance of online & offline with your group. The internet makes all of our lives easier, but make the time to spend time with your squad offline to make sure they form the connection that will help foster a tangible relationship.
- Make use of the great (and often free) project management tools available to make organising your group easier — Slack, Typeform and Google docs are great for collaborative working.
- Use social media to make sure you are promoting what you are doing. You need to PR what’s going on to drive support and new members, and be reflective of your activities. Canva is a fantastic design tool which you can use to create assets, and Mailchimp offers mailing and newsletters.
- Keep an eye on the money so that you are not self-funding (it needs to be sustainble). If people behind are behind a cause, they’re usually very generous about letting you use spaces, equipment etc, which makes a big difference.
- Keep track of how much time you are spending on your project, and delegate whenever you can. You need to make it work with your day job.
- Look for other networks which are doing similar things: treat them as collaborators, not competitors.
As well as getting the practical elements are sorted, you need to make sure you are a good leader to your team. People will be supporting you in their spare time, so they need to feel motivated and behind you. Here‘s some advice on this based on my learnings:
- Make sure everyone understands the big picture of your cause, and how their personal contribution ladders up to this.
- Get the right level of organisation versus fun. It’s important to keep focused on what you’re aiming to achieve, but equally your team needs to enjoy themselves.
- Keep your squad motivated: call out and celebrate key players.
- If you’re part of a bigger network, create a core team around you to support and advise.
- Know your squad’s strengths: understand what individuals are good at, and how they operate in teams.
- Set realistic goals. Although you should be visionary, be clear with your squad about what the plan is, and celebrate reaching milestones so that there is a clear path of progress.
- As a leader, be a swan. Whatever is going down, be calm and in control and have a plan so people have the confidence to follow you (however hard your feet are kicking beneath the surface).
- Bring everyone up with you. Make sure you’re giving people enough opportunities to take on more challenges, and to share their achievements on their personal profile.
- Check in with individuals regularly on a personal basis: see if there’s anything they think your organisation could do better which they might not be willing to raise in front of the larger group.
- Don’t feel guilty. You’ll never be able to do as much as you want to, so be good to yourself and celebrate what you’ve done.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading these tips on how to create your own squad, and what it can teach you about leadership. A squad is important because you are not only leading a group who can actually change things in the world, but you’ll also get so much back from it. Ideas you never thought you had, and a support network to keep pushing you on to better things.