I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to work with many startups from all different verticals, and whether they were struggling with team communication or building a healthy culture, I’ve noticed one thing they all have in common: Their teams want to feel involved in their work.
If you think about it, why do people choose a job? From my perspective, it’s not always for a paycheck; they want to look for ways to grow and learn as well. They want to have the freedom to make mistakes and be able to fix them. I’ve worked with many leaders who have (and have not) brought out the best in their team members, from which I was able to learn. Then, I had the opportunity to build my own team from the ground up and was able to watch them succeed.
Here are a few management tips that have helped me grow a strong team:
Don’t give responsibilities and then take away control.
Often, I have been in positions where the founder has given me executive duties, only to make executive decisions on my behalf. But if a leader really wants to build a team of people, the team must be able to make decisions on the founder’s behalf. This is how leadership evolves.
To do this, provide as much clarity as possible around the company’s goals to make sure you are preparing your team members to make the right decisions. The vaguer you are, the more you leave on the table for guessing.
As a leader, it is also important to trust your team. Acknowledge who you are working with, and respect their capability. If they weren’t experts at what they do, you wouldn’t have hired them in the first place. Never let a brief circumstance dictate your decision.
Make it easy for people to work with you.
One reason (of many) that I like working with others is because your team can bring an abundance of clarity to the table. I would not be able to do what I do without building full project plans and then going over them with each team member so they are aware of their exact tasks and responsibilities. I realized how important it is to set up your team members to succeed.
When it comes to the delivery of an assignment, it is, again, critical that you communicate clearly so that your team is able to deliver what you asked. If you are writing an email, for example, make sure the details are all written out so there isn’t much to go back and forth on; there should be no gray areas. Sometimes, leaders don’t realize how much room they are leaving for guessing until they receive the final delivery of the project and are completely disappointed by it.
Share the good, bad and ugly.
I’ve also found that often, leaders only like to share good results with their teams. It’s important to share wins and keep the company moving in a positive direction, but when building a team, it is also key to share the losses. Share all results so your team is aware of what can be done to fix whatever needs fixing.
For example, I was working with a startup where the other executives would only inform their team about good things happening. They wouldn’t share bad results because they were concerned it would turn off the team. The reality of the situation was that the team wanted to know. Every team knows the company isn’t perfect. It’s best to be transparent.
As you share the good, bad and ugly, you’ll likely find that your team is able to provide helpful feedback and suggest ways to improve when you hold a discussion around the issue at hand. There are always ways to improve, and your team is your family — your source. When management hides information to make themselves look more superior or come off flawless, I believe it is a sign of poor leadership. So be humble, and ask for feedback from everyone in your company. In my experience, if you treat your team members like they are family, then they will feel more incentivized to help make a difference in the company.
Choose people over policies.
A lot of companies I have worked with have revolved around rules and structure. Rules and structure are important, but these factors shouldn’t aim to control the people with whom you work, as this could create an unpleasant environment. Instead, focus on screening candidates based on their values and mission. This way, you’re able to see who is a good fit for your company. I believe the company will work better when it focuses on helping the team produce their best work, rather than micromanaging them. When you focus too much on managing others, you can lose focus on the production of great work. Make room for ownership, and leave out the structure and hierarchy because things change fast in a startup, and a good leader must evolve with it.
My experiences with startups have evolved my leadership skills, and I will never be the same person again. I hope these help you to make smarter choices within your own company.
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