Joe Johnson, Ph.D.
Entrepreneur. Investor. Startup Expert.
When it’s time to hire and begin team building for your startup, there’s a standard set of task boxes to check: hiring the right people, ensuring that the focus is on growth and innovation, working together toward common goals, etc. Once the new team is in place, though, how can you make sure that they’re ready to work together?
Despite effective team-building sometimes seeming like another task added to your precarious and ever-growing pile of tasks, it can pay dividends in helping you tackle that mountain of paperwork and responsibility. Although it may not be what you want to hear, effective team-building is an ongoing process that should be ingrained in your company culture beginning with the hiring stage.
Hiring the Right People for the Right Tasks
The importance of a thorough hiring process cannot be overstated. When you’re first starting out, investing in the people who can help propel your company forward is a necessity. Placing your trust – and the future of your business – in the wrong hands can have disastrous consequences.
Hiring for startups is a different beast than hiring for established companies. For an organization trying to get off the ground, every decision can have lasting effects. New businesses are less able than established ones to deal with the fallout from poor hiring choices.
Learn from others’ hiring mistakes and follow these simple steps to ensure that you’re hiring the right person for the right position:
Know Your Own Strengths (and Weaknesses)
It can be difficult to gain an unbiased perspective on your own strengths and weaknesses, but doing so can be beneficial if you’re seeking to fill in your skill set gaps or knowledge of the hiring process.
Similarly, knowing yourself can help you avoid hiring someone with whom you won’t get along or who might be difficult for you to lead or manage.
Understand the Job Role
Even before you start looking at candidates, make sure that you know exactly what you need from them. Create a detailed job description that includes the role’s title, its responsibilities, your expectations, and the skills/talents that you believe a candidate should possess to successfully fill that role.
If you have someone you trust with whom to share ideas, by all means seek their input. You may have forgotten some crucial point or you might even be asking for too much from a single candidate.
Look for the Right Characteristics
Once you have the role fleshed out, consider the type of candidates you can expect to meet. Do you believe that a four-year degree will aid their success? Should they already have experience in your sector? What other characteristics might be necessary to best fill the role?
During the interviewing process, don’t forget to consider the other characteristics that matter to you. Did the candidate arrive on time? Were they excited about the position? Did they show initiative by researching your company?
Ask a candidate about their strengths and weaknesses. Do they complement your own or mesh with the company’s goals in ways that could be beneficial?
There are people that are motivated by the desire to learn or to make something new and there are people who are motivated by money. Which kind of individual do you want to hire?
If you’re just beginning the hiring process and looking for your first team members, it can be useful to focus on individuals who have a desire to learn and grow with your company and who will invest the time and energy into helping to realize your vision.
Leading and Managing Your Way to Success
Once you’ve hired the right people, you need to be ready to lead them – which is often easier said than done.
It’s important to note that, just as people learn best in different ways, people need to be managed in different ways to achieve their peak potential. While some individuals prefer to receive criticism directly, others need to hear it slightly sugarcoated. Some individuals require a hands-on manager, while others work better independently. You can ascertain some of this during the interviewing process, especially if candidates possess a sufficient level of self-awareness, but more often you won’t discover an individual’s management receptivity level until you’re trying to address an issue or advance a project.
There are numerous books and articles about management and leadership. For the purpose of this piece, I’ll focus on the key characteristics of a good leader.
Confident and Passionate
To most effectively share and spread your vision, you must be confident in your ideas and passionate about your work. It’s infectious! When you’re excited, it’s easier to get your team excited.
A manager tells people what to do. A leader develops talents, trusts their team, and delegates important tasks. They work with people to obtain the best results.
It’s important to have clear expectations and to communicate those standards to your team. Make yourself available and be open to input. Share the information your team needs to get the job done and be sure to thank them for their hard work.
Honest and Respectful
Leaders have integrity. They’re honest with their teams and treat them with respect. Your team will respect and follow you when you display those qualities they expect from a leader.
Cultivating the Right Company Culture
Your company culture sets the tone for everything you do. It’s what inspires people to want to work for you. By creating and cultivating a company culture that focuses on the following characteristics, you can make your startup a great place to work and help your team work together more effectively:
The best culture instills a purpose. It helps employees feel as though they’re working toward a goal, whether it’s offering great customer support or designing websites. When employees feel a sense of purpose, they connect more as a team and can better help you meet your goals.
It’s important to be accessible and open to communication. Beyond enabling team members to share ideas with you, it can help them to feel comfortable reporting an issue. You might hear things you don’t like – the numbers are down or the project won’t be completed in time – but that knowledge can help you to better plan and manage your resources.
Applaud Innovation and Creativity
Your staff is one of your greatest resources. Not only can they help you accomplish your current goals, they can provide you with new ideas for the future. In order for this to happen, however, there must be a focus on innovation and creativity. Enabling employees to apply their skills and abilities to create new processes on their own initiative can aid in promoting further engagement with your company and lead to results you wouldn’t have otherwise achieved.
Set Clear Expectations and Roles
Setting clear expectations can make your team feel more comfortable in their roles. When people don’t know the exact parameters of what they need to accomplish or the standards by which their work will be judged, they won’t feel confident that they can deliver what you want. A team with clear expectations can both plan to succeed and execute the necessary steps to meet that goal.
Be Accountable and Monitor Progress
Expressing clear expectations enables you to hold everyone accountable for their work and to monitor their progress. This doesn’t equate to blaming team members for missing benchmarks, however. Rather, the goal should be to improve processes based on the information garnered through monitoring.
Just as accountability is important, so, too, is celebrating your team’s successes. Sales goal met? Show your team how much you value them, whether it’s through something as simple as lunch or as extravagant as a raise or gift.
Celebrating success shows that you value the hard work your team put into meeting their goals and encourages them to continue working hard for you.
Learn From Mistakes
Your team isn’t always going to get it right. Maybe a marketing campaign will fail to convert new customers or your first prototype will be missing key elements that your target audience wants. It’s important to listen to feedback in order to learn from mistakes and then apply that knowledge going forward.
Learn From Conflict
Whenever people are working together, there will inevitably come a time when they find themselves at odds. Rather than penalizing employees for not getting along, it’s important to use those instances as teaching moments for how to move forward together in spite of conflict. Working to resolve issues can help team members to feel valued and help them work together better in the future.
Fostering a sense of the available opportunities for personal and professional growth can inspire a team to work hard and find innovative ways of getting the job done.
Ultimately, a successful team starts with you. Understanding your own strengths and weaknesses can help you hire the right team members to boost your success.
Focusing on the responsibilities and requirements of each role throughout the hiring process can help you ascertain whether particular candidates are well-suited for the tasks you have in mind. In addition, an in-depth interview process can provide you with more information about each candidate to help you build a knowledgeable, skilled team that will work well together.
In the context of a healthy company culture that instills purpose, enables creativity, and focuses on progress, your team will grow together and grow your business.
About the Author
Dr. Joe Johnson is an entrepreneur, investor, and startup expert. He is the founder and principal of GoodField Investments and the GoodField Foundation (www.GoodField.com).
Joe has a Ph.D. in Entrepreneurial Leadership and an MBA. He is the author of the upcoming book on The Science of Why Most Entrepreneurs Fail and Some Succeed.
Most importantly, he is the incredibly blessed husband of one amazing wife and father of six wonderful children. He resides in Bradenton, Florida. For more information on Dr. Johnson and his work, go to www.JoeJohnson.com.