Something that’s immediately apparent for new tech startups is that teamwork makes dreamwork. Having a team capable of working together and leveraging each other’s strengths is integral to a startup’s success or failure.
Diversity is a Must
Diversity has become a buzzword recently. Business are vying to incorporate different groups of people in the workforce. The reasons for this surge are varied. However, the result is that more teams are well-formed and diversely talented.
Having a diverse team is about bringing members aboard who have diverse experience. Some may even have no experience. Diverse educational backgrounds and different life experiences are also assets. Try not to get caught up in the hype of startup scenes where young “dynamos” work together as unconventional experts. Tech is always changing and so is the market. Having a diverse team that can take various issues into consideration is better than having a team of clones.
Toss the Yes-Men and Women
Good cooperation is one of the biggest assets of building a strong team. Despite this, yes-men and women will do no good when the going gets tough. Although a tech startup may be innovative, they could be in the wrong market or marketing their product in an insufficient way. When these concerns arise, every team needs people who will tell it like it is. Of course, the team has to share a similar vision to make goals work. Sometimes this includes buttressing the ideas and plans of the leader. This, however, should never devolve into a contest of who can be the founder’s best friend.
Having honest feedback is essential. Don’t look for people who can only say yes but shy away from constructive criticism.
More than a Degree
It’s tempting to snag potential team members based on their degree and academic performance alone. Furthermore, many startups are hiring staff with little or no experience. It may be the only thing the hiring team has to go off of when making plans…but not so fast!
A good hiring manager can identify and isolate favorable skills, competencies, and experiences. They can tease talent and skills out of a CV. Quickly scanning and tossing any candidate that didn’t graduate from a certain university or with a certain major can be a mistake. In other words, don’t lose sight of the forest for the trees. In this case, the forest is the larger set of skills and competencies acquired through school or work. The trees are very specific details, like certain majors and universities.
Skip the Ego Trip
Almost everyone has had the experience of meeting or training new team members when this one comes along. At first, they’re almost too good to be true. They have amazing experience, amazing credentials and are full of fresh ideas…but there’s one catch. To put it lightly, they’re a jerk. They’re someone with a huge ego that makes coming into the office a chore. It’s tempting, especially at the beginning to keep them onboard. However, every team member represents a potential pathway for other team members in the company. They will define the company culture that is being made. It is never worth sacrificing the team or poisoning the work atmosphere to hold onto someone like this. This is especially the case when they also have little respect for others- even if they are great at what they do.
Be the Siphonophore
This is an obvious one but much harder to achieve than the previous advice. A siphonophore, in short, is a collection of marine organisms working in tandem, as if they were one animal. At first glance they appear to be one animal, for instance, the Portuguese man o’war. However, one soon realizes that siphonophores are composed of separate, independent, specialized organisms. They all function and move as one, towards the same goal, sustaining life.
What siphonophores can teach us is that, in the end, teams must act and move almost like one organism. They are composed of independent parts and should retain their unique skills, qualifications and personalities. Each part of the system makes some important contribution to the overall whole. This doesn’t mean that each part has to be the same or always agree. It means that everything, from product design to market research, should be a cohesive and collaborative effort. No one should lose what it means to be themselves in order to be part of the team.