Journey to a dream team series: What is a dream team? What does it take? And how will you get there? The journey includes several iterations, feedback loops, coaching, presentations, and developing handy visual tools to manifest the implemented changes along the way. We will be sharing all insights with you in the upcoming five separate articles: The best team setup, Build a vision & mission, Team values & behaviours, Right goal setting, Communication & feedback. Every article will include a substantial piece of content, concept/method you can download and work through with your team.
Setting up individuals together and forming a joint team is just NOT an analytical problem. People don’t function logically all the time; actually only a few do. Leading teams consists of two things: hard factors, like goals, timelines, and deliverables and soft factors - in this blog article, we will discuss the “soft” and “human” part of building teams.
As a starting point, two things must be emphasized because they are essential and something like undeniable prerequisites:
1) You know the skills and strengths of each individual contributor in your team. You hired your people, worked with them before, or at least know your team members for some time from interacting with them.
2) You made up your mind about how to effectively cover all relevant skills to achieve your accepted endeavor successfully.
Because in real life, there is no guarantee that your chosen team will function successfully as a unit. Reality even shows that you can be successful without the best individuals in every position.
Take sports history and think about the most remarkable underdog teams that won Championships!
Something like the Miracle on Ice in 1980, when the US Ice Hockey Team beat the Soviet Union in the World Championship Final, as COMPLETE underdogs. Before the game, the US fans said they would be happy if their team at least shot one goal, let alone winning the game. Yet they won! The players of the U.S. team couldn’t match the individual quality of their opponents. But the Americans, as a team, combined their limited strengths in the best way possible – and thereby succeeded over the sum of outstanding, yet somewhat isolated Russian players.”
Today, this still happens all the time, and I will explain the factors you can put in place to increase YOUR chances, of building very successful teams and achieving your goals with your start-up.
First, your organizational structure needs to be enabling your people. What does that mean, and how do you get there?
To achieve this, you need to ask yourself a couple of questions:
a) What are the right roles to accomplish the purpose?
b) How should these roles be defined?
c) Who are the right people for these roles?
d) What kind of boundaries serves the team?
e) What is your, the leader's/founder’s role in providing this structure?
So, let’s say you want to set up a business development team to launch your company's new product. The product is unique and it’s a pilot. There is no structure you can build on and you, as the founder, have the task to set up the “Go-To-Market”-Team. Usually, there are support teams like Finance, Recruiting, Marketing, etc. but this time, YOU are building the core team on your own, which reflects the founder’s perspective in a young start-up perfectly.
1) People who identify and research potential customers, and in addition, it would be great if they set up a structured lead generation
2) People who speak to customers, either acquire them, interest them or service them once they have questions
3) People who analyze existing customer patterns, identify upsell potentials and feed that back to the guys who speak to the customers directly
4) Back office staff that coordinates, documents, and sets up meeting structures, etc.
When defining roles, it always helps to find out how other companies, departments, or teams are tackling similar projects. Ask yourself if you need an interdependent contributor team (a group of people interacting with each other to achieve the tasks, e.g. a design team) or an individual contributor team (a group of people who perform similar independent tasks, e.g. a customer service call center) – or most likely, a combination of both? The answer lies in the level of interdependence needed to achieve your goal. This dictates the choice of the structure. Relating it back to start-ups, you will want to go for team members who are willing and able to work as interdependent as possible.
You can tackle this question from different perspectives. It’s crucial to think through what kind of skills the respective person needs to succeed with the given tasks.
Let’s say you are looking for a Product Manager. You know the tasks the PM will cover, e.g. analyzing the market, understanding the details of the product, coordinating between production and business teams, understanding the competitive products and their pricing, etc. Accordingly, you can clearly define a specific skill sheet.
For the role of a PM, the skill sheet (hard & soft) would include:
· highly analytical and logical,
· technically averse,
· business acumen,
· likes to dive deep on details,
· as well as great communication and coordination skills to translate between two functional divisions.
I’m talking about helping the team to “win” by setting a clear focus and avoiding having your team tackle too many satellite topics next to the main goal. It can really help to say something like, “ yes, I really appreciate that you don’t want to drop this ball and spend energy on it. For the goal we are trying to hit, this is not on the top of the list, and we postpone it after we successfully launch. Thank you!”
It’s not intuitive to think about this, but great founders ensure that their teams are enabled to work on the stuff they are set up for. Distractions are kept to a minimum. The key is to find a constructive balance between including new inspirations and excluding things that derail your team from focusing.
Make it clear to the team what your role is and isn’t. The more transparent you are about what you do, the more trust and understanding your team will create.
Always remember - you are part of the team, especially when you are leading it, and you must fulfill your part of the story. Don’t miss this opportunity because everyone has to chip in to make your project successful.
Before we can start setting up teams, there is one crucial activity you as a founder have to do constantly: communicate with your people! Unfortunately, this is not optional, it’s mandatory if you want to succeed.
Why? Because you need to know as much as you can about every single team member for what is coming now, and the best way to get there is to ask endless open questions in combination with a great portion of active listening.
Once you have done all the preparation work from Step 1, it’s time to put the right people in the right positions. It sounds a little bit like chess, and some founders use this comparison. However, I prefer not to because your team members are not figures, they are humans, and it’s essential to keep this in mind at any point in time.
You can staff your people based on many different perspectives, and you should start considering the following dimensions:
1) Junior & senior
2) Female & male
3) assigned vs. volunteered (did the person want the job, or was she pushed into the role?)
4) inexperienced & experienced
5) hungry & established
6) national & international
There is no judgment in any of these dimensions. IMPORTANT side note on this: no one is better than the other. To be frank, you want to combine as many characteristics from above as possible to build your most successful team in your start-up.
Let’s look at another example of a sports team in soccer. There are 11 positions in a team, 10 on the field, and 1 goalie. There is a Defense, Midfield, and of course, Forwards/Strikers. As a soccer coach, you first define the strategy and the goal and then put the most fitting player in the respective position on the field. No matter which characteristic value you choose from the list we discussed before, if you only stay one-dimensional, let’s say experienced team members, you will most likely not succeed.
Because, for example, in this case, you will miss the level of excitement, freshness, and willingness to run rigidly for every single ball. And to find out who is hungry vs. established, I’m coming back to my point from above: it is essential that you talk to your team members and collect as much information as you can to identify each team member’s distinct strengths, motives, and skills.
Another fascinating perspective and information data point on this topic is the Driver’s model from Taibi Kahler, a psychologist, author, and presidential communications advisor. Way back in 1975, Kahler identified five common drivers that motivate us. These drivers are born in our unconsciousness and can lead to some very positive, as well as destructive behaviors. By identifying which drivers an individual exhibits most, it becomes possible to recognize and develop these positive behaviors' potential and use them in your team for good.
The 5 drivers are:
· Be Perfect!
· Be Strong!
· Hurry Up!
· Please Others!
· Try Hard!
Each Driver type has its strengths and weaknesses. Typically, we prefer one or two driver types, although people may also recognize aspects of all of them in their work. Also, there is much truth in the phrase "personality clash".
For instance, the Try Hard driver, who constantly starts new projects by launching into action, is likely to clash with the Be Perfect driver. Someone who will typically want to plan before committing to action. The critical thing to consider throughout all of this is that understanding people with different working styles can increase productivity considerably. This can be achieved through understanding and knowing the preferred channel of communication that each working style has.
If you want to go deeper on this, there are numerous tests available on the internet, e.g. visit Wayra community startup MatchManao or www.16Personalities.com. I encourage you to include your teams or, even better, do the test with them.
For that, I want you to use all the insights from above and think about your own start-up, team, department, or whatever group you lead or are working in. It will help you reflect on whether you have the right people in the right positions and if your setup adds value from all the relevant perspectives.
To begin the exercise, draw the structure of your team taking the following three perspectives in mind:
1) Your personal hat: how do you personally think the team works best?
2) Your boss’s (in your case maybe advisors or investors) hat: how does your boss think it works best?
3) The customer hat: how your customers benefit the most?
Now, compare the structures and decide on which improved version helps your organization the most?
You are all set now - have fun developing your perfect team setup/organizational structure. Feel free to reach out to our CONUFACTUR experts, who helped develop and constantly refine our Wayra team setup during the last couple of months.