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4 Killer Startup Team Building Lessons

Team YS
29th Apr 2012
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I read Shradha's article and must say an awesome article once again, coming from an entrepreneur, whom i have closely seen working towards building her business from scratch. As an HR practitioner, I must strongly agree with a lot of what Shradha has to say, though in the true style of a consultant, I am compelled to add my bits of learning's based on hands on working with multiple organisations. While building your startup team, you as an entrepreneur will face one of your toughest challenge. You have to be prepared to see things at multiple levels and act accordingly. While i also believe that nothing can be prescriptive here, I would like to share some rules which i have seen coming very handy in the process of team building.Interviews Unmasked:  I am not a big fan of interviews. I just fail to understand how you can judge people in a 30-45 minute conversation where the person is trying his or her best to impress you anyway. Interviews for me, are at best something that helps me decide whether I absolutely love the candidate or whether I just do not want to move ahead. Those would be at best 25-30% of people one interviews; what about the remaining ones where you feel that you just can't be sure? We handle such situations by scheduling additional interview rounds; another practice which I find very disagreeable. Why would you want to make it so cumbersome for someone to come and join your company? In fact, I recently read an interesting article on companies that have extremely long and rigorous selection processes. The perception of the job gets built up so high that when the selected candidate joins, he/ she is in for disappointment.

Maybe this practice borrows from the concept of Hindu weddings - make it so long and cumbersome that you never want to do it again! Unfortunately, that logic seldom applies for jobs. Does it apply for weddings? Jokes apart, from the entrepreneur's perspective, do you and your teams even have enough time to conduct so many rounds of interviews? Is this the optimal utilization of your time?

Your search for good people cannot be restricted to scheduled interviews; as an entrepreneur, you need to be looking for good people 24 X 7. And if you, as an entrepreneur, are not a people's person, make sure you get a partner who is.

Love versus Impartial Workplace: As you go on to build your Startup team you will realise it is difficult to love your entire team equally. The last thing you want in a small team is for perceptions to get built around how you are more partial to a particular employee. Such perceptions destroy teamwork and can significantly de-motivate the lesser loved. How you establish the balance in your organisation will be the key determinant of a healthy work -culture.

Transparency is a Double Edged Sword : This is a complex one. In some businesses, one can afford to be highly transparent. In others, some secrecy may be required. After all, you don't want yourself getting “zuckerberged” with your highly motivated, entrepreneurial team members running away with your IP and setting up on their own! As in all things that are significant art and only part science, in HR, it consistency that is key. So make sure you are not sharing everything one day and then sitting behind closed doors the next day. That could play havoc with your team's motivation levels.

Encourage Questions and Disagreements: While it is nice to have everyone in your team to work towards a common cause,be cautious, the last thing you want, especially in a small start-up team, is group-think. Start-ups have to be nimble and they have to be innovative. Too many minds thinking in exactly the same way can spell disaster. How I choose to interpret Shradha's statement is that you would want people who are equally passionate. Even the point about people getting "equally discharged" by the same things is a little contentious. After all, you need that one person who will get up and see things in a totally different light.

My final advice to start-ups is to build a unique culture and start with something whacky that helps the team connect and feel like a pack with its own identity. In my first job, though our company was fairly large and established, our team in Bangalore behaved like a start-up. Among other things, we had this interesting practice of visiting team members’ houses at midnight on their birthdays. We would carry 2 cakes, one for cutting, one for smashing on the birthday boy/ girl’s face. I know that some of you may scoff at the wastage of food but trust me - thatBangalore team was the closest knit, most cooperative team I have ever been part of!

- Saurabh Deshpande, Human Resource Consultant

(Twitter Handle: S_desh)

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