It is not difficult to come up with a great idea for a startup; I bet you have at least 10 such ideas swirling in your head right now. It is also not very difficult to put your foot down and say ‘I am doing this’ and kick-start your startup.
The real challenges, the unexpected kind, happen once you enter the battlefield. These challenges can present themselves in the form of a bad marketing strategy, unworthy leadership, ugly startup culture, or poor team dynamics.
If you are at the stage where you can see nothing wrong with the product, the product-market fit, and the marketing strategy, but your startup is still not moving forward – maybe it’s time you look deeper and see if your team is operating effectively.
The real key to startup success is integrating multi-disciplinary skills from a diverse set of people with varied viewpoints and thinking styles. Did you know that 97% of employees and executives believe a lack of
According to the authors of the book The Collaboration Imperative, collaboration starts at the top of the company. It is the actions of the startup leaders and not the occasional team huddles that set the example for and nurture a collaborative culture.
“Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success.”
– Henry Ford
What is Collaboration, though? A business principle? A Buzzword? Debates at the workplace?
If you are essentially a lone ranger trying to somehow build a business around your ingenious idea, then collaboration may just be a business tool you are using to get other people to work for you – this kind of collaboration is superficial at best and ineffective at worst.
It cannot be a buzzword you throw around to impress your employees; it has to be woven into the way you operate your business, generate ideas, and essentially run your startup. In short, collaboration is a culture and a value you believe in.
Let’s see some practical ways to instill the essence of collaboration in your team:
- Reward your team members for both collaborative wins and individual wins. If you glorify your talk about collaboration and reward only individual wins, then it’s just a red herring! A good reward can be taking the team on an outing.
- Fill your team with the right people. Your collaborative culture will be damaged even if there one lazy employee who rides off of someone else’s hard work. Each of your team members should be trustworthy, responsible, and dependable.
- Revolve leadership responsibilities. Give a chance for everyone in the team to be a leader and a follower, so they can embrace both sides of the coin. You can do this by making each one of your team members in charge of an activity.
Where to start?
So you went back and investigated further into why your startup is not growing and realized that your team collaboration is suffering. If you are wondering where to start, I have two words for you, ‘Ask’ and ‘Listen’.
The basis for a good collaborative team is unrestricted communication. Although you might not have restricted communication at your startup, you need to understand that people don’t usually voice opinions and thoughts unless you ask for it. So it’s not enough to say, ‘You are free to speak your mind’ – you need to ask.
Naturally, you must follow that with listening. If you don’t respect their views and genuinely try to see their point, you might as well not ask. When an employee comes to you for the first time with an opinion or an idea and you genuinely stay open to it, they will come to you a second time.
If you ask and not listen, your words don’t match your actions and in that case, collaboration is just another fancy buzzword for you. Implementing weekly discussions, brainstorming sessions and consciously seeking each team member’s opinion is a great way to launch this culture.
Many startups have relatively small teams and that is good news because encouraging conversations is so much easier when the team is small. You can go to each team member and have a one-on-one with them from time to time. Also, when composing your team make sure you pick at least a few people who are great at getting discussions started and involving everyone in the talks. This way even if you are too busy, these people can take up the mantle for you.
How can technology help?
Good technology can remove the physical barriers that stand in the way of effective collaboration.
For instance, let’s say one your team members has to work remotely due to an emergency; with the right tools at their disposal, this won’t become an issue for the whole team working on a new launch. A simple feature such as shared Gmail labels allows you to delegate a task to your team member right from your inbox. Tools like Flowdock, Slack, Evernote, etc. can be extremely helpful.
The right toolbox can help you integrate collaboration into your work culture, but choosing the right set of tools for your company from the hundreds of tools out there needs a little bit of experimentation from your side.
So which one is it – free-thinking through collaboration or efficiency through structures?
When you get smart people with emotions in a room to freely express themselves, it is not so surprising when it lead to conflicts, debates, and heated discussions. However, effective collaboration and communication are not about putting off decision making and going on endless discussions.
I would say that you need to encourage free-thinking and free expression but lay down some structures to guide your team. This is where deadlines, weekly/monthly targets, and setting expectations in other tangible, measurable ways come to play.
It is not only one person’s work, it’s really a partnership and collaboration during all these years