Various models have emerged throughout the years to manage and enhance teamwork. A great share of these methods applies mostly to large organizational endeavors. Most of the literature in this area is academic and a bit difficult to grasp. I have tried to eliminate the bewildering details and point out the most significant components of successful teamwork to make usable complex team management models for startups.
In this piece, we shall talk about the most important elements found in many team management models that every startup leader can utilize.
I have worked through some of the most famous management models to find the right mix of important points on team management models for startups to make use of.
If you are looking to take your team management skills to the next level and make the best out of your team, this piece is for you.
I have covered 8 areas of teamwork and have discussed the most important principles of various models that apply to them minus the confusing details. Feel free to jump to the section you like.
The Essence of Team Management
Teamwork has enabled humankind to combine the individual workforce to accomplish magnificent objectives. It is said that moon landing was the result of the cooperation between 400,000 individuals. This is but one example of a great collaboration of minds and craftsmanship made possible through the art of teamwork.
Team management is a profound area of science and success in teamwork is not based on sheer luck.
Models have been proposed on leadership styles, relationship direction, crisis management and other areas of teamwork. Reading through them can be a headache and furthermore I believe that there is no one best among team management models for startups to choose from.
Extensive research and centuries of experience have shaped universal skills that go into successful management. One could call them the essence of team management.
1- Creating the Team
The concept of diversity of characters is present at some of the most famous team management models for startups. What this tries to point out is that people are different and this is a good thing.
Your team members have a subtle yet very effective hidden role in your team In addition to their official position which is based on the skillset they have. The diversity in their characters also presents a different kind of value for your team.
Some people challenge the status quo and think outside of the box. Others encourage collaboration. Including a male in a team working on a product for female users is not a bad thing. Having people who might challenge your decisions by your side is not going to undermine your authority. This plurality of styles should be recognized and put into good use.
So when you are selecting your next team members try not to forget these people are going to work with you and they should fit in your team. But keep in mind that people are different and this should be celebrated.
I have heard of the notion that surrounding oneself with ‘A’ players is the key to success. I have nothing against this idea but I think two other concepts should also be covered when considering talent.
What I would like to point out first is the concept of synergy that has been addressed in a lot of the team management models for startups.
Synergy is a word with a Greek origin of “synergos” meaning working together. What it entails is that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
It should be noted that a group is not just a collection of talented individuals working in the same place. Team members should be complementing each other and merge into a whole that is a team.
So keep in mind that although talent is important, the ability to work in a team is equally significant in people you select. Look for team players and not just expertise.
The second point I would like to make is that the obsession over ‘A’ players is a bit overrated and a candidate’s potentials for growth must be taken into account as well.
A skillful person who puts no time aside for education and growth might be good for now, but what about the next year?
Keep in mind that great leaders create ‘A’ players and not just hire them. I will talk more about this in the growth section.
2-1- Informed Decisions
Managing the team is not just about setting deadlines and staring at the Gant charts. As the leader of the team, you should create a synergistic environment. That is shaped in part by effective communication and controlled meetings.
Collective wisdom works and that is a fact but extracting that wisdom from the pile of contradictory views is your job.
As the leader of the team, you should respect the collective wisdom and create a supportive environment for it to bloom. You should listen to all the ideas and then make the final decision. At this stage, your decision-making authority should be clear.
Do not be afraid of conflict. Teams are not democracies and they should not be. The majority is not necessarily right. Deciding what is right is your responsibility.
2-2- The Right Values
Teams improve by building on a set of values. As a leader, you should be encouraging the right values in your team.
If you think diligence, for example, is a value that should be institutionalized in your team you should encourage it… so far so good, but there might be a little catch.
Encouragement is not about hanging posters and giving speeches. The good behavior from any teammate should be recognized, cherished, and valued. That is how values are promoted.
So if the hard work of a person in your team does not result in a bigger paycheck, do not hold your breath for the value to catch on.
There is another piece of advice that has worked for me and I would like to pass it on. Years ago I learned it the hard way that leading by example goes a long way. Do not expect anyone to do what you do not care enough to do it yourself.
Clarity is at the core of many team management models for startups. Setting clear goals, roles, and plans is literally the very focus of some of these models and it is crucial for success.
We talked about the importance of clarity in the leader’s authority earlier. The clarity of other roles also is something that should be carefully planned and communicated. Specific roles should be planned out with distinctive and clear responsibilities.
Goals are mostly discussed in strategic management and project management. I cannot stress enough the importance of clarity in these areas as well. After all, how can we expect a team to move forward if they do not know which direction is forward?
We talked about clarity in structure and that leads us to the significance of integrity in the workflow and plans. You must devise consistent and examined workflows with comprehensive detail and communicate them to members of the team.
I have witnessed this being neglected a lot and even in established businesses. I have seen the product planning department carrying out financial analysis while IT people were working on logistics. Upper management tends to ignore how things are done if the result is achieved.
Having clear plans and workflows that actually work is the foundation of successful teamwork. Without that, a constant state of confusion and uncertainty looms over the team.
An example of this confusion in startups is when tasks and resources get allocated unrealistically and it ends up with everybody trying to do what they can do just to move things forward. This is due to a lack of practical planning.
You cannot achieve clarity without designing functional workflows and plans.
In the growth section, we will talk about the analysis of workflows and structures and that relies on having one in place.
Maintaining the bond between team members is the role the leader should take. A trusting and respectful relationship should be in place.
You should set a framework of a supportive relationship and help teammates realize each other’s qualities and characters. Throughout the time people will learn how to complement each other and only then the team becomes synergic.
Dispute resolution is another responsibility leaders should take. Disagreements must be resolved and a healthy connection must be maintained.
Effective communication between team members is a must-have for startups. The exchange of information makes synergy possible and without it, the actuality of the team does not form.
Various tools and models have been developed to support effective communications within the team. As you might already know, ERPs and knowledge management platforms play a role in this area and honestly, I do not think they can be of much help for most of the startups. I am going to propose three practical ways to enhance communication in your team.
First, build communication channels. It is as easy as putting coffee tables and sofas around the office. Everything you already know about holding meetings, brainstorming sessions, company parties, facilitators, and coffee breaks are all valid. Get to know each other.
Second, be available for your teammates. Let them feel free to come to you for anything. Give them feedback and ask for feedback as well. Performance analysis sessions might also work but what we are shooting for here is continuous communication in pursuit of progress.
Third, you should trust your people. All you have to do now is to get out of the way! Teammates gathering after the hours and having fun is not a bad thing.
Do not be the manager who actively isolates marketing people from the rest of the team and prohibits graphic designers from interacting with developers. Jut don’t.
We talked about diversity earlier and how it can help teams achieve more than they set out for. You should support diversity and part of this is acknowledging that people have different work styles. Even the decision-making process is backed by free discussions.
Let people do their duties the way they desire. Do not micromanage. Controlling behavior suffocates creativity. Give your team the freedom they need to flourish.
Commitment is a two-way street. If you want high-performance teams you should create satisfaction in them.
Job satisfaction is affected by workplace standards, the amount of salary, and the support you provide for your team.
Do not underestimate the effect of furniture, dress code, colors, and plants on productivity. Neither should you forget the impact of your actions on morals.
Keep people happy and they shall make you happy.
6- Crisis Management
Being ready for crises is advised by many team management models for startups. Bad things happen and you should be prepared for it.
The first step would be to identify potential weak spots and for that SWOT charts could help. Analyzing workflows, project plans, and business plan documents could be the next step.
Then comes the scenario writing stage. You must plan carefully for different crises that might arise from identified weak spots.
6-2- Speak Up
We discussed the role of communication in teams. Communicating the issues, in particular, is of grave importance.
Your team should resist the disposition of ignoring and hiding the problems. Ignoring the problems have benefited no one.
Insist on your preference for hearing the bad news as early as possible. Everybody should keep an open eye for things that might go wrong and report them as soon as possible.
Teammates should feel free to positively criticize other’s mistakes, including you. Welcome every comment and try to keep an open mind. We will talk about this more in the next section.
7-1- Give it Time
Teams do not develop in a day. Having a good team takes time. You should constantly look for areas with the potential to improve and work out the kinks.
Investigate mistakes and failures and learn from them. You should not have to do this alone. Welcome criticism and create a safe environment for free speech. Make sure that respect is embedded in every judgment and encourage proposing solutions instead of throwing problems to each other’s face.
In the section about the structure, we talked about the need for having established workflows and planed processes in place. Analyzing these processes and utilizing optimization techniques can shift your productivity to the next level. Again no one knows the shortcomings of a process better than the guy who performs them every day. Ask for your teammates’ help.
I hope it does not come to that but do not be afraid to let go of the few bad apples. This should be your last resort but if nothing else works, do not hesitate to do it.
Teams are constituted of talented individuals who can complement each other. Talents and team skills can be developed and it would be your duty to make it happen. Help people mature and improve their strengths if you want a strong team. Stimulate the best in people.
Support personal and professional growth by encouraging the concept of the learning organization. Every member of the team should be in a continuous state of learning. Create your ‘A’ players and keep their knowledge and skillset on the edge by promoting the value of knowledge. As we discussed in the previous sections, you should reward good behaviors and create a supportive environment if you want real change to take place.
Passionate people are more creative and work harder. They are happier in the workplace and help the teams to improve.
You should inspire your team to know that the work they are doing matters. When creating the team lookout for passionate people, especially the ones who have a personal enthusiasm for what you are doing. Try to align personal passions with the team’s objectives and you shall achieve more than you ever wished for.
And please do not kill passions by controlling behaviors and ignoring people’s good work.
Talented individuals who believe in their work can change the world together and make it a better place for everyone.