As a venture capitalist, I get to peer into the soul and psyche of many early-stage companies. My observation of literally thousands of company reviews is that there is a wide spectrum of approaches to team building. Some set out to craft this from day one. Some are satisfied to let the team building and thus the culture evolve.
Those first weeks and months of your leadership is where you establish the foundation of the relationship between the company and your employees. As the founder/CEO/GM of the startup/company/division, you set the attitude and framework for the relationship. My experiences tell me that it is a lot easier to set it early rather than change it later.
1. Create Appropriate Transparency
Today's best employees demand to be informed of the meaningful progress of the company. For many it will be revenue or bookings. For others it may be the move to a new space, a change in leadership or a financing. Your task is to find the appropriate level and frequency of shared information. If in doubt--lean towards more rather then less. The best can handle it.
2. Set Clear Company, Team & Individual Objectives
A close cousin of the first trait is your ability to set clear and concise objectives. At Rand McNally where I hired 60 people in less than 6 months, this was an obvious requirement if we were going to be successful. It is easy to think that everyone on the team is executing to the same priorities. Wake up! They are not and you and you alone are responsible for creating a platform for setting and communicating objectives for the company, the teams and each employee.
3. Establish a Passionate Purpose
The best are not here for the paycheck--that is a means to an end. The best employees are here to make a difference. Your job is to establish the purpose of the company and why everyone should start each day inspired.
4. Hire to Fit the Culture
As you begin to grow the team and the pressure to fill critical positions expands with your growth, you and your hiring managers will be tempted to hire "good enough". Skills can be taught if the current skills are good enough. What cannot be taught is the type of cultural personality you should demand of every hire. Don't bend your culture to fit the candidate.
5. Fix Culture Issues Immediately
You invariably will hire the wrong person. More likely, some employees' needs and expectations change and morph into a situation that creates team angst. You can't let that linger. Once the rift is exposed, great leaders deal with the issue quickly and with authority. Your mantra--the team is bigger than any one individual.
6. Enable Independence & Trust
These two factors need to work in tandem. Micromanaging employees is the trait of a weak leader and possibility the result of poor hires. Great employees require the autonomy to fulfill their objectives. If these are set and communicated--get out of the way. Overlaying a simple feedback system to spot-check that everyone is meeting his or her objectives is one way easily monitor progress.
7. Celebrate the Right Wins
As your business adds customers, partners, investors and everything in between, you should commemorate these milestones publicly and with sincerity. There will be many opportunities to celebrate key critical milestones. But be careful, the tenor of the celebration needs to match the relevance of the milestone. I outlined five milestones that should not be celebrated in this article on INC.com.
How can you optimize your team-building leadership traits? Learn from others and establish your foundation early in your tenure.