By Syed Balkhi, founder of WPBeginner.

The main difference between a corporate company and a successful startup is the way they treat their employees. While big corporations often restrict its employees from sharing ideas and limit work culture to cubicles, startups tend to encourage teams to collaborate and share their ideas more openly.

I believe open idea sharing is the reason that companies like Google, Facebook and Amazon dominate the economy today. It's not just the free food and high salaries that make their teams so innovative. It's how they value their teams and new ideasIf you're building a new business or looking to put together a more creative team, creating a company culture that encourages ideation is the first step you can take toward that goal. After all, a company is only as strong as the team behind it.

Start by following these tips to build a winning team full of innovative ideas.

Get More Involved With Your Team

Contrary to popular belief, a leader's job is not to lead a team but to show the path and let the team find their own way toward achieving goals together. For example, think of your team brainstorming sessions. If you share your own opinion before asking your team for feedback by saying, "Here's what I think about the new product feature. Let me know what you think," you are conveying that your opinion comes first.

The leaders of the most successful startups, like Facebook, don't have such work ethics. In fact, at Facebook, even their top executives get more involved with the team during the conceptual and product making process.

Encourage Side Projects

Many businesses and startups have strict rules regarding its employees working on side projects. Some even punish teams that work on side projects outside the company. Some big companies, like Apple, have contracts in place to have ownership of any side projects its employees develop. Give your team more freedom to work on side projects. In fact, try to reward side projects.

There's no better example than Gmail to prove the value of side projects. The world's most popular email service started out as a side-project. Founder Paul Buchheit worked on Gmail while employed at Google for years before presenting it to the company.

Use a Team-Communication Tool

Of course, it's difficult to encourage ideation and be more involved when you're managing a remote team. This is where team communication tools come in to help. Tools like Slack now enable remote teams to collaborate on projects better and effectively. Since most communication on Slack happens in an open environment, it gives employees more confidence to share their own ideas without having to worry about another team member getting the spotlight. It's important to build an environment for your team that promotes sharing and encourages them to exchange ideas at anytime they want. Ideas don't always have to be shared during a brainstorming session.

Be Open to Criticism

Your team knows more about your product than anyone else. Always listen to their criticism before listening to your customers. At our company, we have a process in place just for this concept. Whenever we hire a new employee or onboard a team member, we have them study the products and put together a slide deck of ideas for improvements.

This helps us in two ways: The team gets new ideas for improving the products while also allowing the new employees to learn more about the products.

Tolerate Failures and Mistakes

Building a business involves taking risks. This is especially true for startups. Make that clear to your team. Don't punish them for making a mistake. Great ideas often come in the form of a failure. Let your team make a few mistakes every once in a while. It's better to fail at something new than never trying it out.

You can't learn to be a leader by reading a book or attending a seminar. It often takes trial and error as well. But, as long as you treat your employees as equals, you'll always be part of the team. And that's what being a great leader is all about.  

Syed Balkhi is the founder of WPBeginner, the largest free WordPress resource site that helps small businesses start their website.

Published on: May 23, 2018
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