Creating a great team is probably the biggest challenge for any entrepreneur. Getting a group of people who are entrepreneurial enough to make the business grow yet can work in the same direction over a long period of time and withstand individual and collective knocks along the way is not straightforward by any measure. I don’t claim to have the answers on this but I do expect to get into some of the details of how to build a fantastic team over time with the blog.
So having a great team is a lot about knowing them, what their strengths and weaknesses are, how they fit in and what motivates them. A few years back, Harry Harpur suggested an approach to this that we use from time to time. Basically this involves deciding how best to describe the members of your team as follows:
Prisoner – these people are trapped working in your start-up. They are only here because of the pay cheque or because they are scared to leave. They hate their job and are a potentially poisonous influence on the rest of the team. They are also making themselves miserable and need some help, maybe to get out of where they are right now.
Passenger – these people are capable of a lot but for some reason aren’t delivering. They might be in their comfort zone or else they are too lazy to contribute what they can. There can be a number of reasons why people are passengers and while you can’t afford to carry anyone in a start-up, there is a chance that passengers can be re-engaged and add value.
Protester – a protestor is never happy, always questioning and regularly disagrees. My view is that having a few protesters in the team is a positive thing and avoids the dreaded ‘group think’. Where protesters start to really hurt you is when you’ve made the decision, listened to the possible risks and downsides and made a call on how to proceed and the guys are still whinging. There is simply not enough time for that in a start-up.
Player – these are the guys you need and the secret to making your team and your company a success. Players are highly motivated, hard working and self directed. They buy into the vision and know what they have to do to get there. You’ll probably have a lot of these in the early days and the trick is to a) keep them as players and avoid them burning out or getting bored and b) avoid losing them to a competitor or their own start-up. Your players may not be your most senior or experienced people. Cultivating rising stars who can be your players is really rewarding as well as sound business.
So what do you do with this? My suggestion is to plot this on a graph and decide what it says about your organisation. You’ll see one we did a while back at Learning Pool above. I think this shows a pretty good picture with a bit of work to do in certain areas.
It’s really likely you’ll have some people who are ‘near the line’. These guys are usually easy to talk to – just ask them why they are not on the other side of it and mostly they’ll figure it out themselves. If you’ve identified prisoners you should deal with this first, regardless of how much you don’t want to or how hard it’ll be. With the players – I suggest you do 2 things 1) look after them as much as you can (albeit with limited resources) and 2) stretch them as far as you can – they can do more, and the business will benefit as a result.