From your experience, what are the 'key' rules to building a great team for the long-term?

I find myself training and teaching my team a lot of things, which is inevitable since we're a small start-up and I have team members who are quite new to the industry (they are loyal, creative, and a smart bunch). It's pretty time consuming for myself as a founder, nevertheless I want to assure that Im growing them in the right way for the long term. I'd like to know if there are any key things that you've seen in great 'team builders'? For example: Do certain members learn quicker when left on their own? Or should I be actively involved in training them? etc..Would be great to hear from experts that have learnt this the hard way.


Your question is very interesting and gives me a feeling you have a real commitment for success because it makes me feel you care for your team.

If this question could be fully answered in a couple of lines, you can imagine all managers and executives would lead their teams successfully.

The 2 key principles to remember are:

1. Everyone is different: you have to adapt to each individual. It is time consuming but pays off in the long run because everyone has their own learning styles, speed and attitude. Take the time to have 1:1 conversations about them as individuals: likes and dislikes, under what conditions they perform best, how they learn most easily and about their career goals.

2. Create a team spirit. This is the exact opposite of point 1: as much as you recognize everyone as individuals, you have to also build unity and cohesion. There has to be standardized rules of behavior, common values and a shared vision. You have to take time with your team as a whole.

This will lead you to create:

1. A personal development plan for each individual in your team, which helps you develop a tailored approach for each person, create reward & recognition systems and monitor people's happiness and performance. This helps you understand your team from a micro-perspective.

2. An organizational development plan for your start-up to give you a more global vision of the talents you need to acquire, retain and grow. This helps you understand your team from a macro-perspective.

Team building requires taking time for all the different aspects of bonding: forming, storming, norming, performing, mourning.

It's always about balancing two extremes:

On one hand you want to take time to work together and alone, to learn & grow, to brainstorm, to create, to plan, to prepare, to research and to measure performance.

On the other hand you, you also want to take time away from the office to stop & think, take time to have fun, take time to get to know each other, take time to rest & relax.

Do you need any guidance to build individual and organizational development plans that will support growth and team building for your start-up?

Answered 10 years ago

Great question with a number of answers, some of which might amaze you. Let's keep it simple: hire "A" team members. Period. There was a [at least one] blog post about how hiring "B" or "C" devs would destroy a startup within weeks. Same of any team. I love the expression, "Close enough for Rock & Roll", but that never works for hiring talent. And, if you don't know, every position is a 'talent' position in a startup. Sure, all the comments you have ever read about teaching and demanding team members pull their own weight, etc. are valuable. But start at the beginning. Plus, know that you cannot instill knowledge into others... they must seek it, consume it, and apply it for themselves. Final note for startups: hiring amazing talent from established firms is a huge challenge. Can they perform when there is no budget or assistants to do the work? Communicate what we call in the military, "Commanders Intent" and let the "A" players figure out the details.

Answered 10 years ago

Identify (or hire) a team member you can train who is as adept at training others as you are (or even moreso). Teach this person so that you can delegate much of the time-consuming one-on-one training to them (and so there are at least two people who know all the processes necessary to keep your start-up running).

Have this person document processes. One excellent inexpensive way to do that is using Screencast-o-matic to create short videos on how to do specific tasks.

I recommend using Trello as the fast, easy way to collaborate across a team. Create ongoing processes as lists on boards there and then move the tasks from list to list to show where each task is in your process. This is easier explained using screen sharing on Skype or by watching videos on how Trello works. It is extremely simple to set-up, use and learn.

By setting up Trello boards you can instantly see what team members are focusing on and what they've accomplished so far at a glance. You can set deadlines and import them into a calendar visible to all team members or just you. I highly recommend using Trello as the best collaborative solution available. You'll like the price: free until you need advanced options or want more granular control of who can do what.

Answered 10 years ago

This is a great question. I've had teams that are great and ones that needed to be re-engineered ... the key is leadership. It's sometimes hard to understand that, as a leader, all things begin and end with the leader. It's the leader's job to first articulate the core values that are going to define behavior when no one is watching ... what are the key things that govern how you want your team to act? What are the competencies required to act in a matter consistent with this. Then we need to set clear parameters for performance, what do you want them to do, by when, what skills should they bring to the table. What are the consequences of misses, and what are the rewards for successful completion of activities? How do their activities contribute to the greater Purpose of the company (Mission, Vision) and how will you support their professional development. I have several blog and podcast posts on this subject at ... feel free to check them out and get back to me if you have any questions!

Answered 10 years ago

First rule of leadership is: Leader is guilty for everything.
My rule for it is: it's all about Trust. Mutual.
Are u a real Leader? Then stick with them. Work together. Do their shifts/stuff if they cannot come in the afternoon. Let them take your shifts/stuff when u cannot do it. Share living and working, together. And all this under pressure. Long-enough to start knowing who thinks of what and how, when s/he says this or that. Or when s/he writes such and such code. The saying goes like - Eat a 10kilo of salt together... By that time u'll have a feeling about everyone, who is able of what and unable of what, how fast s/he thinks/learns/find/a-way-out, how persistent s/he is in chazing a defect/completeness/perfection, and all those. As bonus, u may become friends. For life. Anyway, here's my take on work/teaming/trust etc and around

Answered 9 years ago

This is a great question. I have built teams for the past 9 years and now consistently employ 50 people. I have used this quote for many years "Clarity = Freedom", it's just a weird coincidence that it is the name of this website!

I believe that the most important thing in developing a team is to create clarity for them...let them know Exactly what it means to be successful working for you. Create Measurables that define their success. These work best as weekly requirements but can also be monthly, quarterly and annual. Once they have complete clarity in what it takes to be successful, then they will have the freedom to execute decisions that help them reach those goals and you will begin to experience freedom from the day to day "IN the business" brush fires that occur and be able to spend more time working "ON the business".

I would suggest reading these two books: "Traction" and "Rocket Fuel" (both by Gino Wickman, also available on Audiobook from Amazon). Another great daily boost is (a 20 minute podcast which includes a daily interview of a successful entrepreneur as well as a suggestions for a great online tool/resource and a book recommendation).

I hope this helps!!

Answered 7 years ago

First, I'd suggest the book "Principles" by Ray Dalio. In my opinion he is a great team builder and in this book he (not only) shares his according tools/methods.

Second, in my personal experience when building great teams you need to
- make sure each member contributes to the team in a very specific and individual way with her/his personality, work style, skills, energy...
- assign clear roles & responsibilities to team members that fit the above (personality etc.) and align the interests between them
- cultivate an environment of professional, goal- and solution-oriented straight-forwardness
- apply tough love: fairly but rapidly & definitely cut people out who harm the team/goal
- implicitly ask for sacrifices/struggle and make those worthwhile*

*at times less resources are better than more! think: a situation so dynamic you have to be present 100% because otherwise you "miss the train", getting creative because logic alone doesn't make the cut anymore, having "no time to lose" so you do the most efficient thing etc.

Good luck!

Answered 5 years ago

In my start-up experience, building a great Team starts with you as an example. You as a start-up founder need to show them by example that you will do whatever it takes and work super hard to make your start-up success. Your team needs to see your dedication and passion for what you are building. Also, transparency is huge. Don't ever hide anything from your team, especially in an early stage. Your team needs to know how you are progressing every day, so sharing the progress dashboard with them is very important. Remember, together you are on a mission to change the world.

Regarding the teaching your team members, it depends on what you are trying to convey. Maybe you can record an online video course where you teach your team members about the industry areas. What I found is that the best early employees are resourceful and they will try to figure out on their own. Let them know that you will be here to answer any question but also let them have their own steep learning curve. Encourage them to learn on their own.

Hope this helps a bit

Answered 4 years ago

I've managed traditional and virtual teams in different industries and have gone through building them from scratch as well.

The key thing is culture. And as the founder all culture stems from you.

Whatever you do, others will follow. However you want your team members to act, you have to do the same first.

Just saying "culture" seems simple because it is - if you all like each other and get along well, that will bind your team together for the long-term better than any other fancy management or leadership technique.

Which brings me to a second thing: leadership vs management.

The reason it's time consuming for you at the moment is you are playing both leader AND manager.

As your company grows bigger, you'll likely step more into leadership and pass on your management responsibilities to someone else like a COO or GM.

The difference is this:

Leaders get people to work well and together by highlighting one vision.

Managers get people to work well and together by highlighting their differences and knowing everyone's strengths and weaknesses. Being a good manager helps you work out which teams members learn quicker on their own and which need more hands-on training.

Right now you are doing both, which is a challenge all founders go through. But eventually you'll succeed and get to the point where you can focus on leading with a vision - and leave the management to others.

Answered 4 years ago

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