I guess, most of you had lessons about different methods of leading a team in school and university. I think, some method might be misleading, especially in the industry I work in: Startups, focusing on the Internet Industry.
1) Leading with talent
From my point of view, human capital is the most worth capital for startups. You need a special kind of person, you need “Startupees”: A Startupee is highly motivated as well as willing to work long hours and hard. The perfect Startupee wants influence and to change something. He/she is well-educated.
Some time ago on a lunch break I went out with a new colleague whom I am training. Seeing her potential and her motivation was awesome. Already during trial work, I felt an energy surrounding her, highly motivated, but not too much. A smart person that stays calm under pressure. This I felt just by talking to her after trial work. One day I trained her in incorporating companies all over the world. The connected structures were partly highly complex, challenging for a beginner. I trained her, executing funding flow. I saw potential in her, took time for her, explained everything and challenged her now and then.
That day during lunch break, we had some discussions, producing thoughts. I thought about the first impression. I thought about experience with others in my career. People working just from nine to five, not accepting more tasks, not looking for challenges, just following the plan. Important and urgent tasks have to wait. Others are over-motivated, trying to get other tasks right from the beginning. They are loading too many things on their desk and therefore have a workload that is too high for one person in that situation, being in the beginning. Instead of training with a workload acceptable for one person, they are working too much, trying to do everything at once, just to impress. The work is piling up to a Tsunami. They get nervous and make mistakes.
How should a startup get these situations under control? An important key is leading. Not everyone is a good leader. Some reached that position with their knowledge or working experience, but I think, this is not everything a leader needs. Theoretical courses are not enough. Talent should also be a key factor.
2) Professionals can be friends
Thinking back about all positions I had so far and what I see in the Media (although reports are very subjective usually), what are factors for successful teams? What differentiates them from others?
What was the basis of this success story? Of course, I was not part of that team and all I know is what I roughly heard and saw in Media, but the key factor I recognized was this sentence: “You have to be eleven friends.”
Friends support each other. Friends are willing to fight and give everything for each other. Imagine you are out with your friends, how do you feel? Imagine you were only working with friends, friends that can tell each other everything. Might this increase your success?
What about this often discussed topic: Never mix work with private life. Does this mean, I should not meet colleagues after work? Does that mean, I cannot be friend with colleagues? Why not?
If you are a professional, you can still separate private and professional life. Everyone is able to understand and accept professional decisions, doing the best for the team. From my work experience, I had the greatest success with colleagues that were also friends, but how to build a team of friends?
3) People like the same kind of person
Just imagine your friends. Why are you friends with them?
Some friendships develop immediately, others over time. Some friendships come like automatically, others after challenging each other. Imagine the last person you did not know before, but the first time around that person, you felt very comfortable. Can you imagine this? Now imagine, maybe a colleague from another department expecting something from you, but you cannot deliver immediately. You have hard discussions and understand each other. After you completed work, he invites you to a beer. Have you had this situation? This could also end differently. In the case you had that situation, why was it like this?
I have a theory. I was also practicing Buddhism in the past. Buddhism is e.g. using meditation – what is by the way a great possibility to come down after work. The Buddhism – beside other things – works with the idea, energy is surrounding everyone. When you know about it, it can give you an indication about the attitude of someone. In case you are new with it, you can imagine it as the feeling you have when people are around. Just try the next days to listen to the feeling you have when unknown people are around. Are there differences? Why are these? Listen to your intuition.
One day was once going home from supermarket, listening to music. In front of me two girls. They were just walking ans talking. I came closer and felt like something bad will happen. I crossed the street, taking my earphones off, watching them until one of them stole a candle from a restaurant. The owner came out shouting at them. They went further, while the owner followed them, ran behind, got them, received the candle back. These two girls were just going on cursing, using words I never heard before. The next restaurant they took another candle and moved on, cursing.
My theory is that an energy surrounds people, also depending on the mood. Someone who is in love is differently than a person with a broken heart. An angry person is differently compared to a relaxed person. Energies are on the one hand depending on the mood, but more importantly also on the character and attitudes. People can be specialists in completely different areas and still be friend with each other.
From my point of view, you should select your team by looking for people with different strengths and weaknesses, but a comparable character and attitudes.
4) Team Building Event instead of Team Event
If you worked already for some years, I hope, you had the chance to take part in team events. Imagine you were going with your team to an exhibition as a team event. Now imagine the best team event you ever had. Finally imagine the team event that brought the team the closest together. Did you see changes in daily work- or private-life after one of these events? Which one was it?
I love remembering to one team event at a former company. We were all driving to a hotel. First, we made workshops, discussed different topics relevant for the companies’ strategy (we were the department of strategic development). Later we went out to a lake, where we found there different tribes, boards, tons, ropes, ratchets and much more. Our big Team was than divided into four smaller teams. The members of each team are usually not – or at least less – working directly with each other. We had the task to build a raft with the tools available in 30 minutes. We had to swim with that raft on the lake afterwards.
It was a great working together. We got to know us better. Especially also the work in a team changed afterwards. This event had connected synapses in our neurological system in a new way. Everyone felt a development afterwards. This was the best team event I had so far. This was not just a Team Event. I would call it Team Building Event, an Event where you have a target together, where you have to find a solution together and where you can celebrate the success together. This was an event where you have to coordinate strategically. Everyone was a winner as each raft was swimming on the lake.
My advice to you: Whenever you have the chance to influence a team event, try to make it a team-building event and you will feel the difference. This could be anything where different team members have to rely on each other and the team or smaller teams reach something together.
5) The right way to lead
Imagine the different superiors you had in your life. Which one was the best? What is the difference to others? In the case you are a superior, are you as he is? Did you learn from the practically best or just from books?
Generally, it is the biggest challenge for a superior to find the best way of leading someone. He has to find the best mix of coaching and deciding, promoting talent, challenging talents and advising on the subject.
Another part I see is naturally given talent. Sometimes I see a team from outside and directly imagine who is a leader. I see them working and feel confirmed. This is not about authority. This is more about appearance. It is about how the people cooperate in his team and this is about Charisma, about the aura surrounding someone. Some people are just naturally talented, naturally born leaders. You should promote these talents. Leading is more than just functional knowledge, more than just deciding, more than just coaching. Leading is about understanding behavior, about balancing work, about creating a team and caring for its best. It is about coaching, charisma, aura and a basis of knowledge.
A leader should surround himself with experts. Surround himself with people, surrounded by a completing energy. He should ask for and estimate the comments of the team for decision-making. A team should work and act as one team. Lead like that, rewarding good work and talents, compensating / balancing bad advice.
6) Benefits for team success
Congratulations, I am happy for you. If not, were you possibly just turning to the next task? Are there other situations where you felt differently?
I think, the team should grow together, be there for each other. A real team works together. It has attitudes of being friends. This team should work together in hard times and celebrate together in good times. How do you treat success of yourself, success of your team? Be fair to your team. The team will return what you give to the team.
All in one my recommendation:
Look for a team completing you. Look for different characters and profiles where you feel good. Look for motivated, but still rational colleagues. Share tasks by potentials and capacities instead of just on request, cause leading is also about caring for the best in the team. Promote talents. Develop your charisma. Take chances instead of only following plans. Be open for new ways. New ways mean changing. Changing means progress, or you turn back to old. Give talent and potentials a chance. Take your chance and make the best of it.