Why do so many start-ups fail and what’s the secret sauce for the ones who make it? Developing a product no one needs aka not addressing a pain point, and lack of cash flow are the obvious mistakes. However, the right team is just as crucial and here is where many founders and early employees fail to pay attention.
Start ups need a variety of skills and enough diversity to be successful. Yet a diverse team usually leads to miscommunication and conflict if not pro-actively managed. If the disengagement happens between co-founders the venture is doomed, also at an early stage every person on the team is mission critical and needs to be fully engaged.
Add to that recipe the need for rapid growth and you can see how relevant team building and developing a culture of respecting each other’s strengths becomes.
Red Pants was invited to observe a two-day team offsite of a start up. The company is angel funded and completely on track delivering a solution to a real yet unserviced corporate pain point. It was obvious that the dream team was brilliant, highly engaged and determined to serve the clients. The talent was ideal in its high diversity both for their hard skill sets as well as spanning every personality profile. Led by a strong founder they had come far.
Now it was the request of the CEO to transition the team members into flying solo and not rely on the founder’s oversight into every business and technology decision. This required a fundamental shift in communications and decision making processes.
Red Pants, after observing the team for a half day, led them through an individual strengths analysis and introduced the concept of opposing strengths. Team members started to recognize when and where opposing ways of processing and communicating information is relevant to maximize the team output.
Not unexpectedly as the offsite continued, cracks started to open up – circles of similar personalities had formed ad-hoc and after long hours were spent on covering crucial business and technology decisions, the offsite turned into a battle field. Time out was called and things got patched up during making dinner and relaxing in the hot tub.
What really turned the team around was a deep dive into everyone’s WHY.
The company’s mission and offering was clear but it was more important to have every person voice their own Why
* Why is this important to YOU?
This discussion clearly linked the individual motivation to the person’s strengths profile. For example, the Business Development lead applied his Deliberative (“What’s the downside? Have we looked at all our options?”) and Analytical talents to everything he does. In stark contrast, the tech lead follows what’s possible with her Learner talent (“Lives on the cutting edge”) which the User Interface expert can then turn into the optimal user experience through her combination of Empathy (“I get others and their needs.”) and Analytical talents.