Monday, February 21, 2011

Tips on best practices when getting your new venture going or when building your team

This week I attended a Best Practices event moderated by Joe Chin, an entrepreneur and currently the founding CEO of SourcePad. Lucinda Duncalfe and Steven Krein were the advising entrepreneurs

Here are a few takeaways that I jotted down in case they can be helpful:

1) Everyone has a unique ability. 

You just have to know what it is. Once found and understood, don't make employees do things that are not their unique ability - assemble teams whose strengths are complementary. This goes for founders as well - delegate everything that is not your unique ability, resist the temptation to spend time doing the things that you are merely average, or even above average at.

This taps into classic drucker, reminding me of the following quote:

“Unless, therefore, an executive looks for strength and works at making strength productive, he will only get the impact of what a man cannot do, of his lacks, his weaknesses, his impediments to performance and effectiveness. To staff from what there is not and to focus on weakness is wasteful - a misuse, if not abuse, of the human resource.”
- Peter Drucker, The Effective Executive

Broadly speaking - if you coach someone who is weak at an activity really really well, you maybe can 
get them to a base level of mediocrity, or averageness. The myth of the all-rounder is one that we want to leave behind - rather than looking for a workforce of above average all-rounders, seek out and assemble teams where everyone could become best in the world at their specific talent.

2) Seek out and hire employees who come 'batteries included'.

Yes - it means exactly how it sounds. Both speakers agreed that some people just arrive pre-loaded, resourceful, energetic, willing to do what it takes... and others just don't come with batteries included. You have to spend all your time 'charging them up'. Money can't change this, no amount of coaching will change that fundamental inner state - so when hiring, actively look for it in people. Other indicators of 'batteries included' people include an action orientation, drive, energy, a bias for just doing stuff. Passion is important but sometimes even passionate people can't get stuff done.
The speakers also extended this definition to include investors, co-founders - basically anyone you surround yourself with need to come with batteries included.

3) Find a consistent value set in your founding members

While most other things could be negotiable, both speakers insisted that this was not - value set differences don't work, and founding parties need to ensure there are consistent goal orientations.

4) Develop a healthy disrespect for boundaries

Too much respect can hold you back, and prevent you from taking action. Encourage a healthy disrespect for authority and for boundaries in your teams, just enough so that it will never get in the way of getting things done or following the best possible path. This is critical for those in the start-up space (and elsewhere) - where time cannot be lost not wanting to tread on delicate toes.

5) Practice optimism in the face of reality

The best leaders can see a situation for what it is (even when bad) and simultaneously be able to start navigating a path through it with optimism. This hearkens of the book 'The Opposable Mind', where author Roger Martin describes the importance of integrative thinking: that the best leaders are able to stare at a situation and know that it is hopeless, yet be able to, at the same time, look at the facts with hope and push through to find a creative solution.

Other useful points that were discussed:

 - the importance of continually pruning your team (a star this year will not necessarily be a star next year, or the next)
 - learning how to learn, and to remain in a constant state of learning
 - look for utility players, who are super smart and capable - but don't necessarily make the move of bringing them on as founders

Here are details about the speakers:

Lucinda Duncalfe Holt
* Multiple success Serial CEO (recognized as CEO of the Year, Entrepreneur of the Year, etc.)
* Founded and sold TurnTide to Symantec for $28 million in 6 month period
* Grew Destiny Websolutions as CEO from $250k to $25 million in revenue

Steven Krein
* Health-focused social media expert (The Today Show, CNN, Fox, CNBC, Bloomberg, etc.)
* Founded and led to successful IPO on NASDAQ
* Founder and current CEO of OrganizedWisdom Health


Famous Women in Business said...

Involving the whole group to any activity will keep the team intact. Design the learning so that the learners focus on themselves and each other. You create the learning experience great with this.

Tania Yuki said...

Thank you for this tip - engineering excellent group collaboration is definitely an important additional point!