It is not easy to be the CEO of an up-and-coming startup, especially when you are frequently out of your office talking to investors and the actual time you spend in contact with your team is limited. It gets even more complicated when you manage multiple teams working in different cities.
Is it really possible to work together without being in a one place? How do you join forces with a distributed team and not much face-to-face interaction?
The key is to create a powerful team that works effectively even when the boss is not available. A startup team is like a basketball team — you will not win if you do not play together.
As CEO, you need to realize that each team member plays a role in your company and each individual is part of the whole. If you want to work effectively your team must be harmonious. Here’s how:
- Build trust and respect. Nurture a team-oriented environment based on trust and respect, without which there will only be limited success. A startup is like a ship going through high uncertainty. The captain needs the trust of his team, because people follow trust and integrity, not a person. Trust can balance uncertainty and give the team the ability to work together no matter what. Likewise, if you are not in the office, you have to be sure that team members will cooperate in the atmosphere of open communication. The stronger the trust, the better the team will navigate without the captain on board.
- Be true to your word. If you demand high productivity and quality work, you’d better be as good as your word. You get what you give. If you promise to do something, be sure you will fulfill it. When team members notice that you are a reliable person, they will emulate your behavior.
- Organize a meeting for all employees. If you want to improve teamwork, help people get to know each other better. Organize in-person meetings for all workers (all teams) at least once a year or more if possible. Informal conversations bring people together and warm up human relationships. One option is to invite your team to play a game, like football or basketball. If players want to win, they have to focus on cooperation. The same principle is present in teamwork. And through teamwork and team sports, individual character and natural talents are expressed. They have to make decisions fast so they don’t have time to prepare their reactions. Those are the situations where pure character is exposed and real relationships are built.
- Take advantage of conflict. There are no teams exempt from occasional misunderstandings. Somewhere, somehow, conflict will show up. When confrontation between employees gets out of a hand in a startup, the CEO must face it. Don’t complicate the situation by deciding what is good or bad. Listen to all sides carefully and then talk to other team members who observed the quarrel. Brainstorming solutions favorable for both sides may even result in ideas that would never have come to mind without the conflict. Confrontations make people think about both viewpoints. More points of view means more possibilities.
- Make hiring a team effort. If you want to hire a new person, discuss this with your team. Let your team members talk with the candidate. They will work together and it’s important this person fit into the team. Of course, experience and suitable qualifications are important — but the most important qualities to hire for are always personality and compatible social skills. With regards to trust and respect described above, these traits are like glue. They help people communicate. They can bring different people together, whereas qualifications just ensure tasks are completed properly.
Arek Skuza is an entrepreneur born in Poland and working globally (Europe and USA). Made one exit and raised capital for 3 companies. Currently CEO of iTraff Technology. Caroline Golas also contributed to this article.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.