6 Unconventional Ways to Build a Strong Startup Team

6 Unconventional Ways to Build a Strong Startup Team

Today we're welcoming Niraj, CEO of Hiver, who has written about how he built an innovative startup team -- one where he isn't always the CEO. Huh? Read more to find out how!

What is a strong team? A team that is driven, where every member plays an equal role, one that shares a strong bond with each other, one in which everyone is learning, growing, and satisfied.

If you search Google for tips to run a successful startup, one of the first things to pop-up among those tips is to build a strong team. From LinkedIn’s CEO to famous VCs like Naval Ravikant, all say, ‘It’s the people, stupid!’

Good collaboration ensues when the team members are in sync with each other. Strong teams are especially important for startups given the dips and peaks it goes through, especially in the initial phases. 

Here are a few tips to build such strong teams:

1. Encourage office pranks (not harmful ones of course)

A strong team is where the team members share a strong bond with each other. Though they may seem silly, office pranks are one of the best ways to achieve that. 

Pranks encourage creative thinking and healthy camaraderie between the team members. It is a great way to break the ice and also get to know people on a personal level. 

With their touch of humor, they can help build a creative and vibrant office culture. A fun work environment is often results in your employees looking forward to their work day, instead of dragging their feet. IDEO is one company that encourages pranks in their offices. Of course, there is always a line to draw when it comes to practical jokes.

2. Help your team have a life outside work

At my startup Hiver, we hire tutors to teach new skills to our employees, like sketching, playing the guitar, a new language etc., and one of our employees who learned to sketch even helped design our new logo.

Not only does this help build a strong team spirit, but it contributes to individual personality development.

When they are pursuing other things, it keeps their day more interesting and fun, they are less stressed and are more satisfied overall.

3. Arrange meetings and lunches with thought leaders in your industry

A strong team is driven, motivated and yearning to do more, learn more and prove itself.

One great way to keep your team motivated is by arranging meetings with thought leaders in your industry. 

Thought leaders like Steve Case and Ted Leonsis usually have a lot of stories to share and insights that only they are privy to. They predict trends, anticipate problems, and analyze solutions.

These kinds of interactions will motivate your team to take initiative, gain more knowledge and develop their career.

4. Unlimited vacation or unlimited work from home at least

It sure isn’t easy to make this work, but you won’t be the first. Many companies like Netflix, Virgin, Prezi already did

Before you misunderstand, this doesn’t mean that employees can take leave for months together regularly and expect a pay from you. It’s just that whenever they feel like they need some time off to recharge themselves, a leave balance won’t stand in their way.

In fact, I think enabling this sort of flexibility is a way to delegate responsibility to your employees. It’s almost like saying - ‘there you go, you can take as many leaves as you want, we trust your judgment’.

If you select the employees with the right attitude, they won’t take advantage of this benefit and it might also build a sense of self-monitoring in them, a sense of ownership.

5. Give public appreciation for innovative thinking and private appreciation for high performance

When someone comes up with a great innovative idea, appreciate them publicly and give them the ownership to plan and execute the idea. This will encourage everyone in the team to push themselves to think outside the box.

Once the idea is executed and if the team member did a great job, show your appreciation in private or in the form of a bonus. 

I think that publicly appreciating a star performer can cause a rift in the team and before you know it, everyone in the team will try to achieve individual goals instead of team goals. 

6. If someone has a new idea, put them in charge of it

I think one great way to build up team collaboration is to keep give a chance for everyone to develop leadership skills and team management skills, rather than one leader-like employee dominating the scene all the time. 

One way we try to solve this problem at our startup is by appointing temporary CEOs. For instance, when an employee comes up with a brilliant and practical idea, we make them the CEO of this idea - from the inception to the execution of the project. Everyone, including the founders, report to this person.

Not only will this technique encourage your employees to come up new innovative ideas, but encouraging meritocracy will foster healthy team dynamics.

Remember that you also need the right set of tools such as collaborative inboxes, instant communication tools, etc. which can facilitate collaboration and communication within the team.

Wrapping up

Building a strong team is one of the most important, if not the most, tasks of a startup founder. It starts with choosing the right people for sure, but it is also about you, the founder. You have to make very conscious efforts to build a strong team that is united and will withstand any high-stress situation together. 

Making collaboration and stewardship one of your startup’s core foundational value and repeatedly reinforcing this idea in the minds of your employees through your actions and words can help you weave a cohesive culture.

Encourage collaboration!

Niraj is the founder of Hiver (hiverhq.com), an app that turns Gmail into a powerful customer support and collaboration tool. When not working at Hiver on programming or customer support, Niraj likes to play guitar. Niraj can be reached on Twitter @nirajr.

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