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3 practical tips on maintaining team trust

3 practical tips on maintaining team trust

Maintaining trust with the team is in my opinion the foundation of leadership. So today, I’m going to share three tips on how to maintain trust day-to-day.

1. Don’t rush meetings

I get it. Everyone’s busy and there are fires to fight.

Most of us wished the meeting ended 5 minutes ago, so we can all get back to work.

However, rushing conversations creates a culture where nothing but the most urgent matters are discussed. Team members will avoid raising up concerns that are just starting to cause harm. Personal issues and frustrations are also skipped, since most wouldn’t want to bother their busy manager with it (until they’re ready to quit).

In other words, rushing conversations fails to allow people to raise emerging thoughts and problems. There is thus no opportunity to catch and resolve issues before they become big fires.

So next time there’s a meeting or a 1-on-1 chat, let’s not rush it. Let’s instead allocate a generous time slot for questions and concerns.

2. Listen

Managers much more famous and capable than I have said this before, so I’ll save my words on this point: Avoid speaking over people, interrupting them, or talking without listening.

In my experience, actively listening is much more powerful at effecting change than speaking at team members. If I wish to make a point, I ask questions to help the other party think through an issue together, and keep my mouth shut.

It still surprises me how powerful listening is.

3. Make time to observe

On countless occasions, I’ve heard team members complain about how leaders don’t understand their problems (I work hard to be a venting channel for people). That leaders seem clueless to their daily challenges.

In those situations, I empathize with both team members and managers. Fact is, managers are a level removed from daily challenges of their subordinates, so have a hard time understanding their problems. They lack context.

Yet it’s the manager’s job to understand their team’s problems. To represent and advocate for their needs.

In my opinion, the best way to keep tap on the team’s daily challenges without throwing ourselves back onto the front line (although that can’t hurt either, if one can afford it), is to make time everyday to observe the team’s work. Observe interactions between team members, with other teams, with customers, and ask about their challenges over lunch.

The danger in not observing the team is not becoming ignorant. It’s that our perception of the team’s challenges will bias toward the most vocal (or whiny) team members. A tiny snapshot of the team’s actual situation.

So to avoid sounding out of touch, let’s make the time to observe the team regularly.

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A little bit of success is dangerous for startups

A little bit of success is dangerous for startups

It can be dangerous to think we’ve made it.

Over my startup career, I’ve witnessed many instances where a little bit of success masked important problems and triggered precocious scaling. Resulting in costly mistakes.

The following are three scenarios I’ve learned to watch out for.

1. Positive feedback ≠ Guaranteed sale

Most startup founders have talked to at least one prospective client before building a product. If not a prospective client, then maybe an investor or industry expert. Insight from these individuals helps to gauge the likelihood of an idea becoming a business success. Call it market research. A critical step.

Yet market research can be misleading when the wrong questions are asked and when people are too nice.

For instance, before embarking on my first startup project, I asked for feedback from hospitality and tourism executives about whether forecasting travelers’ intentions (when and where a person would go and do) would be valuable. Almost all parties gave positive feedback and were interested in helping us design the tool. We therefore spent 6 months developing a prototype. As we went back to the same group of prospective customers, asking for a partnership to test and develop the platform, nobody signed up. Nobody wanted to put their job on the line by investing time and money into an unproven tool.

Beyond assessing the viability of a new product, companies also perform market research continuously evolve their product. The risk of being misled by customer feedback is therefore a constant threat.

At the latest startup I worked, we regularly asked customers how to make their lives easier, what features they’d like to see, what frustrated them. Yet even after developing features they had asked for, some customers still canceled their contracts with us.

Why? In my experience, some people are too nice and want to avoid conflict. If a client knows that they’re moving away from our platform eventually, because they fundamentally don’t need what we offer, or want to bring it in-house, it can be difficult for them to be honest and express that intention during a call. It has the potential of making the existing relationship awkward. So they say nice things to keep us at bay.

In my opinion, a much more accurate way to gather market intelligence is to observe customers, rather than asking questions.

Examples of startups that were misled by feedback abound. Here are two high profile ones:

  • Quirky: The community led invention / engineering business wanted to develop and sell novel products its users voted for. Yet votes didn’t turn into sales. It blew $185M.
  • The company burned thru $185M dollars in 18 months. They gained positive feedback and support from top fashion houses, newspapers, and even investors before even launching, but failed to actually build something of value to customers.

2. Getting funding ≠ ready for growth

I’ve often witnessed a tendency for startups to scale up operations right after a successful funding round.

As soon as the money hits the bank, dozens of new positions open up, the list of product features to develop swells, and the marketing budget grows exponentially.

In the best case scenario, this growth is proportional to growth in demand and the company scales effectively. Yet in reality, many startups outstrip demand. They end up cutting costs and laying off people as fast as they hired them.

Why? Let’s start at the source of the money. Rational investors invest in a company based on its growth potential. How investors assess “growth potential” varies, but is likely based on a company’s historical performance. So some founders interpret a VC investment as a vote of confidence for their business strategy, their business model, their product.

Yet investors are not customers. Getting funding does not mean that we have a successful business. Otherwise 9 out of 10 VC funded startups wouldn’t have failed.

We need to be careful.

So what do we do after getting funding? In my opinion, it’s best to continue testing market demand. Observe what product features and changes resonate with users. Experiment with small scale marketing campaigns to see what’s most effective at converting customers. Hire people only when we absolutely need to. Essentially, work as if we didn’t have funding. Be cheap.

Only scale up when there’s proven demand.

So what do we do with the extra cash? As we operate on a shoestring budget, we’re bound to break the limit of what we can support. The extra cash allows us to scale up supply when demand outstrips it. The latter part is key: Only scale up when there’s proven demand.

While this sounds easy, it is not. Investors look for a fast return on their money. Many will pressure companies to scale and grow asap. They want to see 100% growth month-to-month. It can be difficult to resist this urge.

A couple high profile cases of startups that scaled up too quickly and flopped include:

  • The flash-sale design retailer raised millions within months of launching. It then missed its aggressive sales target within a year. It thus had the option of scaling growth back and get the business model right in the U.S., or keep expanding globally with a target of 100% YoY growth. All board members except one pushed for the latter. The rest is history: It blew $336M in 3.5 years.
  • The photo/video sharing app raised over $40M before even launching. They likely felt like a success from day 0. Yet they failed to acquire users, managed to spend $15M in a matter of months, and finally got acquired by Apple for a paltry sum of $7M.

3. Having early adopters ≠ everyone wants it

Some founders may still be careful about scaling up after receiving funding, but not many will refrain from it with a fast growing user base.

Startups solving a painful problem can experience fast customer growth very early on. These early adopters often overlook the immaturity of the solution and are willing to invest time and energy to make it work for them. The old solution is simply too painful.

Seeing this demand, the startup then scales up its operations and plans for hyper growth.

Yet I now know having early adopters doesn’t mean the rest world is ready for us. The number of early adopters, people willing to pay for an immature product, is limited. It plateaus and peaks. To scale up operations when the product only appeals to early adopters will inevitably outstrip demand. A better plan is to build a product that appeals to the masses before scaling.

Another threat to startups with disruptive solutions is the launch of competing products after they’ve proven a business case. These late entrants have the potential to create a mature product in less time by learning from the pioneer’s mistakes. They can offer a better product for cheaper. Strategy Professor Michael Porter explores in detail the benefits and risks of first-mover advantage in Competitive Advantage. is an example of a startup that found early success, yet failed to find customers beyond early adopters. It blew $38M.

Recommended exercise

Ask yourself: Is capacity outstripping demand?

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Need better insights? Stop surveying and start observing

Need better insights? Stop surveying and start observing

The number of surveys and feedback requests I receive from companies is insane.

Buying a plant at Home Depot prompts a 15-min experience survey. Getting out of an Uber ride prompts for immediate rating. Every software tool I’ve used has asked me “How likely I am to refer a friend…” It has become too easy for people to design and launch surveys, leading to too little planning around what to ask, why, and how often.

Our team has certainly been guilty of this behavior as well. We conduct a couple email surveys a year, ask for feedback during account calls, and actively track our NPS score.

While I support this customer-centric culture, I also believe that we’re asking many unnecessary questions.

As result, customers are becoming inundated with annoying requests for feedback. I can’t help but think of a future where people block surveys like they block online ads. In a way, they already are: Response rate of our customer surveys are around 5%. To boost this, we often have to resort to contests, prizes, and bribes that bias the sample population. In the end, we can’t even trust the data from our surveys.

Therefore, I’m advocating for a less intrusive and more accurate method of gathering customer insights, by observing customer behavior. To illustrate this approach, I’m going to analyze three common questions found in customer surveys, and how we can answer them without talking to customers.

“How likely are you to recommend us to a friend?”

I understand the need to know how much users love our tool via NPS. It helps us evaluate progress on customer satisfaction, and even compare against other companies.

What I don’t understand is why we need to ask people this question when we can simply track referral rates. Besides, if someone answers 9 or 10, but never actually referred anyone… are they playing nice or lying out loud? Either way, knowing how likely someone is to refer us doesn’t help our business. Actually referring people to our business does.

So instead of surveying NPS, what I’d advocate for is a referral system that allows customers to actually refer their friends directly in-app. We can then gauge how likely customers are to refer us based on actual data. There’s a clear difference here: NPS measures a person’s likelihood to refer someone (mere words), whereas the referral rate measures the ratio of people actually doing it (an action). If I remember right, action speaks louder than words.

With this data, we can even take the analysis a step further, and calculate the referral rate over time by registration cohorts (i.e. % of people that registered in a specific month and referred friends in month X after registration). It would show us when people are most likely to refer after registering themselves, and when numbers plateau, indicating an opportunity to remind them of our referral program. Taking actions to increase this metric is much more impactful than trying to increase NPS – it directly drives customer acquisition, not just a sentimental score. 

But wait, don’t we already have referral systems? Yeah, so why do we keep asking that NPS question?

“What would you like to see improved?”

I recently took a flight to Florida, which was delayed and overbooked, after which I got an email asking me for feedback. Boy did I have lot of feedback to share… But did I answer the survey? No.

Why? Because I had already spoken to a customer service agent before the flight to make sure my wife and I would be on the flight, along with a flight attendant about some other issues in flight. I didn’t feel like repeating myself.

In my opinion, no company that cares about customer happiness should survey customers about how they can improve. Most customers, at least in the USA, proactively complain to customer service. To ask for it again via a second channel is like saying: “Hey, I don’t remember what feedback you gave our team. In fact, I don’t trust that customer service recorded anything at all. May I ask you to refamiliarize yourself with your frustrations and repeat them to me again?”

Do we really want people to think about what frustrates them once more?

I didn’t feel like repeating myself.

In my opinion, surveying customers on how we can improve means that we either don’t have a help desk, or don’t use our help desk data intelligently.

So to gain ideas on how to improve our business, let’s analyze our customer complaints and help desk data first.

“What features would you like to see?”

I’ve helped many product managers set up conversations with clients to get ideas on new features. Clients are usually excited to share their thoughts, and most have very specific features in mind. To help put their ideas into context, we often resort to further probing: Asking customers why they need XYZ feature, how they plan to use it, and how they’d prioritize their wishlist. This usually leads to hour long conversations where the client isn’t doing work they’re paid to do. While we only gain a tiny window into the challenges of our users. Hearing a story is simply not the same as being there. It lacks context.

Instead of all this questioning, I’ve found visiting clients and observing them using our tool, without disturbing them, is much more insightful. Shadowing users provides critical context around how they’re using the tool, as part of what process, in combination with what else, when, etc. This allows me to clearly understand the core challenge that a client is facing. And more importantly, it helps me gain ideas that can improve how our software is used in combination with other tools, and in different situations.

If engineers and product managers simply took the time to observe the users they serve in their environment (not some ideal lab setting), or maybe even do what their customers do for a day, the world would function much more effectively.

Allow me to share another example: I recently visited a grocery store where they had just installed a new cash register / payment system at all checkout lanes. Register clerks had a frustrating time using them, leading to long lines. We could blame the issue on improper training, or we could ask ourselves how a cash register could be so hard to operate… I’m willing to bet that the machine had no issues in the lab setting that it was designed in, but that engineers never even tried to use it in a real grocery store by themselves. They likely designed the whole thing based on indirect customer feedback, which rarely provides enough context to a problem.

I don’t doubt that we can find exceptions to what I’m advocating above. The point stands however that we should first see if we can answer our questions through observations rather than surveys. It yields much more comprehensive and accurate insights, and doesn’t waste our customers’ time. Action speaks louder than words.

Recommended exercise

Let’s look at all the questions that we’re asking on our customer surveys and ask ourselves: “Can this be replaced with insights from their actual behavior?”

Are you leading a startup team? Get started on the right foot with the Start-up Manager Handbook. And subscribe on the right for new insights every week!

Why my boss needs and wants my feedback

Why my boss needs and wants my feedback

I want to start this blog post by saying that I love my boss, and almost all past bosses I’ve had. In each case, each job, they taught me invaluable lessons. I’m not trying to kiss ass (ok maybe a little haha), but I’ve honestly been really lucky in meeting awesome bosses and mentors.

Yet once in a while I do get frustrated at my boss (like everyone else in my life).

When that happens, I first keep it to myself, let a good night sleep dissolve my emotions, and move on. I sometimes raise up the matter with them with a clear mind the next day, especially if the issue impact my team, but often not, when it only impacts me.

I never thought to explore why I get frustrated at my boss as compared to other people. That’s until a few days ago, when I was reading The Road to Character (highly recommended), while also being frustrated at my boss for failing to address a situation I raised up weeks ago that has now turned into an urgent fire.

What I realized was that I tend to get frustrated at my boss for failing to be perfect. Being in a position of power (in this case, a VP of our company), being superior to me, and being able to affect our startup’s long-term direction, I expected my boss to know everything I know, take the best decision all the time, and have the answers to everything. How unreasonable, right? Nobody is perfect. Nobody can predict the future accurately. And more importantly, no manager should ever be as technically knowledgeable and experienced as their subordinates (advocated by many top leaders including Andy Grove in  High Output Management).

So why did I expect my boss to never make a mistake? I attribute it to our educational system, where teachers have the answer to everything they teach, and are in a capacity to judge the quality of our work. Especially in STEM programs, there are actually “correct” answers that get perfect scores, and professors whom know the “correct” answers. Our educational system has created the perception that individuals in authority know everything.

This expectation doesn’t stop with bosses. We expect our politicians to be perfect and bark whenever they are less than statesmanlike. We expect our parents to be perfect and get frustrated when they don’t “get us” or don’t understand modern trends. It’s a sign that we simply want people, especially those that have influence over us, to always do what’s best for us.

I personally do not believe that such an expectation is reasonable, for several reasons:

  1. Everyone makes mistakes. As this blog shows, I certainly make a ton of them. And if my boss is anything like me, a human being, they ought to also have emotions, exposure to new situations, and other traits that contribute to a less than perfect response once in awhile.
  2. What’s bad for us may not be bad for others. No other individual in the world has experienced life exactly as I did. Each one of us can only witness life in our own eyes. This leads to various interpretations on the same situation, differing priorities, and diverse goals in mind. This means that what I interpret as a negative outcome may not always be a negative outcome for others. Yet because we think that we’re at the center of the world, we interpret anything that has a negative impact on us as bad. Fact is that a bad decision for us may have been positive one for our boss and the rest of the team.
  3. We don’t share the same responsibilities. As a team, our skills should not overlap, but rather complement each other. Especially in relation to my boss, I’m not supposed to share the same expertise and day-to-day responsibilities. So any expectation that my boss knows what we know perfectly and can do it even better is unreasonable. Personally, I can’t do what many of my team members do technically and that’s great.
  4. Expectations were not communicated. I also notice instances where I expect certain things of my manager, but have never communicated them. How reasonable is that? I once became frustrated at my manager for failing to reprimand a fellow colleague’s manipulative ways, yet I never spoke up about my colleague’s behavior. Without any evidence or insight on the subject, how can I assume that my boss has any idea that my colleague is behaving negatively? When I did bring up the subject, my manager was actually very receptive.

The only element that’s within our control in the above list is the proactive communication of our expectations. Everything else is outside our control, so I’d argue that we need to learn to appreciate them for what they are, rather than complain about any of it.

So if we have any expectations for our superiors, the only thing we can do is to communicate them. Any frustrations that we have in regard to an expectation are only justified if our boss has agreed to that expectation. Just like when we set expectations with our team members.

Let’s also remember that our manager’s goal is to guide our team toward our company goals. This includes making sure that we are happy and successful. Any good manager should thus be trusted with the ability to listen to our expectations of them, along with any constructive feedback.

If by experience, we find that our boss isn’t receptive to feedback, doesn’t have our best intentions in mind, and has a selfish agenda of their own, it’s time to change teams. But let’s make sure we give it a couple of tries and maybe even address the issue with their manager.

Finally, let’s also remember that all of us are in a position of authority to someone else. A team member, a child, a student… The sooner we set the expectation that we’re not perfect, and that we want their feedback, the less frustrations they’ll experience.

Recommended exercise

Let’s sit down with our boss and ask them if they are interested in receiving feedback from time to time. If so, let’s also ask them how to best communicate them.

Are you leading a startup team? Get started on the right foot with the Start-up Manager Handbook. And subscribe on the right for new insights every week!

Why working at a startup makes me happy

Why working at a startup makes me happy

When I joined a startup straight out of college, I had 3 goals in mind: 1. To help people make data-driven decisions; 2. To learn how to lead and grow a team without risking my own dollars; and 3. To make a positive impact on the world.

So when I found work at a 12 people strong business intelligence start-up that just raised a seed round, the fit couldn’t have been better. Throughout this adventure, I had the chance to work with tons of talented and ambitious individuals, who instead of taking a well paying job at an established company, also decided to join an unproven startup.

I always asked myself why these other people took the plunge… So I started asking them and documenting their motives. In this blog post, I’ll be sharing the top reasons behind why people take startup jobs. This insight has been crucial in helping our team retain talent.

Why do we join startups? Because we want…

“… to have an impact”

During job interviews, I always ask candidates why they want to join a startup. And I can’t remember the number of times that people respond with: “I want to have an impact.

Many of these candidates have worked at larger and more established organizations where their ideas weren’t listened to, or just graduated from PHD programs where they grew frustrated of academic politics. And they’ve definitely come to the right place.

Because startup companies lack proven business models, functional processes, and sometimes experienced leadership, opportunities for each single individual to make an impact are found everywhere.

Let’s however recognize that as our organization grows, there are high chances that structure, processes, and politics affect our team members’ ability to voice their ideas and have an impact.

So what can we do to maintain our innovative culture? Here’s what I think: 1. Never lose trust of team members; 2. Strive to coach and delegate, not micro-manage; and 3. Involve team members in decision making and be transparent about our choices. In the wise words of my boss: “Just do the right thing.

Team members will be happy as long as they can influence decisions. It won’t matter how large our organization grows.

… to learn”

Another recurring theme when I probe team members about their motivations is the desire to learn. To learn new technical skills, lead projects, and how to manage people. To learn in an environment where making mistakes is OK, even rewarded.

Sounds familiar? That’s right, startup team members aren’t that different from founders: We all want to push ourselves to the limit, get out of our comfort zones.

That said, learning also happens at established organizations, not just startups. It takes the form of observing senior people do things “right” and receiving some kind of structured education. However, the missing piece is the opportunity to learn by trial and error.

Ambitious (and sometimes impatient) people want to learn by doing. And because established companies usually have proven business models and functional processes, they have little incentive to let inexperienced people try things and make mistakes. They are simply more conservative and risk averse.

However, I do want to share a word of caution. Completely learning by trial and error can be taxing on a startup’s growth. It takes a lot more time to get things right. So I personally like to adopt a hybrid model, where we have experienced managers and senior technical people available that can coach younger team members while they try things for themselves. This allows our younger team members to learn by doing, but also leverage the experience and insights of those that have already made mistakes. As result, the number of mistakes made before getting it right and chances of making the same mistakes are greatly minimized.

“… to have a quick win”

Another trend that I’ve noticed among startup employees is the desire to have a quick win. To become successful now, not when we hit 40 or 50. Some people want this more than others, but we all hope for a successful exit.

Why do I think that this mindset is prominent among startup employees?

For one, I don’t notice people joining social or non-profit startups as much as I notice people joining for profit companies, especially well funded and fast-growth ones. How many social entrepreneurs or startup companies can we actually name? We’re lucky if we know one. Fact is, society and media outlets find for-profit ventures that receive billion dollar valuations much more sexy than non-profits. Our goal is therefore to flip those stock options of ours and make a quick dollar.

Second, startup team members have extremely high, sometimes unrealistic, expectations for their companies to succeed. I witnessed this after our startup, unfortunately, had to perform a strategic layoff. While most individuals took the news with maturity, there was a good number of individuals that were extremely upset at the company’s failure to hit its goals. What I realized was that these individuals expected the company to succeed. Even when the chances of a startup making it to an IPO or getting acquired is only 1 in 10, some team members expect success as an outcome. They expected a quick win.

So how can we satisfy our team’s thirst for quick wins without promising IPOs? By accelerating other aspects of their careers, which gets to the next point…

“… to accelerate our career and be valued”

Media outlets continuously report on stories of people straight out of college making millions. While most of us know that the chances of actually becoming millionaires is slim, we’re still attracted to the thought. And by joining startups, we’re hoping to jumpstart our careers.

We want to do meaningful work, to lead, to get big titles, and to get big money.

So in my opinion, in order to retain talent, startups need to delegate responsibilities and promote employees at a faster pace than established companies do. If banks promote an engineer to senior engineer in 3 years, startups need to do so in 2 years or less.

I’d also argue that we need to promote in the form of added responsibilities, titles, and leadership opportunities, rather than a high salary. We care about comparing our career progress against their friends, and salary is hard to compare, so we value it slightly less.

“… to work with smart people”

During interviews, job candidates often ask my team “what is the best part of working here?”

To my great pleasure, all our team members tend to respond with “the people here.”

So number four on the list: Startup employees want to work with talented and ambitious people like themselves.

When I took on my job, I also moved to a new city. And because most of my colleagues shared similar interest, outlook on life, and values as myself, they also became my social circle. Even when we hired new team members, it felt like we were hiring friends. We had people of all backgrounds, demographics, and ages, but all shared the same drive to create something great.

This culture is very hard to create at established companies, where some employees have been there for ages, may not prioritize their professional life as much, or simply don’t have the same amount of energy anymore.

So one simple thing we can all do to keep ourselves happy is to continue hiring top talent, and never be OK with mediocrity.

“… to be cared for”

I’m going to bring up benefits for a moment. I’m currently witnessing a trend where startups promise unlimited vacation, free lunches, beer… thinking that it motivates people and that these things are the basis of a good culture. Yet nothing could be further from the truth (this Bloomberg article supports my argument).

Honestly, I believe that much of these material perks are unnecessary and unproductive. If we do everything mentioned in the points above, our team members will be motivated by what they do, not what they have. Free food and material perks such as the latest Macbooks may actually set the expectation that our unproven startup is already successful. That we’ve got so much cash in the bank that we can afford these perks.

Yet what we actually need is for team members to feel that we’ve yet to achieve success, and that we have to continue working hard and smart. Perks work against that perception.

And regarding unlimited vacation days, I’ve always found that policy confusing. In my opinion, it sets unclear expectations around what is a reasonable amount of time off. Some individuals will take 5 weeks off, yet their managers will complain about it – the policy clears states unlimited, so why are we making the individual feel bad? On the other hand, some individuals will only take a couple weeks off every year, the norm in the USA, but envy colleagues that take more time off – as if others were abusing the system.

The problem is that everyone interprets “unlimited” differently. Some judge unlimited to be 2 weeks, while others judge it to be 5 weeks. It all comes down to what individual managers agree to, but whatever they decide, it’s unlikely to be anywhere close to unlimited. So to set clear expectations for everyone, I strongly advocate for an absolute amount of vacation time every year (e.g. 4 weeks).

The one element of a compensation package that we should not neglect is a fair market rate salary. Many startups underpay their workforce and compensate by giving titles and perks. However, we need to realize that it’s not a replacement for salary. As our team members age, they start having family and kids. This changes their priorities.

I’ve witnessed many talented colleagues leave the organization because of undermarket pay, joining organizations that can afford to pay them more. They also tend to be our A players, individuals that acquired a ton of experience and knowledge through trial and error training. Quite valuable assets that we lose to established firms…

So forget the material perks. We want market rate compensation and a clear amount of vacation time. We want to feel cared for.

“… and to work for a visionary leader”

Startups are a chaotic affair. Our priorities change month to month, and sometimes even our business models pivot.

Among all these changes, I’ve found that team members often find comfort in a visionary leader. An individual that knows exactly where we are going, why, and how. By believing in their leader, team members don’t doubt their eventual success.

So how can we, as leaders, create the perception that we know where we’re going, why, and how? Well, for one, we need to know these things. I thus find it helpful to:

  • Make sure to have a competitive strategy;
  • Explain why before implementing any changes;
  • Care honestly about team members’ well being and personal growth;
  • Be around the team, experience their daily work, and empathize with their daily challenges;
  • Facilitate problem solving and provide active guidance on what solutions are aligned with our company strategy (know what not to do prioritize and undertake); and
  • Avoid micro-managing as it undermines the team’s ability to execute.

Ultimately, we all want to feel important. As long as we feel purpose in our work and have the means to live comfortably, we will fight ferociously to achieve our team goals.

Recommended exercise

Let’s conduct a survey with our team members and ask them: “Why did you choose to work with us? What is important to you in your time here and what is not?”

Are you leading a startup team? Get started on the right foot with the Start-up Manager Handbook. And subscribe on the right for new insights every week!