Ask any VC or technology investor and they will tell you that the success of a start-up is largely dependent on the quality of its founding team. And yet, what are the attributes of a winning team?
Steve Blank defines a startup as “a temporary organization designed to search for a repeatable and scalable business model”. He further claims: “This means the brilliant idea you started with will change as you iterate and pivot your business model until you find product/market fit.”
It also means that start-up teams should expect to fail early and often. Therefore, they need to be capable of quickly learning the key lessons from their mistakes, correcting them effectively, making pivots and necessary changes to their plans. Furthermore, they need to be capable of moving forward without losing valuable time.
This is a tall order for any team, let alone a start-up team operating in a chaotic environment with limited resources and significant risks.
Working effectively and performing well under these stressful conditions, requires the right team. First, you need to have a team with the right combination of skills to match your goal, industry, and technology. However, that in itself is not enough. You also need good chemistry and relationships within the team.
The Attributes of a Great Team
In my career, I’ve been a part of and led many teams. I’ve seen great teams, as well as dysfunctional teams. Those that consistently performed at the highest standards and others that continuously missed their goals.
The great teams share these important attributes:
1. The right skills
The combination of individual skills and experience of the team should match the team’s long-term goal and requirements.
In a technology start-up, you typically need strong technical skills in the relevant field of technology. You also need product design and development skills, someone with solid marketing knowledge and business experience. Most of all, there needs to be a highly effective leader. A leader who is also a visionary with strong strategic thinking and planning capabilities.
2. Clearly defined roles and responsibilities
Even a team of super-stars with all of the above skills cannot perform well if there are no clear roles and responsibilities. In fact, this is a key attribute of high-performance teams. Every team member understands their role and contribution, and her interaction with the other team members.
Great examples are sports teams. A well-coached team with one star-leader and other solid role-players will beat a team of superstars any day. See how the Dallas Mavericks beat the Miami Heat in the NBA finals last year.
3. Positive team dynamics
For any team to withstand the pressures, tensions, and stress like these of a start-up company, it needs to be based on strong foundations. Great teams and partnerships (including marriages) are based on trust, mutual respect, and open communication.
Team members don’t necessarily have to become best friends. However, they should respect, trust and care about each other. They should be able to share information, provide candid and constructive feedback, and have effective discussions. They should also share a common purpose and vision.
To develop great products and achieve great results, each person on the team should be able and motivated to contribute their knowledge, experience, and unique perspective.
4. Great leadership
Great teams always have great leaders. These are not iconic, larger than life type of leaders. On the contrary, these are authentic leaders who lead with emotional intelligence; who really connect with their people; who foster trust.
Such leaders have the required skills and character to recruit, build, and develop high-performance teams.
Great teams can truly accomplish great feats and achieve outstanding business success. Moreover, they can make the journey fun as well. Now that’s a team you want to be on.