For the last two weeks, The PreBoot Podcast has been focused on the need for community. It all started with Episode 10 and has continued into a series of blog posts and even a Facebook Group. That continues today with a post from one of the entrepreneurs featured in episode 10, Kirsten from Cloverleaf.me.
How do you form a solid start-up team? Well, we’ve learned a lot about this, both through being a co-founding team ourselves, as well as through our research on effective teams.
Two things are absolutely fundamental: Vision and Diversity. I think vision is a given, so I’ll just touch on it for a moment, but the real meat and potatoes is under diversity.
We’ve talked to hundreds of team leaders, and this rings loudly: Have a shared vision. That thing you all deeply care about. A vision that each team member is willing to sacrifice for. A vision you can lean on through unexpected changes.
Vision is not the same as product. Your product will HAVE to change as you discover more and more about your customer. Your vision is the type of change you want to see in the world, and that should never change.
Our vision for Cloverleaf has always been for people to be satisfied in their work. So we started as a recruiting tool to help employees find a company culture that they thrive in. We found out people didn’t want another recruiting tool, but they loved what we were doing for work teams. So we pivoted. Our business model is not what we started with — we’re not even selling to the same buyer — but our vision that motivates us is exactly the same.
The standard in high-tech startups is that you need one technical co-founder and one business co-founder. This is a necessary start, but forming a diverse team goes far beyond skills. At Cloverleaf, we have 4 co-founders, all with very different expertise and skill sets. But we also all have different personalities, strengths, and thinking styles. You can see our full team make-up here: https://www.cloverleaf.me/team/cloverleaf_public
Two things about diversity I’d like to highlight: 1) Strengths and Gaps, 2) Conflicts.
Strengths and Gaps – People get energy when they do work within their natural strengths. I’ll use myself as an example — my strengths are almost all in strategic thinking. When I’m presented with a hard problem, I want to ask experts about it, team brainstorm, then sit alone and think. When I get a clear idea of how to fix the problem, I get a rush of excitement. It’s hard to keep my mouth shut. I can’t wait to share it, to draw up a plan for it, and to pass it off to someone who can execute the plan. However, if I have to implement my own plan and fit within the structure of calendared tasks, I am zapped of energy and absolutely dread doing the work.
Know this about your team members. Knowing each other’s strengths allows you to see beyond skills and imagine new ways to leverage each other’s natural abilities.
Also, know your overall team gaps. Know them so that you can push through them until you can hire, then hire to fill them. Ideally, you form a team that covers all the bases, but that likely won’t happen with a small team.
As you can see in our Cloverleaf profile, our team has a gap in execution. This means that for now, we need to push ourselves to do what normally drains us — accomplish tasks, make to-do lists, bust through emails, and combing through details. If we didn’t know we had to intentionally push ourselves here, we wouldn’t progress as quickly as we are, and we would likely get frustrated at ourselves and each other. We also wouldn’t have such clear insight that our first hire needs to be the type of person who gets energy from details, implementing processes, and forging through to-do lists. Gosh, I can’t wait to hire.
Finally, to Conflict. With a diverse team, you WILL have conflict. And conflict is GOOD.
If you agree on everything, you’re lacking perspective. No one has only good ideas. You need your team members to see things differently, to disagree, to suggest alternatives that aren’t on your radar.
Of course, a foundation of respect and appreciation for each other is essential in how you approach this conflict. And here again you need that shared vision that makes this conflict worth the discomfort, and guides you through the tough decisions.
If you’re forming a co-founding team, or you’re already on one — check out your own team profile at cloverleaf.me. It’s free for teams of 5 or less. Even for us as the creators, our own tool has been hugely beneficial in showing where we are aligned, where we have gaps, and how to resolve conflict. We would love your questions, feedback or suggestions, either through the feedback button at the bottom right of each page, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Check it out at www.cloverleaf.me.