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How Short-Term Suffering in Startups Leads To Their Long-Term Success

How Short-Term Suffering in Startups Leads To Their Long-Term Success

It would appear that anyone with a laptop and an Internet connection is launching a startup. I am not going to lie to you there is a romance behind building a successful company. Unfortunately, there is a great deal of work that must be done in private before you can celebrate your wins in public.

Not only is the journey ahead of you epic but 90% of startups fail, according to Neil Patel, co-founder of Crazy Egg. Why? Because… you waited too long to launch, you hired poorly, or you simply lost focus.

Until recently, I have been a serial failure as an entrepreneur. I lacked the understanding of how the short-term pain bleeds into long-term success. I have discussed these issues with a few entrepreneurs, and I have listed some of the mile markers they encountered on their journey to building a successful company:

1. The product is important to the business, but the company culture is more important.

Mike McDerment, CEO of FreshBooks, explains the company invests a great deal of energy into creating a company culture that is supportive and collaborative.

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It’s in the DNA of FreshBookers to go to great lengths to execute extraordinary experiences every day for our customers and for each other. – Mike McDerment, CEO of FreshBooks,

The single most important commodity for a company is to hire for cultural fit; hiring people who share the company’s core values.

2. You are working hard to succeed, but first you have to fail before you can triumph.

Failure is a valuable tool for the entrepreneur. And without forensic analysis failure is nothing more than… defeat! So you must schedule the time to give serious thought to the question “Why didn’t it work out?” Once you start fleshing out this question higher-order learning and growth begin.

At the end of your analysis you must have clear ideas about why it failed, and what you will do differently next time.

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3. You are solving problems, but you must create better strategies to solve the more difficult issues.

Todd Barrish, President of Indicate Media, practices four problem-solving strategies:

  • Step 1: Thoroughly identify the problem and the cause of the problem.
  • Step 2: Discuss solutions. This includes potentially reframing the conversation.
  • Step 3: Assign responsibility of the solution. Who is going to manage moving things forward?
  • Step 4: Set a measurement of the solution, so you know when and whether the problem was solved.

4. You are taking risks but the risks must be intelligent so that they can feed the innovation.

Todd Barrish, President of Indicate Media explains that innovation is the backbone of any successful startup.

Barrish sites the launch of his company as a prime example of how innovation has allowed Indicate Media to thrive. Todd continues to explain that the secret sauce to building brand credibility and securing new business is centered on his ability to take intelligent risks against established norms.

5. You are focused on your vision, but you are failing to recognize when to adapt to the market.

No marketplace is immune from change, and if your startup is to succeed, then you must change with the market. But it’s not enough to match course with the market – to experience gain you have to stay ahead of the change. This is why it becomes important to understand the difference between what Andy Grove, author of Only The Paranoid Survive, refers to as recognizing the difference between signal and noise.

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6. You are creating products better than your competitor, but you must make the product better for your customer.

You must constantly be engaged in conversations around making better products. And I am not just saying to make the product better than your competitors but it must be better than what you have done before. Sometimes it might be a minor change that could be implemented in a few hours, other times the implementation could take months, even years to fully realize.

7. You are settings goals for your company, but they must be D.U.M.B. goals.

  • Dream-driven: Let’s start with building a big dream, stay away from the safe dream.
  • Uplifting: Your goals should have a prerequisite of being positive. Your goals should inspire you to accomplish them.
  • Method-friendly: You need to build methods of obtaining your goals. Your focus should be on building habits that move you closer to achieving your goals.
  • Behavior-triggered: When you set a goal, you need to create triggers that remind you to keep chasing them.

8. You’re focusing on the work ahead but to succeed you must build the appropriate skills.

At the beginning of most new projects, you will lack key skills that are critical to the success of the project. Understanding this issue is critical and will condition you to focus on those skills.

Once you have identified the skill to master, you must not only create a set of habits, but you must also have a provocative ”why” is the skill important. This strategy will place you in the proper mindset to keep you growing the new skill.

9. You have mentally prepared yourself to deal with the stress of a startup, but you have not changed your mind.

“There is nothing more powerful than a changed mind,” explains motivational speaker Les Brown.

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It’s your disempowering story that you are not good enough that keep you from achieving you true potential. By changing your mindset to believe with certainty in your potential, you give yourself permission to take massive action, which gets you those amazing results, you have been dreaming of.

10. There are times when you’re about to give up, but you have to focus on why this thing is important to you.

To be honest, don’t ever think about giving up. If something doesn’t work out, thinking of a new way to make it work and move on. You must be determined to get through the bad times. If need be, get your team together, outlined the situation, until you come up with a plan to fix it.

11. You do a great deal of talking but for you to understand what is needed you need to shut-up and listen.

Great leaders are great listeners. It’s not your job to dominate the room with your rhetoric. Your job is to listen because the most effective strategy to get people’s attention is for you to give them your attention.

12. You are the boss but to be successful you need to be a leader.

Leaders are not the boss. Leaders develop the gift for getting others to operate at their peak performance. And what might those gifts look like:

  • Listening to your team and addressing suggestions, concerns, and personal issues.
  • Coaching your team to raise their performance to a higher standard.
  • Allowing every team member the opportunity to voice their ideas.

Take the opportunity to listen and you will create an environment where they can unleash their full potential.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash/Volkan Olmez via unsplash.com

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Last Updated on December 5, 2018

How to Lead a Team More Effectively and Be a True Leader at Work

How to Lead a Team More Effectively and Be a True Leader at Work

Being an efficient manager and a charismatic boss at the same time can seem like an impossible task. Is there a way to deliver the desired results for your business while remaining liked and respected by your staff?

We all know bad examples of team leaders who seem to fail at one aspect or the other, or even at both. But we’ve also heard of awesome managers who seem to juggle both things well enough.

How do they do it?

By sticking to few proven ways that let them maintain a positive karma score while remaining efficient. In this article, we’ll guide you through 11 smart management tips on how to lead a team and become something more than a boss – a leader.

1. Find a Management Strategy and Stick to It

There’s nothing worse than a boss that keeps changing his or her opinions and assignments depending on their mood or a book they read this week. Chaotic decisions increase the insecurity and frustration of your team, so you better find your strategy and stick to it.

If you do find some new methods you want your staff to follow, make sure they don’t contradict the general direction you are taking. Otherwise, you risk making your team take one step forward and two steps back.

2. Set Goals​ and Track Progress in Reaching Them

Set individual and collective goals​ for your team and track the progress in reaching them. This might sound obvious at first, but too often we find ourselves stuck between daily customer requests and monthly reports, and the bigger goal or vision seems to fade away.

According to Elon Musk (and many other successful CEOs around the Globe), it’s crucial to have a clear and motivating aim to where the company is heading. His aim for the space transportation company SpaceX is “to make humankind a multi-planetary species”.[1] That’s a huge goal but the company is slowly moving closer to it by reaching smaller steps and milestones, like launching self-landing rockets. This is also a very inspiring and meaningful goal that helps employees endure the company’s extremely high expectations and 60 to 70-hour work weeks.[2]

Even if your goals are not as grand, setting and reaching milestones will give you a clear insight into the team’s overall efficiency and daily progress. With time, you will be able to see the weak spots and improve your results.​

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3. Demand Learning from Your Team

CEO of print on demand startup Printful, Davis Siksnans, believes that:[3]

“The key for a company going through rapid growth is to empower your employees’ self-development.”

His company with 500 employees spanning two continents demands a culture of learning and provides all the tools necessary to do it.

Their idea is –  as the company scales, people have to grow in their positions too, which means that they have to be constantly learning. Siksnans says:

“We try to hire people for what they might become, but they need to have that drive.“

Alternatively, you can provide educational courses for your employees or invite informal lecturers to educate and inspire your team. You can also encourage peer-to-peer learning by asking employees to teach their particular experience or skill to co-workers.

4. Invest in a Pleasant Work Environment

Studies show that a well-designed office environment can increase your team’s overall performance by as much as 20%. You’ll be surprised to see that even very small interior tweaks that don’t require major investments can improve your workers’ performance.

Some ideas for a more productive and pleasing work environment:

  • Invest in modern furniture – offer ergonomic chairs, standing desks, and individually arranged workplaces​.
  • Start an in-house library – reading for pleasure just 30 minutes a day is proven to be enough to become more effective at work,[4] improve focus, and deal with problems like depression and anxiety.​
  • Play jazzy office music – rhythmic background music will help workers feel more energetic and enthusiastic while doing everyday tasks.​
  • Set up entertainment or break rooms – being able to relax and have fun at work creates a strong commitment, helps employees relax and clear their minds, and boosts productivity.​
  • Bring in uplifting office decor – it’s been found that art in the workplace can boost productivity,[5] lower stress, and even encourage employees to innovate.​
  • Decorate the office with live plants for freshness and a welcoming feel. Furthermore, plants are found to ensure better air quality and increase workers’ productivity by 15%.[6]

5. Be Kind and Sincere to Your Team

Did you know that 50% of employees quit because they dislike working with their manager?[7] In fact, most times when people leave their jobs they actually leave their managers. Being friendly and sincere may not be enough to be a successful manager, but it’s a big part of it.

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Some ways to show you appreciate and care for your staff:

  • Celebrate the progress and achievements of your employees. And don’t be shy to simply say thanks.​
  • Talk to your employees regularly and really listen to what they have to say. Address their concerns, help them reach their goals and do your best to improve their work and daily life.
  • If you’re having a bad day, don’t pour out your stress and anger on the staff. Instead, try to recharge yourself by appreciating the achievements of your team and setting the next goals.
  • Try not to overload your team with work. Every company has rush periods when it’s okay to have more work than usual. But remember that people cannot work under prolonged pressure and stress.
  • Don’t be selfish – it can be very demotivating to see that the manager only focuses on what you can do for him and doesn’t care about your goals and well-being.​ As the CEO of Xerox Anne M. Mulcahy put it,[8]

    “Employees who believe that management is concerned about them as a whole person — not just an employee — are more productive, more satisfied, more fulfilled.”

Whenever you are having doubts about your kind attitude, remember – satisfied employees are productive employees which lead to satisfied customers and eventually – success for your company.

6. Offer Flexible Work Hours

The traditional Monday to Friday, 9 to 5 job is beginning to slip away. Increasingly more people are working remotely or having flexible work hours, and we can expect this trend to continue. To adapt to these changing habits and remain competitive in the labor market, more employers are offering the chance to choose your own work hours, work from home or even from another city or country.

Offering flexible hours is a powerful way to inspire your existing staff and give them intrinsic motivation. Why not let your employees choose their preferred working hours while keeping the 8-hour day? For example, night owls are unhappy and unproductive if they have to come to work before 10 AM, while others might prefer to start at 7 and finish earlier.

You can go even farther and hire remote workers – this way you’ll be able to recruit from a global talent pool and even save money on office expenses like desks, stationery, electricity, etc.[9]

7. Track Your Team’s Productive Time

Not monitoring your employees’ progress and efficiency can result in poor performance and slacking. Instead of letting things go with the flow, you should consider installing time-tracking software on your employees’ computers and see who’s doing great and who might need a productivity boost.

But don’t get it wrong – there’s no need to become big brother and watch every step your employees take. If you use the time-tracker as a spying tool, you will only see increasing suspicion and insecurity around you, and your employees’ happiness levels will drop.

On the contrary, choose software that allows employees to mark private time that won’t be tracked. In addition, consider these time-management tactics:

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  • Allow flexible work hours. (see Tip No 6)
  • Encourage breaks – studies show that employees who take regular breaks are more productive than those who don’t.[10]
  • Enable remote work to show your employees that you trust them and that they can work from home or even from another country (if they can maintain sufficient productivity).
  • Consider offering bonuses to your most productive employees (those who show productivity levels above 90 or 95%).

8. Use Only Constructive Criticism

Constructive criticism means offering valid and rational opinions about the work of others, involving both positive comments and remarks about what should be improved. Constructive criticism is usually expressed in a friendly manner rather than an oppositional one.

When you evaluate your team’s work, give them feedback that’s helpful, specific, and sincere. Don’t be shy to praise, but also be direct and even strict when necessary.

9. Don’t Give Special Treatment to Yourself

The boss’s actions are – directly or indirectly – observed by your team. This means that your employees look up to you and often mimic your attitude towards your work and the company – especially if your actions don’t show commitment. Nobody wants to work for a leader who doesn’t go all in or inspire motivation.

What you should do is lead by example. If you expect your employees to arrive at work on time and work 8 hours, do the same yourself. If you want them to show initiative, show it yourself and encourage others to do the same.

Jeff Weiner is the CEO of LinkedIn – a company of 3,000 employees that consistently ranks as one of the best workplaces with a 92 percent employee-approval rating.[11] Weiner’s workdays are reported to be equally long or even longer than those of his employees, allowing him to stay “extremely credible as a leader.”

10. Empower Your Employees

Here’s a common mistake many managers make:

They don’t motivate their staff and assume they simply love to work for their company.​ Such belief can result in painful losses for the company – especially these days when many companies are in desperate need of a reliable workforce.

Instead of directly thinking about bonuses and perks, consider intrinsic motivation. For example, enable flat organization in your team and listen to your employees’ ideas when they come up with opinions and suggestions. Your company might actually benefit a great deal from the feedback, and the unique ideas employees come up with.

You can also start an initiative where employees can freely share or pitch their business ideas to you or the founders of the company. If the idea is accepted by the management, the project can be developed, and the employee can have equity options.

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If people feel they have an impact in the company, they become more motivated, engaged and interested in the company’s growth.

11. Nurture Your Company Culture

Company culture is the personality of a company that defines the overall work environment and relationships between teammates. It also includes company mission, values, ethics, and goals.

Some examples of company cultures are the Horizontal corporate culture (collaborative and equal; popular among startups and free-spirited businesses) and Conventional corporate culture (a more risk-averse and hierarchy-based approach common in traditional companies).

However, you don’t have to stick to pre-existing boxes when creating your corporate culture. You might think of your team as a family, a sports team, or even a hippie camp if it fits your business and purpose. But keep in mind that by the time a company’s size reaches 20 employees, the company culture is set,[12] and any changes will need to be implemented in smaller teams.

Whichever personality you choose for your company, make sure to live by it and nurture it. Some things that might help:

Team building events, relevant books in your office library and proper on-boarding for the new employees to get everyone on the same page from the very beginning.

Be a Leader, Not a Boss

Using the words of Printful’s CEO Davis Siksnans, the ultimate goal is to “Hire great people who don’t have to be managed.”

However, when you do need to demonstrate some initiative and control, act as a leader rather than as a boss.

In other words, don’t be afraid to show the personality behind your role. And keep these 11 tips close to your heart.

Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

Reference

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