There’s a reason why people are often referred to as “human capital.” People are invaluable assets in today’s business world. When those at the helm of your organization are running full speed ahead to meet and exceed business goals, you have no choice but to trust your people to get the job done. That trust in your people is often an undervalued trait in many organizations today. A Harvard Business Publishing survey suggests that only 32% of global leaders are confident that their teams have the required skills and talent to achieve company goals. That is an incredibly small (and disheartening) confidence level. If you can’t trust your people to make your vision a reality, then you’re in a tough place as a leader.
When growing your organization, the types of people you hire, the values they embody, and the skills and experience they bring to the table are all so important. Your people are critical to making your company the industry leader you hope it can be. Your people are the ones who stand behind your rallying cry as the company leader, the ones who charge toward your company’s collective business goals and aspirations, and the ones you’ll see every single day in the hallways, the boardroom and the break room at lunch.
But how do you build a team that will not only help you to achieve your goals as an early-stage tech startup, but will also endure as you grow and evolve as an organization?
‘H’ Is For Humility
The first part of that answer is pretty simple: Find people who embody humility. What does that mean, exactly? One of my favorite books on leadership is The Ideal Team Player by Patrick Lencioni. In it, he talks a lot about humility, referencing the famed C.S. Lewis quote that “Humility isn’t thinking less of yourself; it’s thinking of yourself less.” This is precisely the quality I look for in people when considering them as part of our team. With humility comes a teamwork attitude that doesn’t always come naturally, particularly in high-tech, an industry that tends to always be on overdrive and where the team mentality of working together can easily get lost among egos. When people stop thinking of themselves first and instead focus on the common goals of the team — and, more importantly, the company as a whole — the infighting that is so commonplace in most organizations mostly disappears. When your organization is full of these types of people, you will spend a lot less time dealing with internal turf wars.
Skill Or Experience
Getting your team dynamic right is one thing, but what about skills versus experience? Is it an either/or scenario? To me, the answer is no. When it comes to skills, I have to assume that by the time people are in my office for an interview, they have the skills we are looking for in a particular role. To me, skill sets are table stakes.
When it comes to experience, however, the answer gets a little bit trickier, particularly when evaluating someone for a more senior role in the company. On the one hand, you need a team that boasts a strong track record of success in all of the functional areas. But on the other hand, there’s something to be said for hiring someone with a fresh eye. Those are the hungry players on the team who are ready to tackle something new every chance they get. You really need those kinds of employees early on, when everyone is in go mode. Later, you need a mix that includes both the experienced team players who have been there, done that and can take your company to the next stage of growth as well as the scrappy, inquisitive team players who will keep you and the rest of the organization thinking outside of the box rather than sticking with the status quo. It can be a bit of a balancing act between longevity and experience versus a fresh eye and an eagerness to charge ahead.
Then Vs. Now
If you’ve managed to build a team of people who embody humility, have complementary skills, and represent a mix of veterans and rookies, you’ll inevitably face the then vs. now dilemma. This is the hard task of determining which people on your team are perfect fits for your company while in startup mode but can also grow and change as the company evolves. Sometimes, those who were exactly the right fit for the early days of a company’s growth find it difficult to adapt as the organization scales and expands. In startup mode, you need entrepreneurial spirit; in growth mode, you need people who can embrace process and discipline.
For example – during the “dot com” boom, a slew of senior executives from big companies left their lucrative positions to join the startups that were sprouting up at that time. They were like fish out of water – they weren’t comfortable with a lot of white space, they craved processes and structure. It just didn’t work. The reverse is also true – those who are comfortable in an early-stage company setting are used to having free reign and room to grow, but once they find themselves in a maturing organization with more processes and systems in place, they may flounder and even fail. To combat that, you need to seek team members who are adaptable and willing to shift gears along the way, as well as be willing to admit that some people may choose to go back into early-stage companies, while you bring in those who are comfortable in the larger organization.
Ultimately, your people are the heartbeat of your organization. They are invaluable assets and critical to the health of the company. Striking the right balance between personality, leadership style and adaptability is pretty challenging, but when done right, it’s the formula for a winning team.
This post was originally published on Forbes.com.