Individual Mastery in a Startup

January 24, 2011

Principle 2 – Step 3:

People want to be recognized, especially when they are part of a team. We fight our entire lives to carefully construct our identity, who we are, and how that is perceived by those around us. We want recognition for our successes and approval when we rise from the ashes of our failures. There seems to always be a desire to make sure our name is etched in the history books somewhere. When individuals become members of teams, this is a want that needs to be addressed before the desire for recognition gets in the way of the production of the team. What is important to have happen is that individuals are able to recognize not only where their strengths lie, but the strengths of those on the team as well.

Bringing together a team that understands their unique talents is very powerful tool for a successful startup. The key to utilizing this is to make sure your team members are able to realize where their strengths lie and how they best contribute.

There are two questions that we like to ask in determining these talents:

1) How do I contribute to the team?

2) What do I contribute to the team?

It is important to have each member of the team answer these questions, to really focus and think them through before arriving at their answers. Review the questions and answers with each team member individually before and after the project as well as conduct a 360 peer review of each member as a team to help gain the perspective of others on where individual strengths lie. Doing this type of review allows the individual to see where their perceptions line up with the perceptions of the team, allowing their realities to come closer together.

This will help your team members to recognize where their strengths and unique talents lie, however this is just the first step. Mastery of these talents does not just grow from recognition and expression alone.

How we like to best accomplish this is by having individuals teach, train and explain their contributions to their fellow team members. Look for opportunities for them to do this through their blog, lunch & learns or by giving formal training session. When you give people the opportunity to recognize and develop their unique contributions you create a team that uses these strengths to benefit the team and startup and not fly solo purely wanting recognition for their work.