Leadership is a concept that deserves more attention in the startup world. In both corporate and non-corporate environments, many people fear the topic because it is an intangible concept that cannot be measured directly by hard numbers and metrics. (Asians don’t like that.) However, entrepreneurs need to treat leadership seriously if they intend to build a sustainable and lasting business.
There isn’t a hard and fast rule to make you a great leader but there are ways to train yourself to become one. It requires a great deal of discipline to constantly educate yourself about different management methodologies, put them into practice, and then decide whether it suits you. You will need to keep iterating this process until you find your leadership style.
In a chaos-filled startup, it’s crucial to set a great example and implement some structure right at the beginning. Any unnecessary conflict when you are full steam ahead is the last thing you’ll need because you’ll have millions of things on your to-do list. You want to eliminate as many unnecessary problems as you can foresee. In this case, you can construct a leadership framework that will help you minimize conflict and maximize productivity.
From my limited experience working as a team leader and member in both a diverse and homogeneous work environment, I found that the JEG framework works best, especially in an early stage startup with small teams.
The JEG framework consists of job, expectations, and goals. In this framework, the team leader will have a 1-on-1 with an employee when they first join to finalize job descriptions, manage expectations, and set personal/professional goals. This will be documented and reviewed at a regular period (for example 1 month) to ensure it’s still relevant to the situation.
This is almost like a practice on drawing lines. Understandably, in an early stage startup environment, everyone may need to do everything. However, it’s a healthy practice to go back to the drawing board to finalize what falls within the scope of a specific role to avoid any confusion.
You ideally want to capture the key elements of each role to allow flexibility when assigning new tasks. MaRS provides quite an exhaustive guide on this but, of course, you should only adopt what makes sense to your company and the stage it’s in. This is important to ensure the team is clear about their job requirements so they can always deliver.
Personally, I think this is the most important aspect. It is especially important in a team environment because when there is a mismatch of expectations, conflict will often ensue.
In this case, expectation management is two-way traffic. Ask what your team expects of you and tell them what you expect of them, then proceed to calibrate an arrangement in which both parties are comfortable.
If you like to be hands-off as much as you can, then it’s important to convey this at the beginning so your lack of involvement is not seen as apathy. In another case, your sales rep may prefer to communicate via messaging app and thus may tend not to respond to email. It’s important for you to understand this at the outset so you know it’s just a habit, not a sign of disrespect or a lack of commitment.
Expectations take many forms but I specifically like to emphasize on managing day-to-day expectations and its impact on colleagues’ behavior, collaboration, and culture. Clarity = win.
What are the team goals? What is an employee’s individual goal? How will all these be measured?
For example, the team goals for a business development team in a marketplace could be to hit at least 25 enterprise partnerships in every quarter while an individual goal could be to maintain a high conversion rate. If there is a set of metrics to follow, a team member will have a clearer direction of where she and the team should be heading.
What are her personal goals outside of work? Team leaders should care about the wellbeing of the team member in and out of the office and support them as much as possible. For example, your developer is considering ways to enhance his communication skills. What can you do to support him? If he is achieving a holistic growth, the ultimate beneficiary will be your company. Happy employees lead to a productive company as shown by research.
How will JEG help?
It allows you and your team to iron out any conflicts when things don’t work as planned. If you and your team decided on a preferred way of internal communication, for example, when it doesn’t happen in practice, at least there is some form of reference in JEG that you could discuss with them. The framework helps to structure a constructive discussion.
Of course, I recognize that this is not perfect — there will be instances that are not covered in this exercise. It is merely a suggestive framework to try if it works for you. Nothing is a perfect solution after all. We just need to keep searching for what suits us best as a team leader.
Like what Richard Branson said, “Take care of your employees and they will take care of your business.” Make a conscious effort to care for your team, ensure smooth internal communication, and lead purposefully.
Please do comment/share/like, would love to learn more from the readers as well!
[This article was also featured on Tech In Asia]