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Building effective teams are less about following the strategic management textbook to a T and more about understanding and relating to your team. There are a few golden, basic rules that any leader of any startup, no matter what stage, can abide by to begin building more than just a product or service, but also a culture.

  1. Know your team

It’s impossible to run a well-oiled team without understanding the individual parts. Each team member will bring a different set of strengths, weaknesses, challenges, and attitudes to work every day, and it’s important to understand the motivations behind these behaviors. Get to know your employees. Then make decisions on their current and future roles based on their strengths, rather than covering weaknesses. In addition, get to know them personally. What do they like to do when they aren’t at work? What does each person want to achieve in their career in the future? What do they expect and want from you as a leader? If you ask these questions, you’ll be better able to understand what environments are best for your employees to work in, and what situations will discourage them.

  1. Establish a clear hierarchical structure

On the opposite end of getting to know your employees is making sure you establish a clear hierarchy. In small teams, it’s important for everyone to be clear on what they are responsible for, and whom they are supposed to report to. When there is confusion about this, it causes inefficiencies and unnecessary disruptions to your end goals. While it is important to socialize and know your employees personally, it’s even more important that they respect and view you as a leader they want to follow. That said, it’s also important to ensure that decision making has input from all levels. Create a structure for operations, but disable it when it comes time to take input on decisions.

  1. Ensure everyone feels a purpose

Understanding what your employees want to get out of work will help you be a better leader by enabling you to put your employees in situations where they will excel. A good leader knows when to stand back and watch others take over. By assisting your employees with their own personal career goals, you cultivate an environment in which your employees feel invested in you because you are invested in them. This bond leads to increased productivity and better team dynamics. As Peter Druker originally said, “Think and Say We.” A good leader thinks and acts on the purpose of the organization, not on their own purpose.

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