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Hiring: Ask questions designed for cross-functional fit.
Vetting for strong communication skills is a huge part of our hiring process, as it should be for any startup in high-growth mode. Your cross-functional teams must be able to find common ground to do their work. For example, developers and product managers must work well together — otherwise, your team won’t be able to move from a wireframe to a shippable minimum viable product, and your best ideas will stall out.
During the interview process, we vet employees for cross-functional team fit by asking deliberate questions about (and paying close attention to) communication style. A few examples:
• Tell me about a challenge you had to overcome by working with others.
• Tell me about a time you were wrong.
• What’s your favorite and least favorite thing about working with members of X team?
Concrete questions about things that actually happened offer more valuable insight than abstract questions like, “How do you handle conflict?” In describing a tough situation, people inevitably reveal how they view their counterparts and themselves. How you tell your story matters, and asking the right questions will help you get to know a person and how they approach teamwork over the course of a conversation.
Onboarding: Make getting to know the team part of the process.
Once you’ve hired new people, consider where they’ve worked in the past and how that might affect their expectations for daily operations, team cooperation and deadlines. The more in sync your teams are, the easier it will be for them to move fast together.
Team discord is often written off as a “clash of personalities,” but the real source of a misunderstanding may be experiences people had long before they were part of your company. For example, those from an enterprise background are likely used to rigid and opaque processes. They may be accustomed to a world where failure is punished, and their caution could be slowing their team down. Meanwhile, employees who’ve been working in startups for years may take the fast pace for granted. They’re likely comfortable viewing “failures” as learning opportunities.
So, how do you get everyone on the same page? Simple getting-to-know-you exercises, like team outings and ice-breakers, are time well spent and can help prevent conflict down the line. At Kin, our teams have regular huddles and mini sessions where colleagues give a crash course on topics in which they are experts. Teaching and learning can be invaluable for bonding and understanding each other.
Operating: Define failure as part of the learning process.
This may be obvious, but when you’re moving fast, it’s important to stay focused on your goals. That can be difficult if some team members are overwhelmed and discouraged when things fail. To head off failure-related turbulence, I’ve found that it’s helpful to do the following:
• Establish clear goals for every team and every project, with the understanding that some goals will be learning-focused rather than outcome-focused.
• Hold post-mortem meetings to discuss what you learned and how you’ll apply it to the next iteration. This reinforces that products and processes are works in progress and allows everyone to contextualize failures to help identify where you can grow.
• Explicitly praise people who try new things — even (and especially) when those things fail. We don’t have the budget to go as far as Google’s X, but we try to embrace the same philosophy.
Make sure to level-set so your employees know what success looks like within their roles and provide them with the tools to understand how you approach new ideas, communication and failures as an organization.
Remember, hyper-growth isn’t for everyone.
Working in a fast-growing startup environment isn’t the right fit for everyone. Employees have to be comfortable with a high degree of uncertainty and have high levels of internal motivation. Perhaps just as importantly, they have to be comfortable with failure.
If you discover that, despite your best hopes and efforts, some employees just aren’t adapting to the startup environment, try to help them articulate why by asking questions about their expectations versus their experiences. If this leads to some people leaving, that’s OK. Know that, like any other learning experience, you likely helped them find a better fit elsewhere.
May 30, 2019 at 08:07AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs