Effective Principles for Working as a Team in a Startup - Reading Time: 3 Mins

Introduction

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No man's on an island. One man can only do so much without a team to complement and achieve an objective. Being part of a team provides benefits unlike as an individual by covering each other's weakness. As an individual, there is a limitation of what you can do. Special forces often operate in teams despite individually they are as an army of one.

Here are my thoughts in working as team base upon my experience. Working in multiple startups and operating in a high-performance team environment through my military service.

Communication is Key

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There is alot of reasons a project, startup or company may fail. I believe one of those reasons is communication between team members. I had been in projects where I was an outcast unable to communicate & perform effectively due to my communication skills.

Without trust & a line of communication in a team can result in a toxic environment. Full of finger-pointing and in fighting to say that this is not my fault whenever a problem arises.

I would suggest that you read the book The DevOps Handbook & The Phoenix Project. These books talk about ways to establish the line of communication & restoring trust across teams or departments for rapid feedback & response to formulate a plan to solve a problem.

What is Their Tour of Duty?

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Tours of duty is often used in the military to have a rotation of personnel to various positions to understand the role that serves the organisation while progressing in their career. When these individuals are in these roles, they gain awareness and insights from multiple perspectives to formulate solutions that make the organisation better.

For me, I will stick to The Alliance definition for tour of duty. Which means a person will work for 2 - 3 years or less within the company or startup to the gain the necessary skills, experience & knowledge to prepare them for their next tour of duty.

Therefore I will do my best to talk to my teammates in water cooler chats about on their motivation & purpose in the company. So you can help your team member or as the leader to steer them towards their specific objective while achieving the team's business objective.

Taking Ownership Regardless If Your a Leader or a Follower

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You take responsibility as an individual for every failure, problem or setback which happens in the team even despite your gut tells you that this may be another person's fault.

I understand this can be a hard pill to swallow. That is why some agile teams use blameless post-mortem to reduce the finger-pointing & victimhood between each other to discuss and think of a way forward.

When I first read about this, I am like you who thinks that this is absurd since whenever problems happen. There is always another person's fault for the screwup which that person is not me. The problem with that mentality is that you are pushing the blame onto another person.

This mentality does not serve you. Instead, this makes you focus on the "other" guy. Costing you in the opportunity to reflect about yourself to prepare or improve to deal with future problems or situations.

Conclusion

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I had covered what I had learned over the years. From books and being in teams from high performing team to low performing in toxic environments. Seek to part of teams to gain first-hand knowledge or experience by involving yourself through volunteering.

Volunteering your time & resources for your interest groups, conferences or contributing to open-source projects. Providing you with a glimpse of either high performing or unproductive teams to be a better follower and eventually a leader.

In learning to be a good follower and eventually becoming a leader in a team. You read books like How to Win Friends & Influence People, On Writing Well & 48 Laws of Power. These teachs you communication, understanding power dynamics and building relationships.

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