Culture is built from the bottom, but leadership starts at the top.
Do you want to improve your workplace culture or positively impact the direction of your company? Then it might be time to invest in team building. As a founder, you hold the keys to the kingdom, but what good are they if they don’t open doors for the rest of your team?
Team building doesn’t happen overnight, nor is it a one-person endeavor—it’s a team effort. Running a startup can be overwhelming, but it doesn’t mean you have to do it alone. This is why building a capable team is one of the most important jobs you have as a founder.
Establish core leadership
Building a strong leadership team is a top priority. The platitude of hiring seasoned and savvy business leaders shouldn’t go understated—and it all starts with your C-suite team.
Dedicate time and resources to recruiting and hiring leaders that’ll make your job easier. Your top execs should be able to help you flush out quality systems, strategies, and operational workflows together with building the framework for a solid organizational infrastructure. Once core leadership has been established then you can start working on creating a culture that’ll drive the company to success.
Emphasize director-level diversity
A successful startup focuses on building a dream team of problem-solvers just as much as it does on creating innovative products. In addition to executive leadership, director-level leaders are instrumental in onboarding and grooming senior management. It’s important that your directors come from diverse backgrounds, so they’re armed with new ideas, perspectives, and ways of doing things that will strengthen core processes like communication and collaboration.
Above all else, directors should be exceptional leaders. As the founder, motivate and inspire them to lead and give them the freedom to do so. Establish thought leadership and engagement from the top to encourage effective communication that trickles down to team members. Share best practices and knowledge from previous jobs and experiences, and let your diverse leadership influence ideas and engineer execution cross-functionally.
Champion open communication and collaboration
We wrote about why leaders should walk the talk on work-life balance, but they should also emphasize the value of communication, collaboration, and teamwork. Each is equally recognized and rewarded, but best practices and common goals across the organization ensure that everyone contributes their fair share and overachieves.
Be vocal, start conversations, and rally individual employees around productivity milestones and incentives. Use communication tools and software to get teams talking and working smarter together, so they can achieve their goals. Most importantly, make collaboration enjoyable and informal, just but be sure leadership is holding everyone accountable.
Do actual team-building exercises
A highly engaged leadership team is said to boost employee engagement by as much as 39%—this, in turn, creates a happier workplace. Team-building exercises promote engagement by breaking silos and connecting colleagues in a variety of ways. This type of active engagement helps develop real-time coaching and management skills that sharpen decision-making through effective communication and team problem-solving.
Team-building exercises like real-world gaming and escape rooms require intense strategic thinking that hones in on individual strengths and weaknesses. Leaders should learn to leverage these activities as teachable moments where constructive feedback is used to bridge communication gaps and build-up morale—but try not to take the fun out of it.
Know when it’s time to bring on a CEO
Don’t throw more irons into the fire. As a founder, you already have a lot on your plate. You have to manage investors, vendors, clients, agencies, staff, and freelancers—and you know there’s plenty more where that came from.
At some point, your company’s continued growth will warrant a search for a chief executive other than yourself. This is an extremely difficult decision to make and requires you to essentially hand the keys over to someone trustworthy. Trust and goodwill are essential building blocks that’ll help guide your ultimate decision.
With so much at stake, you might even consider formally stepping into the CEO role yourself. After all, your entrepreneurial spirit, vision, and approach are already chief culture drivers. But if you decide to move forward with a new CEO, make sure they buy into effective team-building from the get-go, and empower senior-level management to do the same.
Remember, strong startup culture is built from the ground up, but leadership starts at the top.