Building Your Startup Dream Team

As a serial entrepreneur always looking to assemble an all-star startup team, one pattern has remained constant–good people are hard to find. Though it may be difficult to find the right person for a specific role, successful team members display certain characteristics from the get-go:

1. Giving mentality

Winners are givers. The strongest performers in every organization I have known or have been a part of have had a great capacity for giving.

Team members who know how and when to give:
» Strengthen bonds between team members
» Improve team culture
» Contribute to the ultimate success of the company.

2. Capacity to go the distance

Every great team member needs to know how to shift gears. As a startup, some tasks need to be done ASAP where good enough is also good to go, while others need to be absolutely perfect. Perfection is often achieved only after a considerable time investment. The key is the ability to determine when to apply the appropriate speed.

3. Creative problem solving

You know where your company is and where you want it to be. You should commit yourself to hiring players with a leadership mentality who are able to figure out how to achieve these goals. Directing every aspect of your business is not only daunting, but self-defeating. You want to be able to give direction and feel confident that your team players will figure it out.

4. Big Career Aspirations

“Where do you see yourself in four years?” It’s a question I often ask, and I love hearing the answer. The worst answer I’ve gotten is: “I see myself here,” which reeks of inauthenticity.

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As a leader, I am here to facilitate growth opportunity. If all they want to be is here, they are prioritizing stability over opportunity. Any candidate that I consider has to have big goals for both themselves and the company, along with a game plan on how they’ll achieve them.

5. Positive Attitude

When it comes to your career path, expect the unexpected. Positive team members are the all-terrain wheels for your company’s momentum. Rain, sleet, or snow–they are always a motivating voice. It’s never enough to have this voice coming from leadership alone. In interviews, always ask for examples in which a candidate has been the uplifting voice in the face of adversity.

Beyond the Interview

I have found that it’s pretty difficult – if not impossible – to check off all of these boxes within the course of a 30-minute interview. This realization led me to both extend and diversify my methods of vetting candidates, and I have yet to find anything quite as efficient at filtering candidates than the written interview. So much can be extracted from a carefully crafted set of questions, including confidence, creativity, and resourcefulness. A number of your applicants won’t even go through the trouble of completing a written assessment, which makes this section one of the most efficient filtering tools at your disposal.

Another tool that I’ve used is to bring other team members in to meet their prospective new peers. For me, it’s imperative that my team play a role in helping decide who they will be working with before any final decision is made. Not too many organizations are willing or able to practice that level of vetting, but it’s one of the many advantages of being part of a startup.

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Finally, if location permits, an in-house project -including a team brainstorming session – offers a great opportunity to simulate a snippet of a candidate’s day-to-day role. This is by far one of the more telling practices in the interview because it allows everyone a glimpse into the future of working with one another.

Above all, as a team leader, the most important aspect of hiring is trusting your gut instinct. You may not always get it right – that’s to be expected – but experience is the stone on which instincts sharpen.

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This post was originally published on August 11, 2014; we added some updates for you. The feature photo is inspired by former NBA Coach Phil Jackson’s book Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success, in which he discusses how mindfulness, Buddhism, Native American spirituality, and other philosophies influenced his leadership and enabled him to win eleven championship rings with his teams.