Team Development in Start-Up Land

At the age of 23, I was the first official hire of a promising, New York City-based nanotechnology start-up.  I was asked to head up the Partnership Development efforts and it wasn’t long before the just-as-youthful Founder & CEO and I were joined by other team members, all bringing different skills sets, personalities, and perspectives to the mix.  It made for a dynamic team, one that was very committed to our mission of investing in commercially promising university-based nanotechnologies…but one that faced sizable challenges in its “norming” efforts.

The trial-by-fire, all-hands-on-deck work flow of a start-up company allowed me to take on an array of incredible responsibilities and gain exposure to high-growth industries and related trends.  In terms of professional and life experience, the time I spent with the company is priceless.  And while I am acutely aware of the value of this experience, it is only recently, thanks to my time spent at Clarus, that I uncovered other important lessons.

At Clarus, we spend a great deal of time helping teams perform at the highest level.  We help teams learn and leverage their collective strengths and personalities, as well as understand and navigate individual differences in approaches to conflict, communication, and change.  We help our own team optimize performance around these issues too.

In hindsight, our start-up could have greatly benefited from both formal and informal team development activities.  As our team grew so did our “differences.”  We didn’t take the time to identify, align, and leverage our strengths.  Nor did we recognize that the generational and personality diversity among our team made us better for it.

Fast forward nearly a decade and I, in a way, get a do-over.  This summer I am serving as a mentor in a start-up accelerator in Chattanooga, TN.  To this effort, I can bring lessons learned from my nanotech days and, much more importantly, I can share the “wisdom” on effective team development that I’ve gained at Clarus.

Many start-ups have changed the world.  Countless others have failed…hard.  Assuming that all things are equal on the quality of and market demand for the technology or other product offering, perhaps it is those that attend to the development of their team that will fare best?  I, for one, believe that this worthwhile effort can make all the difference.

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