Do you think if you hire the best people, it means you’ll automatically have the best team? Think again. Building a great team takes lots of time and commitment from everyone, and probably just a little bit of magic. So how do you do it? Well, we haven’t quite figured out the magic part yet, but here’s how we build great teams at 300FeetOut.
We’ve touched on this in another blog post. Not only do we want to make sure we get those with the right technical or design skills, we want to make sure candidates interact well with our team. The best skills in the world cannot substitute for the mental fit we need for collaboration. We look for people who seem genuinely interested in what we do, who show a clear pattern of self improvement, and proactively discuss how they’re going to fit into the team. We don’t hire people who blame others or already ‘know the all answers’. We look for people who want to find the best answer.
This isn’t just providing the right software and project management systems, don’t get us wrong – those are important too; but not as important as knowing how to leverage the other people on your team. This means helping people do their best, providing frameworks facilitate their growth, and helping them when they get stuck. This happens in all directions – not just top-down. Peers need to help each other. Managers need to take on an attitude of servant leadership. Managers need help managing!
Frankly, this was easier to do in person. We find it really takes work to have natural communication remotely. So we provide opportunities for the team to connect without necessarily having it be about work. In fact, we do weekly “Happy Half Hours” where one of the team can present about a subject or just play a team game. This really helps humanize those you’re working with so it’s they become more than just “someone that emailed me.”
Another part of being able to keep up good communication is knowing when to do it. Meetings only get scheduled when they’re needed and kept concise. We have 5 minute meetings multiple times a week, various combinations of team meetings, quick video chats, and then a single big solid meeting to discuss operations.
Real time communication takes humility. The goal is to be able to give and take feedback in the moment without resentment. Prima donnas, narcissists, perfectionists, and adult toddlers need not apply. How do you create a team that has this magic? You do it by constantly talking about the good things that people are doing on a daily basis. Everyone at 3FO has a weekly 1 on 1. We do not hesitate to give praise to others on calls, in fact we actually have to call out team members who don’t want to take credit for their hard work. We have secondary systems in place that keep our values alive and reward team members.
This doesn’t mean to never let someone know when there’s been a mis-step. But when that mis-step does happen, talk about it in a positive way. This is the magic sauce. All feedback is framed as a learning opportunity to do a better job. Learning from failure sounds so harsh. We’re not failing, we’re just looking for improvement. That is, how can we improve the system so that we don’t have that happen again? What was stupid hard to do this week and how can we make it easier?
None of the above could happen if we didn’t expect each other to do it. We share a common goal. We don’t expect perfection because we know robotic people aren’t magic. We have to be fearless in our honesty with each other. And in pursuit of that goal, we acknowledge that everyone takes turns in getting a hand up when they fall down. The best possible way to keep things from slipping is to demonstrate trust and kindness. All of the above things have to be in place for this to happen. This is where it’s all tied together, but also it’s the hard line that keeps this whole show on the road.