Tips for building a team from a Microsoft veteran

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Julie Larson-Green Brad Barket/Getty Images for WIRED

Building a team is the critical success factor for an entrepreneur. No matter how great your idea you are going to need help turning that idea into a product and bringing it to market. And the number one investment criterion for almost all investors is the quality of the team.

But how do you go about building a team?Julie Bort’s article, from Business Insider, Microsoft veteran Julie Larson-Green is known for building successful teams — here’s how she does it has some excellent tips for team building. 

Julie Larson-Green spent 25 years at Microsoft, rising to executive vice president and chief experience officer. She lead teams for products used by billions of people every day including Office, Windows, Internet Explorer, Xbox and Surface.

I’m going to list her tips, annotated with my comments.

1. Stay curious about what other people think. One problem that founders have is that they tend to hire people just like themselves, which is understandable but doesn’t build diversity and worst case can lead to a mono-culture. Look for team members with different viewpoints and perspective. As Alan Kay, renowned computer scientist has said, “Perspective is worth 80 IQ points.”

2. Help people focus on what they uniquely bring to table.  The first step in building a team is your organizational design. What roles do you need to fill? Once you decide on that, look for people who excel in those roles, whether it be engineering or sales. In the very early days of any startup the founder or founders of necessity have to fill multiple roles. But to scale you need experts in every area. It’s then the CEO’s job to help those experts mesh, so the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

3. Don’t force people to work too hard on their weaknesses. This is a lesson I learned from Bill Warner, founder of Avid Technology. I remember remarking to him that I felt I needed to be stronger in finance, I never had any formal training in finance or accounting. Bill’s retort was that I shouldn’t waste my time trying to build up my weaknesses, I should concentrate on my strengths. I could always hire an experienced CFO or accountant when needed. Julie Larson-Green says, Make sure your employees are giving their “exponential effort on the things they like to do,” she said. “If they are working super hard on the things they are not super good at, it takes a lot of more effort.”

4. Give everyone room to shine. As founder and leader of the team it’s your job to set the goals and communicate the goals clearly to everyone. But you need to leave it up to the team as to how to get the job done. Thus each one can take ownership of the parts of the task they do well. This creates less competition on the team and a more collaborative style, said Julie Larson-Green.

Author: Mentorphile

Mentor, coach, and advisor to entrepreneurs, small businesses, and non-profit organizations. General manager with significant experience in both for-profit and non-profit organizations. Focus on media and information. On founding team of four venture-backed companies. Currently Chairman of Popsleuth, Inc., maker of the Endorfyn app for keeping fans updated on new stuff from their favorite artists.

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