Human Issues in StartUps
This is just a list of human- challenges that we all face in any organization, but they tend to be/get a bit more ‘escalated’ in Startup environments, especially if it is your first Startup experience.
The 1-to-1 Challenges
These are issues that your employees or colleagues, or vendors, or subcontractors, or ever yourself might have.
- Motivation. Whatever you do in a Startup, you will eventually be in a place where you do have to motivate people at all levels. Don't blame them for having any motivation or been unproductive and -please- don’t kill the motivation of your new hires!
- Difficult personalities. Maybe you have a magic wand... I have always found it extremely time- and emotionally consuming to deal with such people in a Startup environment; there is no time to babysit Divas or people who are so much pleased with themselves or people who fight/ resist any change (even in deadlines). High performers who are high maintenance, might ‘wear’ you down. Flexibility and adaptability are the ‘name of the game’ in the daily routine operations of every Startup.
- Dealing with negative people. This is possibly my own Achilles-heel. Especially in innovative / new technology projects where no one has a clue on how to proceed, having negative people and trying to motivate them or even convince them to do their assigned task is a challenge; after years and years of such experience, I have no solution/ recommendation/ advice for that, nor have I ever met anyone who has. You really want to have to manage only with optimists who go on with a ‘baby step’ at a time, while dealing with new stuff… it’s the old saying that "on top on a giant, one can see further than the giant". Said in other words, if you make a step ahead in an unknown technological or innovative project, your gut- feeling and sense of how to continue does get improve.
- Feedback rejection. Possibly a combination of the 2 above: people whom you either constantly have to correct or who do not accept any feedback from you or other experienced professionals. Stubborn people belongs also in this ‘category’. Some dominant personalities, unfortunately, end up behaving like stubborn people, even though they have very different personality traits.
- Incompetent people. These are colleagues who deliver sub par quality of work or they can’t deliver anything on time or according to instructions and specifications.
- Unethical behaviour. One of my favourite examples is that of an ex-colleague who was paying another colleague (who was in desperate need of money) to do part of her programming/coding tasks (yes, things like that are not kept secret for long).
- ‘Dependence’/ Lack of confidence & initiative. Imagine an excellent -skill wise- employee/ colleague, who has to check with you every few minutes if something is correct or done the way you want to or asks what to do next.
- Disrespect and lack of appreciation (and tolerance) of another culture (e.g. religion/ ethic origin/ ‘whatever’ difference) and all sorts of ‘hate- behavior’. That will kill team alignment and function/ cooperation. Also, politics and sexual preferences are part of it (you have no right to judge a colleague who has a different sexual orientation than you do- just because we might not understand something might not be for us, we have no right to disrespect it).
- Interpersonal and all sorts of conflicts. Well… some people love conflicts and are good in starting fires. It might be your responsibility to deal with all that stuff, especially if it is your company.
- Financial issues- that can be an unexpected and unwelcomed and unjustifiable demand for salary increase or sudden bonus, or some other unforeseen expense; or even a misunderstanding from either part that has a financial element (e.g. demand for approval of pizza/food compensation by someone had to stay late at work and missed his/her home- meal).
- Delegation & Micromanagement.
- Letting ‘Go’ of things. Sometimes, people have issue of letting- go of an idea or a task/ project/ process or anything that has not worked out or performed as originally planned. The Let-Go Mentality is a Must in any Startup.
The 1-to-Many (You-to-Team) Challenges
- Motivation. Yes, teams need to be motivated too
- Creating and communication a clear Team Vision and Delivery Tasks
- Trust among team members and real team- spirit (avoidance of Silo- mentalities)
- Team Focus and Accountability. So important and so underrated!
- Team Conflicts (we are talking about big fires here).
- Geographies of today. Most people are not equipped nor experienced to handle a geographically dispersed team and they have no clue on how to manage Virtual Teams (think of teams with 5 members in 5 different time-zones). Well, these are the realities of today.
- Adaptability/agility to changes.
- Organizational Politics.
- Lack of willingness to cooperate with people from other teams or the other teams themselves
- Unclear decision-making mechanisms, roles & authorities, and accountability within the team
These 2 lists above, are by no means exhausting. There are here just to create awareness. And for each of these topics there are books and books and books written about addressing them.
But, there is no way that you will start your own company/organization or that you will be joining one and that you will not face any of these things and invest lots of time addressing and resolving them.
And No… you can’t go around firing and replacing people in the delicate phases of the Startup Voyage (Proof of Concept and Pilot Projects, Alpha and Beta Product Deliveries, etc). You don’t change crew ‘while at sea’ – you reach your destination first. (ok, there are always some exceptions at times - we all know that).
Thank you and Good Luck.
About the Author: Spiros Tsaltas, a Top-Tier Management Consultant and a former University Professor (RSM MBA, CUNY, etc), is a seasoned Technology & Operations Executive. Spiros has hands-on experience on setting up all sorts of Startups both in the US and in Europe. He is an active transformational leader and strategist with extensive experience on Boards of Advisors & Boards of Directors. He is currently assisting a couple of Ghanaian and other West African StartUps and SMEs with the setup of their Boards and Strategy items.
Spiros welcomes any feedback/ comments/ remarks/ suggestions via your email message to Spir[email protected]
© 2017 Spiros Tsaltas.