Let me guess…
You sense God calling you to start a venture that will help people in your community. You’ve felt this way for some time. But each time you think about it, you stop short on how to pull it off…. partly because you know that it’s going to take more than just you to do it right.
You’re going to need a team.
Now, you’ve probably watched great teams do great things.
Think about your daughter’s soccer team and how Jennifer’s mom works miracles with 7-year-old girls.
Not in my wildest dreams.
Think about Elon Musk and his teams at SpaceX who build reusable rockets.
Thinking about recruiting and building a great one seems daunting, and you may wonder if the ROI is worth it.
Having worked with hundreds of teams in our StartNew process and in churches and nonprofits for the last 30 years, we can confidently say that yes, your return on investment is definitely worth it as long as you avoid the pitfalls and lay the right foundation.
Don’t just recruit your friends. There’s a good chance one or more of your friends should be on your team. They probably share some common values or else you wouldn’t count them as friends. But, being a friend doesn’t necessarily mean they deserve a chair. Dial back your enthusiasm for your golf buddy before you dial his number.
Don’t be clueless about your own values and gifts. A team rises or falls on the leader. A leader knows what needs to be done, why it needs to be done, and how to gather the resources to get it done. “Why?” is a values question. And the number one resource is the gifts of the leader. When you are unclear about the values driving your life and the gifts God has given you to accomplish your calling, you bring confusion to the team before it ever gets out of the gate.
Don’t elevate your gifts over your team members’. You need clarity and confidence … and humility. You’re responsible for the team and its direction. You’re also responsible for making sure that everyone on your team feels valued. They will sense if you’re simply using them or if you truly believe God brought them to your team to make a significant contribution. Elevating team members appropriately is an art. But it can’t happen when you’re the only one who gets the spotlight.
Don’t fail to “just be” in the midst of all the “doing.” Many starters are task-oriented people. They enjoy checking off lists and tackling hard problems. In the process, they often forget to invest in the people helping them take the hill. Simply catching up or talking shop fails to fit into their “gotta get stuff done” framework. But it’s so necessary. When a person doesn’t feel connected relationally, their heart doesn’t fully invest.
Don’t go a week without checking in. Early on, you’ll probably work on your venture in the evenings and on weekends. Your team might be working on more of a volunteer basis than paid, which means other causes occupy the minds of your teammates. When you fail to connect, weekly momentum decreases, and frustration increases. Questions go unanswered and wrong impressions fester.
Don’t forget to have fun and laugh. This could have been included in the “being” paragraph above. I’ve found it too important to be relegated to a sub bullet, however. Wonderful things happen when people laugh and play. For one, it increases the joy quotient which increases job satisfaction. It also creates more room for difficult conversations because you’ve built a joy base.
Don’t stop praying together. I saved the last of the Don’ts list for the most important. Having fun together is only part of creating a solid team. Cementing that team also involves sharing pain. Prayer provides that forum. It also reminds your team that you are all connected to the Creator of the universe who not only hears your needs, but also provides for them. Often miraculously. Knowing this will lead to confidence when you hit rocky patches.
Do know yourself. Building a great team begins with building a great you. That’s why our StartNew process starts with you. What do you value? What are you passionate about? What do you enjoy doing? What are you good at? Your values will steer and shape both the team’s values and your venture’s values. They will also trigger anger when broken, and fulfillment when carried out. Your strengths and joy-bringers will allow you to excel both emotionally and productively. Knowing yourself is so critical for building a team that we designed our StartNew Assessment for this very purpose. It measures over 3,000 behavioral traits in a brief 30 minutes, identifying what you enjoy doing, as well as the weaknesses you need a team to strengthen.
Do answer “Why do I need a team?” No one wants to be a stand-in. Everyone wants to make a significant contribution to a successful cause. When you recruit me on your team, I want to know what the “Big Why” is — what’s the overarching cause we are tackling? What will I be able to contribute to the success of the cause? What do you see in me that led you to me? Be specific here. Talk overall impact, yes, but also talk about granular gifts and abilities. Share how each person will bring the strength and ability you lack. Let humility shine here!
Do answer “What is the team going to do?” This answer is critical for recruiting and for long-term success. I’ve found that teams fall into one of two camps — a team is a design team or an execution team. Think of concept-to-design and build-to-launch. Architect or contractor? Obviously, you’ll do a little bit of both. But one will take priority over the other. This also allows you to set realistic expectations of time commitment and accountability.
Do create a list of gifts and strengths needed. Once you know yourself, you’ll also know your weaknesses. That’s where you need teammates to bring their strengths. Starting ventures always involves risk and chaos. Assuming you’re ok with risk and love some chaos, you’ll want at least one strong team member who is risk averse. They should balance you out and protect you from yourself. You’ll also need someone who brings order to your chaos. Order and organization allow people to contribute effectively. Ensure your list has both external facing and internal facing people. External facing people are looking outside: building crowds and a following, managing sales and marketing. Internal facing people focus on product or service design: they ensure you can deliver what you promise and enjoy being behind a computer cranking out work.
Ask Jesus to bring leaders to mind.
Now get out a sheet of paper. Spend time in prayer and reflection asking Jesus to bring to mind leaders who could fill the needed slots on the team. Note that they are leaders. Not simply “doers.” They have influence and followers. They share your passion. They mitigate your weaknesses. You know if the team is a design team or execution team. Ask God to put names before you. As names come to mind, write them down. Even if you think they’ll say no or are too busy. Let them decide that. Then, allow your list to sit for at least a week. Add to it as other names arise. Keep praying over it.
Do consider character and chemistry. Before finalizing your list, evaluate character and chemistry. You want people who will do what they say they’ll do. You want people whose behavior matches their beliefs and who will leave a great wake of both people and productivity. Think also about how their personality will fit with yours. Try the 8-hour train ride test: “Would I enjoy taking an 8-hour train ride with them?” If not, don’t ask them to be on your team. This team will be too small initially — only 5 people total for flexibility sake — for you to not enjoy being with them. Once you’ve worked through this section, circle the top 4 names. That will be a nice size team to start with.
Do make the ask. Prime the pump by sending an email or text asking for at least 30 minutes to share with them. “I have something I’m starting and would love for you to join me. Could we meet for 45 minutes or so to talk about it?” Preferably over coffee or a meal. At the face-to-face meeting, be ready to share: Why? What? Why them? How long? Why are you building this team — what’s the cause? What will the team be doing? Why do you want them on the team? What strengths and abilities do you see in them that will be critical for the team’s success? For how long do you want them to serve? Give them no more than a week to decide. Follow back up with them if you don’t hear back by then.
Do have a great first meeting with your team. Yay! You’re off to the races. Start by having everyone share their background — family, occupation, longevity in your org — and their answer to the question, “Why I’m here.” Don’t let them answer, “Because Bill asked me.” They need to answer what about this team led them to say yes. Set a time limit here and enforce it. 3-5 minutes per person. Then review your answers to “Why? What? Why them?” As you’re sharing, be sure to ask “What’s confusing? What’s exciting?” Take note of their answers. Decide on a meeting frequency. At least every other week if possible. Weekly, preferably. Discuss the homework — “What should we be doing before our next meeting?” You might already have a book or article you want them to read. Or next steps might have sprung out of the questions they asked. Finally, conclude your meeting with prayer, spending at least 10 percent of your meeting time here. Take prayer requests. Model this for them by asking them for specific, personal prayers. Include prayers for wisdom for the team. Invite a volunteer to lead the prayer, but be ready to step in if no one raises their hand this time.
Recruiting and building teams is hard work. But a great team will multiply your results, bring more joy than headaches, and create friendships for eternity.
Get going! It’s worth it.