Team Building Lessons Learned in Founder Labs

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By Dharini Ramakrishnan (Co-Founder, TetherPad) Over the years, I have worked in a variety of team settings - big and small, culturally diverse, geographically distributed - in large and small companies. I have devised techniques for team building and collaboration. At the beginning of the 5 weeks of Founder Labs, I consciously set aside these techniques and emarked on a journey of discovering what works and what does not work in forming and building a team. Based on my experiences, here is a list of to-dos when it comes to picking your team and working with them. Lesson Learned #1: Most people's technique of selecting team members is to ask themselves "Do I see myself enjoying a couple of beers with this person?". When you are hanging out with friends enjoying a couple of beers, everyone is happy and relaxed. There is no conflict and no decisions to be made other than which bar to go to next. But in real life, there will be tension, conflicting ideas and hard decisions to be made. So, the question to ask yourself is "When the situation demands, can we hear each other out, work together to resolve our differences, and decide on the course of action in a rational manner?"

Lesson Learned #2: Conflict is a good thing. Most team members avoid conflict, at least in the initial stages of team formation. While I do not advocate a shouting match at every meeting, it is best for each team member to voice their opinion and make sure that everyone on their team is heard. And its always a good thing to make it known that you are challenging the idea and not the person voicing the idea.

Lesson Learned #3: At the very first meeting, take some time to establish team guidelines for communication, decision-making and resolving opposing ideas. Document these guidelines for later reference. Believe me, you will need it.

Lesson Learned #4: Surround yourself with team members who understand technology and know what it takes to build a product. In a setting like Founder Labs, you are building a product/service whose very foundation is technology. Surround yourself with team members who understand technology.

Lesson Learned #5: Choose team members who are willing to work outside their comfort zone. The UX desiner may have to code stylesheets, the product person may have to create mock-ups, the engineer may have to do customer interviews. Is each person on the team willing to learn and picth in? I will leave you with one parting thought: It does not matter where the bus goes, it matters who is in the bus.

About the guest blogger: Dharini Ramakrishnan has over 10 years experience building enterprise software products, She has led product development teams in India, China and the US and is passionate about designing great software products that have an impact on people's lives. In 2010, Dharini co-founded Simple.Mobile.Social which builds productivity mobile apps for the long tail market. Dharini holds an M.S in Software Engineering from the University of Minnesota and is currently enrolled in the MBA program at the UC Berkeley Haas School of Business with an emphasis on Marketing and Finance.