MPW Insider is an online community where the biggest names in business and beyond answer timely career and leadership questions. Today’s answer for:How do you build a strong team? is written by Julia Hartz, co-founder and president of Eventbrite.
The majority of our happiness at work is determined by the people who surround us. Strong teams produce more content, launch more products and sign more contracts. And most importantly, they have fun doing it. Being productive at work is rewarding, and feeling supported, challenged and appreciated allows us to be our most efficient selves. Whether you’re a founder, a leader or an individual contributor, building a strong team is critical to your success.
Find employees who complement your skills
Co-founders shouldn’t excel in the same areas–it’s inefficient and will inevitably lead to conflicts down the road. When we founded Eventbrite in 2006 our team consisted of three co-founders: Kevin, Renaud and I. We were all proficient in very different areas of the business, so when the rubber met the road we were able to get from point A to point B three times faster. Kevin focused on product, Renaud built the site and I ran marketing, customer support and finance. We separated the responsibilities to drive optimum efficiency and, in turn, we were successful. However, even though we built a product that had traction, we quickly realized that our knowledge in core areas could only take us so far. After 18 months, we hired our first handful of employees, who were experts in areas we were not. This diversity allowed us to continue successfully growing our business.
Hire the right people
Hiring is a critical long-term decision typically made in a short timeframe. Patty McCord, who served as Netflix (NFLX) chief talent officer for 12 years, gave me a great piece of advice in terms of hiring: first identify the problem you’re solving and then outline the skills you need to solve the problem. It’s only after this that you can start thinking about hiring. Ultimately, every team member will shape the company culture, so recruit people who share your values. At Eventbrite, we look for three key attributes: grit, collaboration and curiosity. When the going gets tough, people with grit always find a way to push through. They’re creative, scrappy, energetic and determined. And they’re never overwhelmed by the possibility of failure. Teams reach goals faster by working together. The best “Britelings” (aka our internal name for employees) crave to know more about our business and the surrounding landscape.
Be transparent from the beginning
Small teams can access context at any time. But as a company grows, it’s surprisingly easy for communication channels to get “gummed” up. Less communication, less transparency, and less trust–this can happen in quick succession if it’s not prevented from day one. Once trust is lost, it’s even harder to regain. Build trust from the beginning by maintaining open and transparent communication, allowing everyone to have access to all information.
For example, Kevin and I host weekly Q&A’s with the entire company called “Heart to Hartz.” It’s my favorite time of the week. We share company news, metrics and answer questions. We also host a weekly “Heart to Hartz” with our seven remote offices. Each team presents a highlight and challenge of the week and we encourage employees to present new ideas. Because we’ve been able to build a trusting culture, Kevin and I feel comfortable sharing both good and bad news with our entire team.
I’m a strong believer in meritocracy. A meritocratic culture enables the greatest talent, and makes your job as a leader more enjoyable. A strong team requires strong results. Value and recognize employees who consistently produce, rather than those who are in the office the longest.
Empower your team
Ideas are stronger when cultivated by a team, not a single individual. A company’s culture is most authentic when it’s a manifestation of the entire team, rather than top-down management. Allow your team to express their opinions and provide constructive criticism. Does someone have a great idea? Lean in and support them. Does an individual on your team see an opportunity? Empower them to make it happen.
Be open to giving (and receiving) feedback
Strong teams must grow and evolve forward together. How? By giving and receiving constant feedback. Build a company culture where giving positive and constructive feedback is encouraged. And leaders should be open to receiving feedback, too. Ask your team for specific ways you can improve the business. At Eventbrite, we meet weekly for one-on-ones, where we celebrate achievements, work through challenges and suggest areas for improvement. These open and honest conversations allow us to perform better as a team and avoid any elephants in the room.