When is enough enough vs. when is it time to motivate the team?


January 28th, 2016

It's been a topic of discussion at my founder meetings lately. 

Founders do more. We know this. From cleaning the garbage to ordering the pizza to picking out the components to hiring. But, there is also a team effort. 

However, if too much is on their shoulders, resentment sets in and can cause not only burnout but issues with the entire team.

Founders are supposed to keep the project moving forward, but what happens when it becomes at the expense of their health and they wind up doing other people's work to make the deadline? I've seen it happen, but I haven't seen any good tactics for holding together an unpaid team when deadlines approach.

When is enough enough vs. when is it about motivating the team? TELL YOUR STORY! 

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Edwin Hoogerbeets Founder at Translation Circle

January 28th, 2016

If you haven't listened to the podcasts from Seth Godin's Startup School, you should. The format is a little disorganized, but there are a lot of gems in it.

One thing that resonated with me is when he said that your goal as a founder should be to replace yourself. At first, you are ordering the pizza. Someone else can do that easily. That's not hard. Then, you are making sure the engineers are taken care of. Yes, you can hire managers to do that. Then, it gets really hard. You have to relinquish control over the product and let someone else do that. I know I've struggled with it, but there will be a day when I don't specify what the UI should look like and the features we should implement. I have to learn to trust and guide. I'm not there yet, but I'm working on it!

I constantly have to remind myself what my value is to the organization. Am I the pizza-happy-maker-do-everything guy, or the guy that leads us all to greatness by inspiring others follow my vision and then trusting them to do it?

I figure if I am not getting everything done, it's either time to hire and inspire, or time to prioritize. Or both.

Gabor Nagy Founder / Chief architect at Skyline Robotics

January 28th, 2016

It's a tricky issue because as founders, no one is more motivated / obsessed with the product and the company as ourselves.
You can find great people who love the job and if you're lucky, you might even be able to pay them big bucks.
But, as founders, the company is our "baby" and raising your own kids is not the same as being around nieces or nephews, let alone babysitting a stranger's kid for money. No matter how cute...
My best advice is to look for people who do similar projects as a passion/hobby, when nobody is watching and nobody is paying for it!
It guarantees not only that they are really good at it, but that they absolutely love it.
So, if/when I look for people, I don't care about resumes or degrees.
Show me your hobby projects!
If I'm impressed, I'll take you over someone with 3 PhDs, even if you only finished high school.
I don't even care if someone can write code on a whiteboard.
I think, the very idea of whiteboard coding interviews, is dumb.
I don't want people to rush code. I want them to think it through. For a day, a week, but make it perfect.
I know people who had single-handedly created huge, complex applications, with cutting-edge algorithms, but they could not whiteboard-code to save their lives.
And I know people who are great at white board coding, but are completely useless for designing complex systems.
Bottom line: motivation has to come from within. If you absolutely can not motivate someone, it's probably time to look for someone who's happy to do it.
And that goes double, if you can't pay them!

Atanas Stoyanov

January 29th, 2016

It's not just about the founders - in every department/company you will have a few people that will do 90% of the work and advance the company. 
This is especially true for programming, where the superstars are 100x more productive than the average programmers. 
Enough is enough when the productive people (you as a founder included) get significantly bothered (I had people mentoring me how I should work less, while I hadn't slept for 48hrs finishing their own delayed tasks) - at this point don't feel guilty and get rid of the dead weight. 
From your post, it seems you are at this point (significantly bothered, to the point you are spending extra time to post here and look for a way to resolve the issue) - just ask the person to find another job. There are plenty of employment opportunities outside of startups, where the workload is more balanced.

Robert Beaven Managing Director - Jennifer Brown Consulting

January 29th, 2016

There is some great advice above.  If I am reading the initial post correctly, the challenge is motivating unpaid or people/employees that are boot-strapping the organization.  Having dealt with this exact issue, as well as having some similar challenges, I found that creating a candid environment from the very beginning is extremely important.  There must be trust from the onset along with some passion for what you are trying to build.  By being an authentic leader and follower it can help create a sense of self-worth and allows your team to feel valued and heard, something that is important, paid or not.  Additionally, I have asked my team what their strengths and weaknesses were, as well as their 'dream role'.  By doing so allows you (the founder/leader) to advise them as to the expectations you have as well as working towards their goal of doing what they love.

Antonio Espeleta Profissional de Pesquisa

February 1st, 2016

I have experienced that without a good motivation, not will be highly efficient.
The motivation starts from the leadership. It must be  something contagious.
If the leadership is abble to contagiate the team, challenging things can be reached by the team. If there is few or no motivation, ever sigle things will be done.
A good story about that are the Germans. They reached incredible things because of the motivation of their leaders in the ww II period. I'm nothing defending their intention, that were too bad, I'm talking about motivation that can drive you to  good or bad things, doesn't matter.
The most important center of trechnological evolution in any time that I know, was Peenemunde. It was the origin of NASA and it's leader, Wernher von Braun
was the leader of NASA until he died.
The opposite example is Brasil, that is divided and going to nowhere.

Liza Taylor Communication Specialist at Keyideas Infotech

January 29th, 2016

I totally Agree. Founders need to give sufficient space to their employees. Doing the brick work for them, won't make any difference either. Maximum space needs to be given so that employees would be able to think freely and independently. As a founder, one needs to be clear about the kind of resources that he or she is hiring. Always hire a resource where you lack most. This is the best hiring advice for founders and we just can't afford to have many people doing the same thing, especially in a startup. 

I hope this helps. 

David Pariseau

January 29th, 2016

In my experience, if you have the right team then you have to put the structure in place to support them doing their job (that means making the tools, resources, space available and defining a clear schedule/roadmap and leading the charge (if that's also your role)).   If you don't have the right team (or holes in theam) then I don't think there's anything you can do.  You wind up bending over backwards trying to coax, cajole and support and it never seems to make any difference.  Sometimes your stuck (in the short term) with the team you have but if you feel that way then start looking around for replacements as soon as you can afford to.