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News  11, Feb 2013

Learning how to build a winning team with Professor Tom Kosnik

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Learn from Professor Tom Kosnik on how to build a winning team.

It’s always a pleasure to attend a seminar or an event at NUS, to visit their shiny buildings and benefit their neat organisation It’s even better when you learn practical skills that could be key right when beginning a new project.

Tom Kosnik, a Consulting Professor from the Stanford School of Engineering gave us a quick and ready-to-use checklist to build our winning team. If you consider hiring your brother or make a team out of your dorm’ friends, check this first.

Gear Up

Gear up, a framework and a book to help jump from the idea to real-life venture

1. Get the right people on the bus.

If you’re the evangelist, you need other roles, such as

  • the Administrator to ensure everyone is paid and money is managed diligently,
  • the Producer able to raise money from private equity,
  • the Delivery Man to get things done to the right place on time,
  • the Innovator to provide fresh ideas on the path of starting up,
  • the Talent is the one who gives something unique to the customers,
  • the Coder and the Geek are the technical parts of the team with different characters,
  • the Integrator is the one speaking another language and making people working smoothly together,
  • the Mascot, be it a dog, a tree, or any symbol to federate the good mood of the team.

2. Use talent and trust to pick the team.

Be sure to avoid play mates and prefer, why not, devil’s advocates, and most certainly soul mates. Good ways to practice is taking a sheet of paper and try to fill the “right people” list with people you think of working with. Do you trust them? Are they specialists?

3. Build trust with stakeholders in your venture.

From suppliers to lawyers, investors, past teachers and community, you’ll have to think of efficient ways to get in touch with them on a regular basis so as not to lose this “outer” team

4. Use the “trust spider” to learn how to gain people’s trust.

Integrity, the key feature, is a mix of empathy, inspiration, fairness, reliability, commitment… and chemistry, there has to be this magic between founders and teams to have the venture go well. Different people have different priorities for what it takes to earn their trust. More important, have your potential team members show examples of their top qualities. Try to assess your team mates on this “spider” to be sure you don’t miss anything important in your eyes.

profiles

Who among your acquaintances can fill these roles best?

5. Use a “start-stop-keep” grid to give each other feedback. The idea is to assess for each team member what they should actually start, stop or keep doing.

6. Make a stakeholder analysis by figuring out where and why people may block, let other do, help other do, or make themselves. Check what’s their current and desired position on each of these actions

7. Use 1-to-1 diagnosis to try to bridge the gaps of generation, gender and culture. You may experience discrepancies due to lack of communication, different skills, or even clash of principles, some great tools exist to help with this too.

8. Use the Maslow pyramid to explain what motivates you and ask your team to do the same. Is this guy joining to make a difference or to have fun, does he need a good salary or flexibility and other perks? You have to find the motivations of people so as to provide it within the work environment.

9. Last but not least, get coaching and mentoring from the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Professors, VCs, successful or just fellow entrepreneurs all have a thing to bring to your network, your business plan, and the success of your ventures.

Tom Kosnik

Tom Kosnik also took a few minutes to answer our questions about building teams in Asia.

Q: Tom Kosnik, thanks for your seminar, how would you assess the specificity of building a winning team in Asia?

A: Ventures here have to think global from day one, so if you have a team of 4, you should have 3 nationalities. But this is not specific to Singapore, it must be the same everywhere, including in the US

Q: How to build a winning team… which is able to take risk, as Asian have this reputation to be risk-adverse?

A: Things are changing. Back in the 90s, the culture here was very Confucian, now, thanks the efforts of the government, Singapore is an entrepreneurial place. I was in China a few weeks ago and I never saw people taking so many risks!

Q: What about friendship? We’re in NUS, where students can easily check among friends if they want to build a team. Is that a good idea to hire friends?

A: It really depends on the type of friendship. There’s friends with whom truth can be told, this is key. If you hire friends, pay also attention to the rest of the team, your friendship should not split the team in two.

For more details, check out “Gear up: your best idea ever”, you can have the full version of this book online here too.

About the Author

Martin Pasquier is a social media strategist based in Singapore. He is currently the head of marketing at Crowdonomic and founder and partner at Agence Tesla.

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