5 Ideas for Building Team Spirit at Your Startup

by Glen Dalakian II, January 22, 2013

Maybe at this point your startup has grown from thought to reality, moving from your apartment into a coworking space, office, or perhaps just a larger apartment. Perhaps you've even expanded beyond one or two founders to managing an actual team that can execute more quickly than you can on your own.

This can be scary, especially if you’ve never managed a team before, or just never managed one in your own startup, or maybe you have but you're looking to motivate them without overriding them, and allow them to focus on a common goal rather than feeling they need to compete for attention.

Whether you want to build camaraderie, make new team members feel welcome and excited about coming to work, or improve work quality, here are a few very simple strategies for making your startup a more enjoyable and productive place to work.


  1. Leave space to create. Ideas can creep up on us. But just as easily as they come, they can disappear in an instant when something else pops into your mind. In every office, it’s a smart idea to have a chalkboard, whiteboard, or easily accessible shared document where team members can just scribble ideas – no matter how small or outlandish. You never know what can come out of it, or if another team member can turn your jumbled thoughts into a usable idea. To encourage creativity, give your team space to think, create, and just doodle.

  2. Build traditions. When I first joined the Wamda team, knowing that I was not at all confident in my Arabic language skills, our CEO Habib Haddad decided to institute Arabic Thursdays. Every Thursday, the team only speaks Arabic and, though I struggle through it, the exercise has really helped me to learn Arabic words related to startups and entrepreneurship that I would never learn in a class. This theme has also inspired some other ideas in the office including Music Mondays and Eat-Out Fridays. Maybe there are some team members who could use some language practice, would benefit from learning other new skills, or should just spend more time with the team. Whatever the case, start instituting some traditions into your startup to make it feel more personal for those participating.

  3. Gamify your life. One major trend popping up across the region, and the globe, is gamifying a user experience to increase activity and interest in your startup. But why not make this an internal practice as well? Whether through incentivizing performance with competitions or offering new software or tools free for team members who prove themselves, gamification can definitely reshape your office culture. One idea could be to make a sort of badge system. For example, if a Wamda article is read in 50 different countries, the author could get a “Global Audience Achievement” and be recognized with a colorful badge explaining the achievement in their online Wamda profile; I know I would want one. Gamification can be equally useful both within and outside a startup.

  4. Check in with your team. Whether weekly, daily, or randomly, it’s important to bring everyone together to share, for just a few minutes, what they have completed recently and what they are working on. I find it strange when organizations don’t bring their team together to share experiences and see what each other are involved in. Sometimes team members may not even know what the person sitting right next to them is supposed to be doing. By sharing with the group, you can identify ways to build each other up, eliminate redundancies, and encourage partnerships by utilizing each other’s expertise, tools, and contacts. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen people hunting down a contact when somebody in the same office has a close friend that can help. Keep an open dialogue with and between your team.

  5. Celebrate often. In the hit U.S. TV series The Office, the party-planning committee is usually wasting time on pointless meetings to decide what kind of cake to get, or even who should be the head of the committee. When one character decides enough is enough and ends partying, the office is furious and morale suffers. Of course The Office is over the top, but there is something to be said for celebrating the good times. Taking entire afternoons off every month for a party may be a bit much, but celebrating successes, recognizing team members for their contribution, and even just high fiving team members for a small job well done can go a long way. Make people feel celebrated when they come to work.

Are there other techniques or traditions you enjoy at your workplace? Share them with the Wamda Community in the comments section below.

NOTE: Photo taken from The Office television series forum.

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Glen is Features Editor at Wamda. You can follow him on Twitter @glenjd2, connect with him on LinkedIn and Google+, or reach him at glen[at]wamda[dot]com.

 
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