Category Archives: Team Building

How to Stay Resilient When Working for a Start-Up

How to Stay Resilient When Working for a Start-Up

For many, working at a start-up is a dream come true because they have the chance to help build a company from the ground up while being part of something special. Many start-ups also offer a relaxed workplace and flexible hours, which employees see as positives. The Bay Area where Leadership Development Institute is located and Silicon Valley are some of the most popular areas for high tech startups.

At the same time, start-ups come with a lot of uncertainty and increased workloads, which can bring about stress.

Whether you’re an employee or a manager at a start-up, you’ll want to explore the following ways to stay resilient during the organization’s first few years.

What to Expect While Working for a Start-up

There are positives to working for a newer company, but there are also some drawbacks of which you’ll have to be aware. For starters, you can expect to have a heavier workload than usual because there is so much work to get done. In addition, since the company won’t have a bunch of managers overseeing your every move, you’ll be on your own for a lot of it. That type of work environment is a perk for many, but it also means that you’ll have to keep yourself motivated, often while working long hours.

Another thing to keep in mind is the lack of job security. About 90% of start-ups fail within their first three years. Therefore, the numbers aren’t on your side and you could find yourself without a job sooner, rather than later. The lack of security combined with a lower salary than you’d earn when working for a more established company can lead to anxiety for some, making it hard to keep a positive mindset.

How You Can Help Yourself

Of course, you should do everything in your power to stay resilient and keep yourself on track in your new work environment. Start by building and maintaining friendships and relationships by spending plenty of time with family and friends and developing friendships with your new work colleagues. Having relationships with other people who are in the same position allows you to lean on each other when times get tough.

Try to stay positive. While you’ll surely come across some issues when working with a start-up, treat these issues as a learning experience, rather than a significant problem. Even if you make a mistake, it provides you with a golden opportunity to learn from your actions, giving you a better idea of how to react the next time you encounter a similar situation.

Keeping a positive attitude will also help you to avoid turning small obstacles into a crisis. Maintaining the proper perspective and realizing that not every mistake is a life-changing issue will help you to keep an even keel. Your initial reaction to a dilemma can quickly blow the problem out of proportion, so try to stay calm.

Part of staying calm involves not getting too down on yourself when you make a mistake. Errors happen on every job, so try to focus on all of the things you’ve done right, rather than the one thing you’ve done wrong. Once again, it’s all a learning experience, and you’re sure to make fewer mistakes as time passes.

Take the time to manage your stress. You’re going to get tired, overworked, or run down if you don’t give yourself some space to recharge. Allow yourself regular breaks, and try to avoid staying late every evening. It’s always tempting to stick around the office to catch up on some work after everyone has gone home, but you’re likely to burn yourself out if you do this regularly. Also, if you take a holiday, be sure to leave work behind and enjoy your vacation. This time away allows you to recharge and come back with more energy and resiliency.

How the Company Can Help Employees

It shouldn’t be entirely up to employees of a start-up to manage their mental health, as high-ups within the organization should take an active role in the process. If you’re a manager, start by encouraging physical well-being within your workers. Provide healthy snacks, promote bike-to-work weeks, change the workplace culture regarding smoking and drinking, and create an altogether pleasant and psychologically healthy environment.

Managers can also implement an open management style that will breed trust from employees. Being completely transparent about the state of the company and its future can help workers avoid the anxiety that goes along with blindly plugging away at a start-up without knowing where it is heading.

Try varying the workloads of employees, so they don’t get overwhelmed. Seeing the light at the end of a long tunnel of work can provide peace of mind for workers, especially those who see the files continue to pile up on their desks without any break in sight. Training team members in different skills and allowing them to use these skills can also help because it enables them to break away from the monotony.

Finally, make sure you treat your employees fairly, provide them with the space to do their jobs, offer a flexible work environment, and reward them for their hard work, as these small things can encourage loyalty and make the company a better place to work.

If you’re struggling to implement a positive workplace culture that will provide resiliency at your start-up, the Leadership Development Institute can help. LDI’s executive coaching services can teach you how to reduce stress and anxiety in your employees while promoting an attractive office environment.

Work Stress and the Type A Behavior Pattern

We have seen a disturbing pattern in our coaching practice over the past 2 years of people in their 30’s and 40’s becoming seriously ill. Everything from heart attacks, cancer diagnoses, auto immune diseases, chronic migraine headaches, etc.

Generically what we’ve witnessed are people who have been under chronic stress with no let up for a period of several years. Specifically what we are very clear about is that the people who have become sick are very much engaged in the Type A behavior pattern(TABP).

Clinical research that has been replicated from all over the globe tells us that there is a correlation between this behavior pattern and the early onset of coronary artery disease. There are two pieces of good news here, not all Type A’s get coronary artery disease and this is a behavior pattern that can be changed. Twenty years ago I led Type A behavioral change research groups for Meyer Friedman, the research cardiologist who co-founded the behavior pattern. During that time we saw many people change the behavior pattern and ultimately have even more work success and a better quality of life.

So the big question here is, are you or those around you chronically engaged in this behavior pattern? Let me share with you a few of the major components and then ask some diagnostic questions.

Major Components of the Type A Behavior Pattern

1. Chronic Sense of Time Urgency – you are always in a hurry even when it is not necessary, consistently racing against the clock, struggling to do more and more in less time.

2. Indiscriminate Competitiveness – you make everything a competition, at work, on the highway and certainly any sports or games you may play.

3. Compulsive Achievement Striving – what you achieve is never good enough and you are constantly striving to achieve more and more…..YOU LIVE HERE!

Are You Type A?

1. As you read this post were you hurrying through it and/or doing something else at the same time?

2. Do you become easily irritated waiting in lines or when stuck in traffic?

3. Do you become easily irritated or aggravated if things don’t go as you think they should?

4. Do you react with agitation over the trivial mistakes of others.

If some of these Type A components seem familiar to you and you answered yes to 2-3 of the questions then you are probably pretty engaged in this behavior pattern in a significant way.

Many men in particular have expressed to us that they are Type A and wear it as a badge of honor in the workplace. They also believe that it is the reason they are successful. What we have seen over the course of 15 years of coaching executives is that this behavior pattern frequently becomes a derailer as they move up in an organization. In essence what was once tolerated and rewarded is now seen as unacceptable at the executive level.

This post will be the first in a series of posts on this topic. We’ll look at how this behavior pattern shows up at work and at home and what you can do to change.

Be a Better Meeting Facilitator

We all spend more time in meetings than we would prefer to and for most of us they are energy depleting and at best moderately productive. Here are 3 simple suggestions that might improve the quality of the meetings you facilitate.

1. Give Each Agenda Item an Objective

Essentially what are we trying to accomplish with each agenda item? The objective for each agenda item can be provided by the meeting owner or the person who asked to have a particular item on the agenda. To get a bit granular for the moment we would even propose that the Objective for each agenda item be printed right next to it. This gives people a visual reminder of what they need to focus on and what they’re here to get done.

There are generally 4-5 Objectives for typical agenda items in a business meeting:

  1. Make decisions
  2. Share information
  3. Advance the thinking on a specific issue
  4. Create buy-in
  5. Obtain input

When meeting facilitators have implemented this technique we have observed a much more focused discussion with a clearer sense of purpose.

2. Bypass the Two-Person Meeting

The most prominent thing we see in meetings today is two people going one on one with each other while others sit outside of this process and observe. Sometimes it is a healthy discussion, in most cases it a debate driven by a healthy dose of egos. More often than not it includes the meeting facilitator and someone else. Getting drawn into this kind of extended exchange has happened to all of us at one time or another.

Here are some ideas on how to shift things in the moment:

  1. Remind yourself that your job is not to win a debate
  2. “Go to the balcony” – a mental model that let’s you become an observer of your own behavior  for a moment and helps you to self-correct
  3. Leverage the brain power in the room – call on others to weigh in with their perspective
  4. Create a mental metric – once you’ve heard yourself say the same thing twice let that be a cue to step out of this non-productive exchange

Navigating meetings as the meeting owner can be treacherous at times. Keep in mind that by their very nature meetings are imperfect and you too will sometimes be imperfect.

3. Make Asks of People

We hear less and less ASKS being made of people in meetings. Good asks drive results, bring greater clarity, commitment, engagement and infuse more vitality into meetings.

Here are some ASKS that can bring more of the elements mentioned above:

  1. Ask for someone to weigh in
  2. Ask for a different perspective
  3. Ask for someone to play devils advocate
  4. Ask for someone to provide guidance
  5. Ask for a commitment
  6. Ask for someone to follow up
  7. Ask for buy-in

The list of Asks is endless and we hope we’ve sparked your thought process here.

Meetings are hard. We “live” in meetings. These are some ideas we hope you find helpful. Please share your ideas with the rest of us.

Jeff and Karen