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Today’s Question: How do you develop talent and communicate expectations in a startup?

The answers below are provided by members of FounderSociety, an invitation-only organization comprised of ambitious startup founders and business owners.

Michael1. Allow Independence

It is essential that you communicate with your team about your expectations. This sets the baseline. From there, you need to allow team members to work independently where possible. This creates an atmosphere that fosters growth. Allow your team to have the independence to think, create, and learn freely. Providing support to them along the way as needed will also help develop talent.

Michael Rheaume, SnapKnot Inc.

cory2. Hire the Right People

This is where I probably made my biggest mistakes in the startup phase. I didn’t trust anyone to do what I do, so instead of developing talent and hiring the right people in the right places, I took it all on myself.

It slowed my growth and ate into my profit. Have the right people in the right places, and most importantly, make sure they complement what you lack.

Cory Poccia, Mainstream Entertainment Group Inc.

john3. Set Goals

Set ambitious goals for your team members. Don’t just assign yearly goals: Set quarterly milestones so they can continue to develop their skills and pace themselves. Find an experienced employee to mentor team members throughout the year – or, you can do the mentoring yourself. Slowly build up their skills by giving them more challenging tasks and helping them through each challenge. Have weekly check-ins to discuss progress and provide feedback.

John Koht, kohactive

zimin4. Be Vulnerable

Vulnerability creates rapport. Without rapport, expectations become misaligned, which causes friction to occur when things aren’t going well. In this context, developing talent would be the process of setting high expectations that, when unmet, lead to a state of shared vulnerability that empowers team members to grow without resentment or self-doubt.

Zimin Hang, Ultradia

steven5. Don’t Just Manage – Inspire

The best way to foster talent is to develop your own leadership – that is, your communication skills and your ability to inspire. The best leaders don’t just manage: They help people be better than they ever expected they could be. That may sound cliche, but it’s true.

Steven Buchwald, Buchwald & Associates

jessica6. Encourage Learning

At, we believe knowledge can only bring about positive change. Holding an open dialogue that continually broadens the skill sets of our team members keeps employees from getting bored, clarifies expectations, and offers directions toward larger goals. Employees become integral value-adds to the business, and that stimulates retention rates.

Jessica Baker, Aligned Signs

Lisa7. Hold Weekly One-on-Ones

At Kuli Kuli, every person meets with his/her manager for 30-45 minutes each Monday to review last week’s work, create a work plan for the upcoming week, and check-in on the employee’s learning goals. We’ve found these check-ins to be integral to encouraging high productivity and learning.

Lisa Curtis, Kuli Kuli

Adarsh8. Ask Them to Impress You

Communicating the “true” expectations is enough to scare off a lot of new hires. I encourage interviewees to really “wow” me with their code, designs, campaigns, etc. “Really impress me,” I say. “Pretend that you have a large budget. Submit it in a week.” Then, I like to ask if they could actually pull that plan off in one week with no money. That tells me a lot about whether or not they’re ready.

Adarsh Pallian, Trippeo

zac9. Get Everyone on the Same Page

It’s easy to think that a startup is a magical thing that will eventually turn into great success and millions of dollars for everyone. However, this often isn’t the case. To build a successful startup team, everyone must be on the same page and have the same goal in mind. The founder and/or CEO must treat everyone (big or small) with the same value, respect, and expectations.

Zac Johnson,

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