Simple ways entrepreneur can check team’s attitude : Go incommunicado for a day

At a startup, it is very important to evaluate the attitude of your employees and work on the short-comings, during the early period of their employment.

In a country like India, where working in a startup is still not a “cool” thing, it is very hard to recruit people who already have the mind-set and right attitude. Such people are extremely difficult to find or come with a heavy price-tag.

The only way for a startup like ours, is to recruit people from relevant industry or even from non-relevant industry, with right attitude and then train them.

But is as difficult, as it was easy to be said. At Vikreyta, our 2 Years and 4 months old, zero inventory, e-commerce company, it took us more than 4 months to hire our first employee.

Within couple of months, we hired 7 employees and started the exercise of evaluating the attitude of employees whom we hired after great expense of money (paying to consultants) and time.

The reason to do is to, cut any loss, as soon as possible. In a startup, where resource is scarce, it is extremely important to evaluate early, whether you made the right kind of bet or not.The guy who comes across right in a one hour interview, may not be a long term fit eventually.

So for the first couple of months, while we trained the 7 guys in every aspect important to the operation and running of the company, we also kept a very open eye, on their attitude.

Were their attitude was developing the way, the company wanted? Was their attitude changing pro to the company, with the passage of time, or was it going the wrong way?

This exercise was done over a period of time, in small and simple steps, and here we would like to share the details. The utility which we took heavy use is of is Google Docs. Almost the entire work was done on Google Docs. It helped us in calibrating the time spent by each of the person, while doing tasks delegated to them.

The biggest strength of a fledgling startup team, is the quantum of ownership with which they work every single day. And the quantum of ownership and other related attitudes like initiative/dedication/working independently without constant supervision can be gauged by below exercises and observations, over a period of time.

Our existing team already knows now that this exercise was done with them, so this can be shared out now for the benefit of others.

Exercise 1

Tell the team, you would be coming late to the office (Come pretty late, almost at the fag end of regular working hours).

Observations to make

1. Are the tasks done by each member are same in quantum, when you were present in the office?
2. Who has produced the maximum output, and who has produced the minimum?
3. The guy who has produced the max output, is it his normal performance, or below performance?
4. The guy who produced the min output , is it his normal performance, or below performance?
5. Was any kind of assistance solicited by the guy who produced the minimum output, by way of SMS/Call to you?
6. What was the average per unit time spent on a single pending task by each of the members? More than usual or was it as usual?
7. What was the usual length of Tea-breaks/Lunch-breaks in your absence? More than usual or the usual one?
PS: Repeat this exercise at least 3 times and compare notes from each of the separate exercise.

Exercise 2

Tell the team, you are going out of town and for next one week, they are on their own. Delegate the task each morning via SMS (preferably) and do not pick any calls from the team (work on SMS).

Observations to make

1. The day you do not delegate the task via SMS, do you get a prompt/reminder from the team for the task of the day?
2. Who gives you the prompt/reminder to delegate the task, in case you have deliberately missed it?
3. Is this the same guy/person always to give you a prompt?
4. How many times each person seeks your guidance/advice on SMS during this 7 day period?
5. Are the tasks being completed everyday without even your single intervention, on a day-to-day basis for 7 days?
6. What is the time the clock-in and clock-out time is being recorded by each person of your team?
7. If the task is going to take more than a day, do you get informed of the quantum of task completed that day, before the person calls-it-a-day at office and clocks-out?
8. On two days out of 7, ask the team to find out and complete the task on their own which they seem has been left out for a while. Who takes the initiative? Is it a team decision? How many persons successfully implement the task on those two days? What was the average time spent on that task, basis on the average capability observed earlier of that person?
9. What are the average breaks timings? Tea and Lunch?
10. Ask some of your friends to call at the office number, making some enquiry? At least 5 calls in one week. Who picks these calls? Are those calls picked and answered with the same urgency and passion as when you are there in office (Your friends should give you a very frank view)? Are those calls being picked by same usual persons?

Exercise 3

Become incommunicado for a day, at least once a month from morning till night. Keep your phone switched-on, though.

Observations to make

1. Does the company operations run as usual without you, even being in contact?
2. What are the tasks completed those day? Are the pending tasks of the day before completed?
3. Who takes the initiative, if any issue had come up?
4. How many SMS (Since you are not picking calls) you get from each person asking, “Where are you?”
5. Who gets frantic?
6. Do people ask to leave early from work, giving one excuse or other? Who is this guy? How does he fare on previous exercises?

PS: This may not work for large startups or who are already established, but still in one way or another, you can use these observations and exercises in tits-and-bits.

Also, this exercise should complement the observations you have made on a day-to-day basis and should not be taken as a stand-alone one.

The wealth of psychological information that you get from detailed analysis of above observations will help you identify the mis-fit very early, and cut the loss.

In our case, we had to say goodbye to two people from our seven member team. It was difficult, but now we know that existent team is now more dependable and fit for the company, compared to previous one.

[Guest article by Abhishek Rai, founder of Vikreyta.]

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