The people you work with is one of the main things that makes being involved in a startup so exciting. Everyone becomes like a family and deeply involved in a vision. With so many ups and downs, there are many battles won and much pain endured.
People lean on each other for support, encouragement and advice through each days battles. Anyone who has ever been involved in a startup environment can attest to this. Particularly for anyone who's had to manage a team of individuals in such an environment, there are a few key responsibilities that I firmly believe are specific to a manager.
Keep them out of their comfort zone
In this type of environment, everyone needs to continually push themselves and each other. There is little room for corporate structure or maybes. It's about action and execution. To be able to function like this it is necessary that people are continually pushed outside the edges of their comfort zone. The goal is not to push them too far but just enough that it becomes a growing experience personally and professionally.
I've been out of my comfort zone for many years. The last time I found it, I quit my job.
Let them make mistakes
If you want your team to be effective you need to trust them, you need to let them run, and that means not being afraid of them making mistakes. Mistakes will be made regardless of how you proceed so why not try and set a positive spin on them. When mistakes happen, support them and move forward. I can assure you that the best learning and growth comes from making mistakes when outside of your comfort zone.
Keep them fed
Yes, keep them fed. Whether it is food (cheese, corn nuts and chocolate covered pretzels are very popular in our office), nice chairs, big monitors, an afternoon on team segways, friday wine-o-clock, or silly pictures on the walls, having some balance keeps us all grounded.
It is quite incredible that when you have good people together that good things happen.