And suddenly, we hear more & more news of startups \u2013 but for all the wrong reasons!\r\n\r\nFirst it was the food ordering startup TinyOwl, that garnered much attention because of laying off 100 employees. That was followed by the news that one of the co-founders of the startup, spent two days being held hostage inside the company\u2019s Pune office by employees who were laid off earlier that week! Then came the leaked internal email from Zomato\u2019s founder Deepinder Goyal\u2014reportedly talking about the company\u2019s missed sales projections.\r\n\r\nWhat is happening? One way is to brush this aside saying, \u201cEvery company has its problems\u201d. But are there some lessons here for the Indian startup ecosystem - which has so far been in the news only for multi-billion dollar valuations of a handful of companies, and the multi-million dollar funding rounds they have done?\r\n\r\nSometimes when you drive too fast, you tend to miss the reality of what is happening around you. Building on from the email that Deepinder sent his employees, let us list down a few of the expectations & voices he sees around himself:\r\n\r\n \tI am just a number in a spreadsheet\r\n \tI feel insecure\r\n \tI am constantly worried about being fired for my performance\r\n \tI feel unappreciated \u2013 I don\u2019t trust my managers\r\n \tHow do I give feedback? If I have doubts whom do I ask? Is it ok to ask questions?\r\n \tThere is a gap between my expectations and reality\r\n \tI have not been trained \u2013 I am not learning!\r\n\r\nWhile the CEO of Zomato has answered all the questions eloquently, unfortunately it is not logic or eloquence that moves people to action. There are a few old fashioned tools & values that I think would do a much better job of handling the above situation.\r\n\r\n1) Taking the entire team along\r\n\r\n\u201cPeople don\u2019t care how much you know, till they know how much you care\u201d. So said Theodore Roosevelt. There is an important lesson in that. Someone who is saying that he feels like a number in the spreadsheet obviously does not feel cared about \u2013 neither by his management or his team. He does not see the big picture that the CEO is alluding to when he says Pixels add up to become a BIG picture (much like our Pixel Challenge!). We have seen this many a times. A grand vision unfurled by a leader towards becoming say a 20 billion dollar company by FY 2020\u2026.. and often the guy on the frontline is wondering, how many seroes in a billion? The questions for startups to ponder is hence: While we are moving at a break-neck speed, are we leaving a chunk of our team behind?\u00a0\r\n\r\n2) Over communicating\r\n\r\nWe often talk about this in our team building workshops \u2013 that, \u201cThere is nothing called over communication\u201d. When you hear people asking things like, \u201cHow do I give feedback\u201d, \u201cIs it ok to do that?\u201d, and a mail from the CEO clarifying it \u2013 it tells you that communication channels in the organization are perhaps clogged. Repeated and clear communication through multiple means, emails, formal & informal team catch-ups, company social media channels & team offsites \u2013 are what the best companies do to ensure that the life blood of communication flows smoothly within their organizations. The questions for startups to ponder is hence: As we expand and get new members in \u2013 how do we get them on the same page as the rest of the team quickly?\u00a0\r\n\r\n3)\u00a0Showing intent towards building trust organizationally\r\n\r\nA group of people all travelling in the same direction, in one bus \u2013 don\u2019t make a team. Just as in every human relationship, trust does not happen automatically. So when someone says, \u201cI don\u2019t trust my manager\u201d, it is not a surprise. Yes some people are more naturally trusted than others. But should an organization leave that to chance \u2013 or should it put a concerted effort and thought in helping leaders and managers build trust within their teams? The questions for startups to ponder is hence: What are we doing proactively to build an organizational culture of - trusting in one another?\u00a0\r\n\r\n4)\u00a0Investing in training\r\n\r\nWhen I read what the CEO had to say about it, it reminded me of an anecdote: Of a man driving a car - who told his friend: I am so busy driving that I can\u2019t find time to stop and fill petrol. The reality my friend is that, it will catch up with you sooner or later. Comparing the motivation of the early startup team to the motivation of the teams that come in later is a big mistake startup founders make. What brings a person now to Zomato is perhaps not the same drive that brought in the early few \u2013 was it? Also, investing on training employees sends another subtle message: You are important for us. The questions for startups to ponder is hence: Are you spending enough time, resources and effort on developing your people?\r\n\r\n5)\u00a0Hiring for value fit\r\n\r\nIt is perhaps a much discussed topic \u2013 and despite the overwhelming evidence that points in the direction of adopting it, few companies are actively doing it \u2013 preferring to side with skill, knowledge & experience levels instead.\r\n\r\nPerhaps because of the break-neck speed of hiring \u2013 driven in large parts due to investor pressure, hiring for value-fit seems like a luxury that startups can ill afford.\u00a0 Vijay Anand, CEO and Founder of The Startup Centre, says, \u201cUnfortunately, the minute\u00a0 most investors put money into a startup, they insist on increasing two spends: one is to go hire like mad; and second is to increase marketing spend. Sadly both are bad kinds of spend, the kind that keeps you craving for more rounds of funding, than focusing on building a sustainable business.\u201d\r\n\r\nPerhaps someone needs to point founders towards this data: In a four year study of 150+ firms, carried out by John Kotter of Harvard Business School and his colleague John Heskett, in firms with a strong culture based on shared values:\r\n\r\n \tRevenue grew 4 times faster\r\n \tRate of job creation 7 times higher\r\n \tStock price grew 12 times faster\r\n \tProfit performance was 750% higher\r\n\r\nThe questions for startups to ponder is hence: What is your plans to create a shared culture amongst your existing team? Is your hiring aligned to your core values?\r\n\r\nDo you need some help in talking this through? Look us up \u2013 we have worked with a cross-section of companies across industries engaged in similar journeys. We would love to catch up for a chat and partner in your journey too!