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Building an Unbreakable Team

Dexter Ligot-Gordon
ODF11, YC W13, 2x Founder

The pressure to grow can break even the best of teams.

As a second-time founder, experience has taught me to recognize this pattern and equip my team such that we can withstand the challenges of growing a startup from its early stages.

In the last month, our team at Swarm went through a rigorous process of defining who we are as a company and what we want to do for our global community of tech professionals.

Four things have stayed with me after a month of team retreats and strategic planning sessions.

People who know they are valued bring their best selves and do difficult things together.

As I facilitated our retreat at the beginning of the month, one of the activities that deepened trust between team members was an exercise where we asked each member of the team to say something that they appreciate about another team member.

I expected everyone to give surface-level affirmations to each other, but it became a very substantive revelation of how people felt about each other and the value of each member's contribution to Swarm.

A team that feels seen, heard, and recognized for who they are and what they do, especially those whose work does not always get due recognition, takes ownership of their work.

Affirm and reaffirm people for who they are and the value their work brings to the team.

When aligned with company values, people can achieve their personal mission through their work.

To clarify our values, we conducted two exercises. First, everyone shared their personal mission statement and how it aligns with their work at Swarm.

Second, everyone described what they want Swarm to be as an employee and as a top tech professional in their domain.

The results varied from "ensuring people are paid on time" to "empowering tech professionals to find projects that make them feel liberated and truly alive".

Once our team was able to articulate our values and how we want to serve our community, there was a palpable change in our collaborative work.

Articulate the values you want to reinforce and create a space where people can align their personal mission with their work.

Get founder support and advice from mentors you trust.

Prior to gathering our team for realignment and strategic planning, my co-founders and I sought a session with one of my most trusted advisors.

We wanted to learn from someone who had overcome the hurdles we were facing, and how we could all work together to bring our team through it.

It was one of the most vulnerable moments of my career, and I gained a deep understanding and trust towards my core team.

Find someone you trust whose wisdom can help you get unstuck.

A team that can learn together can build anything, but a team that trusts each other deeply can overcome everything.

Every startup reaches a point when growth creates friction among team members and manifests in culture and output of work.

It was pivotal for us to reaffirm each other and redefine our values, such that every Swarm team member can envision and take ownership of their role in forging the path forward.

Trust is born from clarity and the commitment to work through difficult moments of growth.

Invest in trust by consistently affirming your team and articulating the big vision.

At the end of the day the my goal is not to build an amazing product. My goal is to build a solid core of talented individuals that can learn fast, solve complex problems, and trusts each other. Such a team can build, grow, and overcome anything.

Dexter Ligot-Gordon
ODF11, YC W13, 2x Founder
Many platforms believe that the key to addressing the Great Resignation is helping professionals to become independent. I believe the solution is creating a deeper sense of community. This is our vision at Swarm.

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