One of my favorite books is James Clavell’s masterpiece, “King Rat.” King Rat is set in a Japanese POW camp during WWII. The story centers around one prisoner, nicknamed “King,” who controls much of the illegal commerce in the camp.
The King imagines his future after the war, and he starts thinking about the ideal team of people he’d like to work with. The King talks about wanting a bunch of guys that aren’t too smart, but are loyal to build his ideal team.
The King wouldn’t be too successful building a great company with a team of not so smart people.
The older I get, and the more entrepreneurs I work with, it’s pretty obvious what makes you a great manager as CEO:
A great CEO always has a great team to work with. Always.
It doesn’t matter how brilliant you are. It doesn’t matter that you have a unique vision of what to do. Just try and build a great company without a great team.
You literally can't get there without a great team. Think about all the things you need to do to build a great company:
- How can develop great new products and services without a great team? And…
- How can you make customers aware of your great products without a great marketing team? And…
- How can you sell your great new products without a great sales team? In sum..
- How can you scale without a great team?
You can’t be a successful manager without a great team.
I’m simplifying things, somewhat, but that there in my personal experience really two rules you need to follow for you to be a great startup manager:
Rule Number 1: Hire great people.
Rule Number 2: See rule number 1.
Okay, so what traits should you look for in the team you build?
Well, unlike The King, you can’t just hire a bunch of mediocre, but loyal people. You need much more than that if you’re going be a successful manager:
A. Each team member has to have integrity.
Need we go any further? Why would you ever hire someone if they don’t have integrity? Actually, I think we do need to go a little further. Everyone – everyone – is occasionally faced with the dilemma that arises when you’re interviewing a clearly talented individual who seems a bit ethically iffy.
Don’t hire them. Ever. No amount of ability makes up for a lack of integrity.
B. Each team member needs to be smart.
Unlike The King, you want people that are very smart. Who doesn’t, right? Well, it’s surprising how often I see people who only hire those who clearly aren’t as smart as they are.
Don’t be intimidated by those who might have something you don’t. Be grateful you can add them to your team.
C. Each team member has to be passionate about your mission.
I don’t care how smart, and how much integrity an employee has. They will not work out if they are not passionate about what they do. They also won’t work out if they’re not passionate about what you do.
When I interview, I always look for people who are committed enough to my cause to have done their research and found out as much as possible about my company.
D. Each team member needs to fit your company culture.
Too many CEOs overlook the importance of cultural fit. Desiring cultural fit does not mean that you want people that are clones of each other.
The most accurate predictor of a startups success is its company culture. If you get this right, you’re off to the races.
What your role as a manager of this great team you hired? Let your team fly.
“Hire great people and let them fly,” I said to the engineer I was recruiting who asked me about my management style. Then I added, “And we have a great team. Do you want to join us?”
I’m not saying that you don’t want to have structure, goals, and a vision for your team to follow. You absolutely have to have a clear vision with definable goals (long and short term) to achieve.
I am saying that you can’t micromanage your great team to success. As one my mentors, Jack Gifford, the founding CEO of Maxim Integrated Products, said to me, “Managing people is like driving a car. You need to know when to put on the gas and when to apply the brakes.”
For more, read: How To Crush Your Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals