How Should You Manage Employees In Your Startup?

There are two extremes when it comes managing people.

There’s the old-school command and control model where you don’t give your employees any flexibility. On the other side there’s the Zappos style of management (or even coaching) where you push the decision making down in the organization.

What I’ve seen work best is pushing the decision making down in your organization with coaching as the feedback loop to better decision making.

Step One: Hiring great people.

You want to become a better manager then hire great people because great people always make you a better manager:

  • Great people make you look good, and…
  • Great people need less supervision, and…
  • Great people bring more intellect, and…
  • Great people allow you to do more, and…
  • Great people give you more leverage.

Step Two: Don't overstep your bounds.

We all tend to over-manage, myself included, when we first start managing people. What you want to do is take a step back.

Give your people the flexibility to grow. And just as importantly…

Give your people room to make mistakes!

There’s nothing wrong with making a mistake or two as long as it’s not a “kill the company” mistake. Give your team the ability to make those mistakes, and then use their mistakes as teachable moments.

For example, we used to let our inside sales people make all the decisions around which customers we would give free demonstration boards too. These boards were quite expensive.

However the cost of giving away demonstration boards incorrectly was well worth it because the team learned and took responsibility for their actions. And you could review why they took the various actions they did.

You then can provide guidance on how to make better decisions. Over time, you end up with an empowered organization that is ready to take on more responsibility.

Step Three: Don’t let your team go too far astray.

The feedback loop between yourself and your team is the critical final piece of the puzzle. You need to check in on a regular basis, so that bad decisions are caught early.

I think you’ll find the concept of delegating decision making down in your organization along with regular checks works really well.

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