By Candice Aw
“OK boss, you got it.”
That response, made partially in jest by a member of our team, caught me by surprise. The reason? I have never thought of myself as anyone’s “boss”.
In fact, I recall vaguely declaring to someone who asked during an interview where I wanted to be in five years, that “I have no wish to be in management and am really only interested in building cool products”.
But because the universe has a very strange way of granting my wishes, here I am today running a tech company, managing a small team AND building a cool product(s).
So while I can’t claim to be an expert on boss-ing, here are some insights I have gathered so far as a millennial managing millennials:
- Share the big picture
I strongly believe in sharing the raison d’être behind our company. I am of the opinion that if we share the WHY and let people figure out the HOW, they very often exceed one’s expectations. From here, it’s also pretty easy to see whether they believe in what you believe too; because if there’s one thing you can’t fake, it’s passion and enthusiasm.
“If you hire people just because they can do a job, they’ll work for your money. But if you hire people who believe what you believe, they’ll work for you with blood, sweat and tears.”— Simon Sinek
2. Hire the best and trust them
The very first thing I told my team when I hired them was that if I have to manage them, it means I have done a profoundly rubbish job of hiring.
So the best piece of advice I can give any hiring manager is to hire the best talent you can and trust them to do their best.
This is the Elon Musk principle of recruitment. Of course, every hiring manager will protest at this point and say that the best talent requires money and resources you might not have, because you know, not all of us have deep pockets.
It is however important to note, after reading his biography Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future, that while his companies offer competitive compensation, they are market-aligned.
People want to work for Elon Musk because they believe in his vision and want to do interesting work, not because of a large pay check.
So hire the best possible you can today with whatever resources you have.
For more information on how I hired the right people in five minutes, check out this post here.
3. Lead, don’t manage.
Get involved. Lead by example. Show your team how you like things done so they have a benchmark. Set expectations but don’t micro manage. Check in occasionally to make sure they are OK and make sure that they know you are always available if they need help or have questions. Your job as a boss is to lead the way so that people can follow; your job isn’t to look over their shoulder constantly to police their work. No one likes that.
4. Learn and appreciate
Recognise that everyone has something to learn from one another. Hire people who are better than you. Remember that you hired someone because of his or her strengths; give them work that plays to their strengths and let them wow you. Don’t expect a fish to climb a tree.
Remember, the words “please” and “thank you” go a long way. Treat your team as you would like to be treated yourself. Encourage and praise; if you have to criticise, do it constructively. Make it very clear that it is the work and not the person you have an issue with, and that you still believe in their capabilities. Remember THEY believe in YOU, that’s why they are helping YOU to build your company. Trust, appreciation and respect goes both ways.
Be open, keep it real and trust your people.
5. Be who you want to attract
What sets one company apart from another isn’t the fancy offices, snacks or even the ping pong tables; it’s the company culture and the people who are part of it. At Venn, we are a bit irreverent and politically incorrect. Our management style is flexible and super hands-off, so we would be a terrible fit for someone needs a lot of hand holding and doesn’t take well to snarky humour. We believe in creating an open healthy environment where we encourage authenticity and personality; however we do have a strict no asshole policy.
So in a nutshell, the TLDR is this:
Candice Aw is Founder & CEO of Venn, foodie, explorer, wordsmith and adrenaline junkie. Always curious, occasionally clumsy.