To be a truly successful entrepreneur, you need more than the ability to implement an innovative idea. One of the most important parts of your business is the team you gather around yourself, so learning to manage those people is essential to your overall success.
As my group of companies has grown from a small family of seven to a massive team of 300, we’ve experienced a few growing pains. However, I view this as an opportunity to rebuild connections in all directions and assemble a bigger, better “puzzle” than I had previously. My approach to people management may be different from what you’ll hear from most CEOs, but my strategies allow me to create truly great companies.
1. Spending quality time with your team is an excellent investment.
People often tell me that I spend too much time with my team. They say I ask too many questions and get too involved in their personal lives. However, I don’t do this to be nosy or pry; I communicate with my staff because I want to know about them and understand their situation in life.
I’m in the business of forming relationships, and my team is no exception. I firmly believe that founders should help their employees be self-sufficient personally and professionally. Work is where my staff spends a considerable chunk of time, so they should get as much as possible out of their time.
You don’t need to set a task in your schedule to “spend X hours conversing with staff.” Just make it a priority to be around and seek out ways to get to know your team. When they feel like you’re there for them and “in the trenches” alongside them, they’ll likely feel better. Genuine connection fosters loyalty, and offering help is something they’ll remember forever.
2. Helping your employees helps you too.
I prefer to view my company as an extension of family. Despite having over 300 employees now, I still run the business the same way I did when only seven of us were there. I have an open-door policy, and my team knows they can come to me with any personal problems.
We all come from different walks of life and have various problems that may be distracting us at work. I encourage a supportive closeness with my company so that coworkers can rely on me or each other to help them through challenges. Acting in this way helps your employees feel that they can leave their troubles at the door and focus on the work at hand because they know they’re not alone in their struggles.
3. Be prepared for difficulties and roll with them together.
It would be naive to say that my approach doesn’t come with its own challenges. However, I understand this, and I’m prepared to weather those problems as they come. Taking such an open-arms approach to my staff sometimes creates issues with personal boundaries. Of course, these cases are complicated, but experience is a great teacher, and I don’t regret my choices. In fact, I’ve hired a coach to help me become better at navigating those tough moments and learn how to keep them from happening again.
The golden rule for me is “We never point fingers.” If there’s a failure, I’m prepared to shoulder that responsibility and guide my team to solve the problem together, regardless of whoever made the mistake.
Foster a culture of personal responsibility and lead by example. Show your staff that you’re prepared to stand by them for better or worse. In return, you may find you have an excellent, productive and loyal team.
4. Take time to match employees with their passion.
One reason I like to take so much time to get to know my employees is to find their passion. It’s hard for workers to open up to their bosses and admit their true strengths and weaknesses (not just the polished ones they rehearsed for a job interview).
The more your team feels they can be open with you, the deeper you can look into their personalities. I believe in building everything with a view toward the future, so learning as much as you can about your staff will allow you to put them in a position that will fulfill them over the long-term. This benefits the business, too, because matching passion and position is a recipe for highly motivated individuals who feel free to innovate and hone their craft.
5. Motivate by creating a space for honest feedback.
No matter how tight-knit your team might be, there’s still a line that employees can be hesitant to cross when it comes to being open and honest. You might ask employees individually what they would like to see in the company, but much of the time, they won’t tell you what they truly want because they’re afraid of repercussions or being caught in a negative light.
At Mirai, I chose to ask anonymously, “What 10 points would you like to see implemented in the company’s long-term plan?” By asking in this way, my team felt freer to answer with things they wished to have. Through their feedback, I made plans to move us into a new office and incorporate other suggestions into our corporate culture.
As the founder, it’s your job to take what your team tells you seriously and look for ways to implement their feedback. If they see that their input is valued, even when it was uncomfortable for them to give, they may feel freer to be honest and open in the future. Motivation is a nonissue when you do your best to give employees what they want.
Managing people doesn’t have to be a dreaded task. The true measure of an entrepreneur is not just in their business ideas, but how they gather a team and motivate them over the long haul. Even if you just start with one of the tips I’ve outlined, I believe you’ll see a dramatic shift in your own corporate culture.