Company Culture · Employees

What are the best practices for managing startup employees?

Anonymous

June 21st, 2013

I'm interested in  tips, best practices, or resources (books, articles, etc.) that they've found helpful in effectively managing employees in an early stage startup? 

Thomas Knoll Executive Advisor & Business Coach. I help entrepreneurs survive and thrive at building their teams and businesses.

June 21st, 2013

If all team members in a small early-stage company don't feel a sense of ownership, you're fighting a losing battle. So, make everyone the CEO of something, and let them actually be 98% in charge of final decisions in the area they are CEO of. If you don't trust them to do that, then fire them now, and replace them with someone you would trust.

Most management resources are written for very large companies who actually have multiple tiers of management. Starts aren't run the same way as big companies, so be careful with any of the information you learn from those sources.

Now that I've said that, http://www.fastcompany.com/section/30-second-mba is actually a good source of ideas. Just don't treat the advice as a recipe, but more like a list of ingredients.

Vijay MD Founder Chefalytics, Co-owner Bite Catering Couture, Independent consultant (ex-McKinsey)

June 21st, 2013

I really like Andy Grove’s book - High Output Management. Focus on leverage, decision-making, and understanding of performance. Ben’s blog (Andreeson Horowitz) and Murk Suster’s blog are also both very good.

Anonymous

June 22nd, 2013

Be very honest.

Let them have autonomy to make decisions.

If you can't do that.  Don't hire them.

When you start to debate if you should fire someone, do it that day.

Mike Winer

June 23rd, 2013

In reading through the suggestions on how to manage, no one mentioned outcomes. What is the employee supposed to accomplish within what time frame, and with what levels of authority, accountability (this the measurement part of achieving outcomes) and direct resource control? Are there any boundaries to be watched for (such as political and financial) and any individuals inside and outside the company that you can't afford to piss off? Also, who else should be involved in achieving the outcomes (some representation of customers/clients is a good idea as well as cross departmental representation if you're that large). And is this all in writing and literally signed off on? This way, everything comes down to measurable data without a leader's/manager's/founders' arbitrary inferences. If the individual has a personality type that just doesn't fit in, then there's no sense doing anything but letting her/him go. I believe through my years in teaching organizational development that you can't manage people (despite what books say). You can only manage the environment in which your people are expected to produce. But they have to know what they have to produce and what resources are available to them to achieve that. Everything else is bullshit.

Duane Nickull Chief Marketing Officer, Co-Founder at Cheddar Labs

June 23rd, 2013

The Valve model is the one you want to read.  This is one of the most effective culture builders ever created.  My first startup had a similar approach although we called it "chaos".

http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/1074301/Valve_Handbook_LowRes.pdf

"That’s why Valve is flat. It’s our shorthand way of saying 
that we don’t have any management, and nobody “reports 
to” anybody else. We do have a founder/president, but 
even he isn’t your manager. This company is yours to 
steer-toward opportunities and away from risks. You have 
the power to green-light projects. You have the power to 
ship products."

Helen Adeosun

June 21st, 2013

I liked parts  "Managing to Change the World" from the Management Center which helps progressive orgs manage staff and create systems. I dont think anything holds all the rules, including this book, but read, read, and find your center.  Let me know if you find anything good.

Peter Sankauskas Founder & CEO at CloudNative

June 21st, 2013

Actually, there is a free book on the Kindle called "The truth about managing people". Short, but good.

Steve Tulk Change Agent

June 22nd, 2013

I would look at some leadership focused materials vs management.  Big difference in my opinion.   I am a big John Maxwell fan, and the 5 Levels of Leadership would be a good one to pick up.  Agree with the other comments on here.   My view, an early stage startup needs self starters who can work with agility. 

Thomas Knoll Executive Advisor & Business Coach. I help entrepreneurs survive and thrive at building their teams and businesses.

June 22nd, 2013

Ohhh! Which reminds me, Emotional Intelligence 2.0 was absolutely the best book to help me change myself to become better at management: http://www.amazon.com/Emotional-Intelligence-2-0-Travis-Bradberry/dp/0974320625

Vijay MD Founder Chefalytics, Co-owner Bite Catering Couture, Independent consultant (ex-McKinsey)

June 22nd, 2013

I’ve found this to potentially be problemmatic - I liked how my first couple of managers treated me, which is to give me just enough leash to hang myself but enough feedback/ support up front to keep me from doing so on accident. I’ve found the learning curve of coming into a new organization is often made better by allowing someone to prove that they “got it” in the current schema before giving them the autonomy to make decisions about how to change or run it Otherwise, existing processes can be overturned by the overeager newcomer, which is not a good way to get started in a new role when you don’t really know the business.