Have You Outgrown Employee Management? Here's How to Let Go.
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Earlier this year, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick announced that he was looking for a second-in-command to help him manage the company. For Kalanick, famous for his scrappy entrepreneurship, hiring a No. 2 was a great way for him to focus on his strengths and let someone else manage Uber’s day-to-day operations.
What a shame he hadn't done this before the company was beleaguered with management issues.
As reports and rumors continue to swirl regarding how challenging it is for Uber employees to survive, Kalanick has apparently realized that things in the company's culture need shaking up. That means he now has the paradoxical task of quickly hiring someone who is the right balance of a good fit and a shock to his unilaterally built system.
But there's a good message here for entrepreneurs, nonetheless. Like Kalanick, leaders commonly assume that they can "do it all" as the CEO. After all, the company is their vision and their dream -- so, surely, they know best how to build it. But if those same entrepreneurs are lucky enough to see even a fraction of the success Kalanick has, they'll soon realize that there are many aspects of running a mature organization that they can't (or just don't want to) do.
Just ask me! I’m the No. 2 at Hawke Media. When my partner (and Entrepreneur contributor) Erik Huberman, started our company, he was clear about who we were and what roles we should each play, from day one. He likes to be out there, beating the drum and building the brand. I prefer to focus on the team and the process. Erik -- knowing he needed an ally and trusting me to run with the stuff he didn’t love doing -- deputized me early on.
That was a smart move.
How to build a succession-from-the-daily-grind plan.
After your own business launches, and you are laser-focused on growth, you'll find yourself wearing a million different hats and filling some uncomfortable shoes. If all goes well, though, eventually you'll need to step back and concentrate on scaling the business instead of managing its daily operations -- working on the business instead of in it, as the adage goes.
In my experience, your best option for making this stage as painless as possible is to hire for the long haul, right from the get-go. You can tell an "employee" from a "leader" by the way that person thinks about the company. Future leaders aren’t just there to collect a paycheck. They care about the success of the whole organization and will tie their own success to company growth. Try to envision one or more of these people helping to carry the torch when it's time for you to step back.
Don't wait until you find yourself entrenched in daily operations and unable to keep up with tasks to find the ideal right-hand man or woman -- you will only end up scrambling and playing catch-up, like Kalanick. The sooner you start planning for that day, the smoother the transition will be. Here are three proven ways to focus on a higher-level view, while still remaining "present" for your people.
1. Hire fun, friendly folks -- not résumés. Don’t put too much emphasis on candidates’ past experiences. Instead, focus on personality traits and culture fit. For me, an easy litmus test to see whether people will stick around long-term and become leaders is to ask myself, "Would I get a beer with them?"
If the idea of sitting down to chat doesn’t excite me, then I know I don't want to continue the relationship. Working with them on something wouldn’t be any more enjoyable, so it’s time to move on.
It always shocks me when entrepreneurs don't love the first 10 people they hire. When making these choices, you don't just want talented performers; you want people you can truly relate to on a personal level, because those are the players who will grow with you. I always make sure I'm feeling happy spending time with candidates before hiring them. That rapport is the start of building the trust you'll need to work together.
JumpCrew is great at finding future leaders. It looks for candidates who may lack experience but have a deep desire to learn and are open to teamwork and coaching, which makes college athletes great candidates for this company. JumpCrew then devotes the time necessary to train and educate those culture fits to prepare them for their roles.
2. Don't let go completely. I know -- that sounds suspiciously like the opposite of what I said above, but I'm not talking micromanagement here. You can't manage every member of the whole team day in and day out, but you can keep your finger on the pulse of what's happening. Who's excelling, and who's slipping? Who might need a little help?
For this to work, invest serious time with those people you hire to serve as managers. There is no substitute for this one-on-one attention. Even someone with lots of experience can’t just be dropped in and put in charge of a team without being trained in all of the ways your company works.
Once your leadership is trained up, schedule regular meetings to listen to your managers and top performers. They are more than capable of giving you great insight into how everyone is doing. You should lead the leaders -- then let them lead the rest of the team.
3. Make time for everyone. (Sound easy? It's not.) Even though you can't be hands-on all the time, you do need to be available to everyone. This will become more of a challenge as your organization grows. But, with 60 percent of employees believing their relationship with their boss affects productivity -- positively or negatively -- it's vital.
When people won't take advantage of your or your leaders' availability, you have to be proactive and find them. One of our leaders always walks out to get his coffee and uses that time to connect with the people on his team. If he senses an issue percolating, or if he hasn't spoken with someone in a while, he'll go and invite that person to walk and grab a latte. As Steve Jobs figured out, the old “walk and talk” is a great, low-key way to connect and talk business with your team members.
Kalanick has built an incredibly successful company in a mind-bogglingly short time. But, just as we can learn from his success, we can also learn from the company's internal struggles. If you want to grow quickly and successfully, start planning now for the day you need to step back and let others steer the ship. I promise, your future self will thank you.