Make leadership a team effort. We have a strong management team here, and we have built our strategy in this business together.
It isn’t an autocracy where everybody is waiting for me to tell them what to do, by any means. I don’t care for an autocratic leadership style. Everybody becomes dependent on that one person, and it breeds weakness.
Participation is important, and it’s not just a meeting you go to. Part of the job of my management team is to weigh in and help create and continue to modify and nurture our strategy.
It’s not up to me by myself. Everybody has a piece of the action, and they’re constantly coming in and making recommendations. For me, that’s critical.
If you’re doing those things together as a team, it makes it really easy to communicate to the rest of the employee population, as well as to your clients, who you are and what you do and to be very consistent about that. You don’t have to be constantly worried about, ‘I wonder if the people in this location really get what we’re doing.’
You know they do, because your entire management team is on the same page, as opposed to you cooking it up in your office, coming out and telling everybody what you’re doing and then figuring out who doesn’t understand what you’ve told them.
Share information with employees. We’re a publicly traded company, and we typically don’t disclose our detailed revenues and profits outside of the building, but we tell our employees everything. They know it all.
If they leave the company and go to the competitor and tell them, so be it. We tell them about our product development initiatives, we tell them about our strategic deals, we tell them about acquisitions that are pending when we can. It’s so good to keep people on the same page. I would hate to work in a company where I didn’t know anything until I read in the newspaper and saw that we had acquired somebody.
We’re very open here, and we do a lot of communicating about our strategy, our plans and how the boat is floating financially. What happens is that it ultimately keeps people informed, but it also allows your managers, who are responsible for their functional areas and objectives, to have a consistent framework within which to make sure people know how their tasks and their goals and objectives roll up to the grand strategy.
Learn from your mistakes. You can’t punish honest mistakes. I hear stories of people getting fired for having a project not come in on time.
We’re diligent about the things we do. We’re not going to have poor performance continue, but when you have key people working hard on something and just because it doesn’t come in exactly as promised, that doesn’t mean those people are useless.
There are a lot of things we’ve done in the past where I didn’t know how it was going to come out. If it didn’t come out the way I wanted, it didn’t mean the people who were working on it were bad. Maybe it was a bad plan.
To some degree when mistakes are made, that’s learning. If you lose people or fire somebody after that’s gone on, you’ve just gotten rid of a lot of experience. Typically, the people who have been through the toughest assignments and a lot of assignments that didn’t work out all that well were way better the next time, and the next time they were better than that, and after 10 or 15 years, they’re some of the best people I have. Guess what? They don’t make mistakes anymore at all.
People need to be able to know that they can come and give you bad news. Otherwise, they’re going to hide it from you. If you’re punishing mistakes and you’re not being honest with people or you’re treating them inconsistently, the whole thing decays, and there is no way you can have a successful business at all, ever.
Make successful hiring a priority. When you start to get big and you have to fill positions and you’re growing, people tend to take hiring for granted. ‘I need a developer, I need this position, hurry up and get me some resumes.’
It’s easy for me to say because I don’t do much hiring myself, but I hate hearing that, because every single person you hire is absolute gold. They represent you, and they will make or break you over time. We’ve all seen examples where a string of bad hires can kill a company, regardless of where it is in the company. On the other hand, a string of good hires can turn a company from being an average company to being a phenomenal company.
I tell my managers that constantly, and we interview each other’s candidates and talk very critically about how an individual is going to fit in and what they are going to do to help us. What do they know that we don’t know? What can they teach us? What do they bring to the party?
That helps us be very careful about the chemistry and the fit as opposed to just trying to fill a position with a body.