Tag Archives: management

Advice for New Startup Managers

This is a short list. Not extensive. Just the first things that came to mind.

1. Standup.

Check in with your direct reports on a daily basis. Ask these questions every day: “What did you do? What are you about to do? What’s blocking you?”. Your direct reports should meet with you in a group daily if possible. If not possible, check in with everyone. Encourage daily cross-pollination of ideas by asking simple questions that lower the bar on Slack. Nobody should be afraid to ask anything.

2. Stick to a schedule.

Meet with the same people at the same times. Create meeting rhythm.

3. Work on yourself.

Leaders who inspire growth have high personal growth aspirations. Read more about this in The Extraordinary Leader.

4. Take heed of the pygmalion effect.

Your expectations beget reality so expect great work from people. If your expectations are not met, take close analysis of where the discrepancy occurred.

5. Record your results.

You’ve heard it before: What gets measured, gets managed. I’m here to reinforce the lesson, and make it as easy as possible.

You don’t need fancy technology to record commitments and keep track of KPI’s. You can do it on paper. At Pavlok we used an excel spreadsheet to keep track of the team’s daily Most Important Tasks (MITs). I use a *paper* calendar to keep track of what I put in my body. Start simple and only adopt new technology if it makes the task 10x easier.

At every meeting, someone should take minutes. This is your responsibility as a manager but you can delegate it.

6. Only delegate things if you’ve established a thorough understanding of what will get done.

If you can’t understand what you’re asking someone to do, then you cannot realistically hold them accountable to get it done. This can be hard with technical assignments, and I think it should be done anyway. Your team will respect you more for having a birds-eye understanding of their jobs and skill sets.

7. Make a lot of lists.

8. Set a lot of reminders.

Make calendar events for everything. Even the daily items. Block more time than you think you’ll need. Meditate or journal when you have a free moment between items.

9. Study communication.

Read Difficult Conversations and Nonviolent Communication. Practice these in everyday life. They will be useful to you in all facets of your daily interactions.

Practice active listening.

10. Hire slow. Fire fast.

Use trials and auditions to qualify recruits. It’s ok to spend money on experiments. It’s better to pay someone for a 2 day experiment and then not hire them than to get nothing done or worse: hire the wrong person.

Auditions are great because your hiring process can end up contributing to product development, DevOps, or whatever you’re hiring for.

11. Read.

Scaling Up by those Gazelle people and High Output Management by Andy Grove. The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz. Hackers and Painters by Paul Graham.

There are obviously a lot more than this but the key is to simply get started.

12. Ask a lot of questions.

Write down the answers and things that you learn. Keep a book and when one or more people give answers that contradict, follow up. Ask “Why” until you really understand it.

Asking questions is so important. It’s OK, even desirable, to look stupid. You should ask the questions you think a total beginner would ask. Even if you think you already know the answer. You learn about the problem and about your team that way.

13. Schedule regular times for reflection.

Preferably on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. Review what you’ve done and what you’re about to do. Note the discrepancies and find sticking points.

Call me when you hit the sticking points and we’ll go over them together.

14. Ask for feedback.

Send out a 360 review to people who work directly with you. You will learn a lot about yourself.

15. Think of every meeting as a performance.

Have a script for how things will go. Stick to the agenda, take notes on the agenda, and share with the team.