While contemporary management gurus may take exception to Iacocca’s narrow definition of management, all entrepreneurs eventually recognize that motivating other people is essential to success. And the job of being good at management never stops.
In the beginning, when it’s just you and a partner, management may be about focus and productivity. But as you expand, management involves coordinating independent activities to drive group productivity. And as you scale, management evolves: from the hands-on variety to the task of teaching others how to manage. But, in the end, Mr. Iacocca is absolutely right: Success comes from successfully motivating others.
Like parenting, baseball and the art of knowing your limits, management is a learned skill. And unless you have time to consume a substantial portion of the 11,000 new business books published each year, you should be open to all the advice you can get. Here are my own top five tips.
1. Focus on getting the right people on the bus.
My favorite business book of all time is Jim Collins’ Good To Great. One of his most revealing insights is that getting the right people on your team (the bus) is a requirement for success. Do these people fit your culture, share your basic values and agree with where you want to take the company? Especially in the beginning, when there’s just a handful of people, “fit” within your company is critical.
There’s no litmus test here; it’s one of those “you’ll know it when you see it” kinds of situations. So, trust your gut. Get the right people and you’ll eliminate half your potential issues.
2. Don’t hire people just like you.
I think this suggestion, particularly given the first point, is one of the toughest to execute. Humans are pack animals, and it’s natural to be drawn to people that are similar to us. Yet while some familiarity is important, you don’t want a bunch of mini-me’s working for you. Why? Two reasons. First, because they’re like you, they’ll remind you of you. And when you see their flaws, those flaws will remind you of your own, and eventually you’ll resent them for it.
Second, real diversity, as opposed to diversity for its own sake, brings in a variety of experiences and perspectives; and exploring these different opinions is important early in the growth of your company.
3. Balance box-checking with room for growth.
The best employees are those that can fulfill their immediate responsibilities but also have areas they can expand into. While you might argue that there are exceptions here, such as your need for an accountant who “knows everything,” it’s generally the case that full-time employees need to grow, to continue to be their most productive.
Thus, candidates should meet the primary functions listed in your job description (and, yes, you absolutely need a job description), but they should aspire to greater responsibility or an expanded role at some point within the next 12 to 18 months.
4. Be ready to change.
The old school model of management, practiced by old school pro sports coaches with names like Lombardi and Ditka, was based on discipline, hard work and the occasional verbal dressing down. But all managers quickly learn that people are not one-size-fits-all.
And in today’s kinder, more sensitive world, this style of management isn’t particularly effective. Consequently, the big challenge is to adapt your approach to get the most out of your unique team members. In short, fewer and fewer people respond to being yelled at. Employing different ways to connect with people is required in order to effectively reach many personality types.
5. Invite input and remain open to it.
Being an entrepreneur is hard on many levels, because the task exposes all the areas where you need improvement. You can ignore this reality at your peril, or you can embrace it as a path to mastering the craft of management.
If you choose the later, you’ll save lots of time and energy and more quickly overcome areas where you’re not as effective. As an example, most entrepreneurs like to talk, so be open to someone saying he or she feels that you’re not listening. Just see the feedback for what it is, and appreciate that an underling has the courage to be honest with you. That’s a huge “fit” in any employee.