How do you lead a team, if you’ve never had a boss?
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At the Forbes Under 30 Summit in Philadelphia, five young bosses shared what has worked, and what hasn’t, when it comes to managing people. Here is their advice.
No. 1: Recognize your blind spots.
“You come to the realization you have no idea what you’re doing and you realize you have to bring in people who do,” said Plated co-founder Nick Taranto.
No. 2: Put passion first.
“If you’re in a business or a company you feel passionate about, hire people who have that similar passion,” said Raj Mukherji, director of marketing at AT&T.
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No. 3: Build a support system.
Bosses, said DominateFund co-founder Ben Parr, need the ability “to talk out [business] issues with people ideally outside of the company. You definitely need that support structure.”
No. 4: Have a mission.
“Truly being a leader … is far less about managing people,” said Robby Stein, director of product management at Yahoo Mobile & Emerging Products. (Stein’s startup, Stamped, was acquired by Yahoo.) “It’s determining what that charter is, and helping everyone accomplish that together.”
No. 5: Earn employees’ respect.
“You have to earn employees’ respect, especially if you’re younger,” Parr said. “You have to show you’re serious. You’re the first one in and the last one out. But it is harder if you’re younger … There’s a natural aversion to listening [to] someone with ten years’ less experience.”
No. 6: Hire the right people to report to you.
“For me, it is a lot of putting the right people in the right place … getting the correct VPs that were respectful to report [to me], and they kind of generated the right attitude,” Revel Systems CEO Lisa Falzone said.
Falzone said she’s actually found more success hiring older employees than staffers right out of college.
“I have a lot better results with that, because they don’t see me as an equal,” she explained.
No. 7: Be careful hiring your friends.
“[It] has to be independent of whether you’re friends with them … Is this person truly the best person for the position that I could hire right now?” Parr said.
No. 8: Keep the lines of communication open.
Mukherji said he uses a strategy called “Fearless Feedback,” where employees are encouraged to give honest feedback in the moment.
“You can’t be constructive when you’re criticizing,” Mukherji said. “It hurts – it sucks sometimes – when someone’s giving you feedback.”
Taranto, who served in the Marine Corps, said he does “360s,” which are common in the military.
“You get feedback from one up, one down and laterally,” he explained.
No. 9: Figure out what keeps each employee happy.
“[F]igure out what motivates people on the team, because it’s all different,” Mukherji said. “If you try to be one management style for everybody, it’s not going to work.”
No. 10: Invest in your best employees.
Taranto said Plated works hard to make sure that its best employees have the tools to achieve their personal goals.
“[E]very person has that plan: Where do you want to be six months, a year from now?” he explained. Taranto said HR then helps employees come up with the steps to achieve their goals.
“For the good people – we invest in those folks,” he said.
No. 11: Always be honest.
Stein said he believes in a policy of “radical transparency.”
“If you’re isolated and it just feels like things are coming down … and you’re barking orders at people, and there’s not that connective tissue, [the team] is just dead at that point,” he said.
No. 12: Don’t beat yourself up too much.
The entire panel agreed that it’s easy to feel under-qualified and undeserving.
“That emotion you’re talking about – that’s why being a boss sucks. You always feel inadequate, no matter what you’re doing,” Taranto said.