With great power comes great responsibility. Managing a team can be hard to do well and it’s difficult to strike a balance between accommodating and pushing your staff. People might disdain the idea of middle-management but in the startup world, administrative layers are being peeled away and managers now often have to run an entire segment of the company from a pretty early stage.
For those of you who are struggling a little to find your management groove, Robin Haak has some advice for you. (Prepare for car metaphors!)
You have to be yourself, and use the skills that come naturally to you. Being passionate is very much a skill, and I am still discovering this. This is why Jobspotting works with two Managing Directors. I know know to push things to 100%, to push the needle into the red, but I know how to drive it. I know that a tuned engine has to push it many times, and I know how not to burn rubber when we’re taking corners but still win the race.
Our other MD opens the engine, has built and repaired it and knows every detail about how to make it run smoothly. He can see what needs to be done and is hugely passionate about coordinating with the engineers to make it perfect.
In short, what I want to say is be honest with yourself, focus on your strengths and get help with your weaknesses.
You need to have structure, be prepared, set good targets and even better information loops so that you know what’s going on. It shouldn’t be top-down. You should be able to bring people to a point where they perform at a level you’ve pushed for, and have a team that’s producing from the bottom-up, without you having to say a word. Sometimes, all that’s required is asking good questions when you’re getting feedback.
You have to found your management style on honesty, courage, trust, loyalty and integrity. This is essential to become the Ehrbarer Kaufmann (Eng: Honourable Businessman). You can’t expect other people to do something you would not do yourself. My former boss, Uli Schmitz, CTO of Axel Springer once told me, “a good manager has an eye over everything, whether it’s about the finer details or strategising from the top. Everything in between is not your job”. He always did this. He cleaned up the kitchen after 50 people and made sure that the newspapers were properly laid out on the counter. He always say, “if you don’t start here, you will end in ‘a cholera’ (freak-out)”. I agree with him on this.
A great manager is always there for his team and always has time for them if they need it. As I mentioned, management is about people this starts with every single person. Maybe it doesn’t have a direct impact on you, the team, or the company, but it makes a difference for that one person. I try not to be overly-involved and keep a respectful distance, but when it’s urgent, when I know I can help, I am always there.
Know What You Don’t Know
This is just what I have learned so far. There is so much more to learn and I hope one day that I will be a great manager. But until then, these are my thoughts on what I think it takes.