Insightful takes on scaling your business

Being a paradoxical manager is a good thing — here’s why

I both mean it and don't mean it.

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Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten
Story by
Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten

CEO and co-founder, TNWBoris is a serial entrepreneur who founded not only TNW, but also V3 Redirect Services (sold), HubHop Wireless Internet Provider (sold), and (show all) Boris is a serial entrepreneur who founded not only TNW, but also V3 Redirect Services (sold), HubHop Wireless Internet Provider (sold), and pr.co. Boris is very active on Twitter as @Boris and Instagram: @Boris.

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Boris is the wise ol’ CEO of TNW who writes a weekly column on everything about being an entrepreneur in tech — from managing stress to embracing awkwardness. You can get his musings straight to your inbox by signing up for his newsletter!

The paradox of tolerance states that if a society is tolerant without limit, its ability to be tolerant is eventually seized or destroyed by the intolerant.

I think about this a quote lot these days when I observe politics, but also in terms of social interactions, and even in how I manage my company — which I realize can be quite paradoxical at times.

For me and the people I surround myself with, tolerance comes easy, but applying those values to a whole organization can be tricky. The reason is that for a company or organization to be truly tolerant, you’ll have to be a little intolerant.

As the person that defines a company’s culture and values, you need to set clear boundaries from the beginning and determine what type of intolerance you won’t tolerate — if you don’t, you risk your hard work being undermined.

Tolerance doesn’t work without intolerance, but this paradoxical thinking applies to so many other aspects of growing a company.

I firmly believe you’re most creative when you have clear boundaries or you face seemingly narrow restrictions. NOT being allowed to do something, pushes you to find innovative solutions — something you might never have thought of if you hadn’t been forced to.

I’ve found that if you want your employees to feel free, you’ll have to be very clear on rules and expectations, otherwise everybody will be anxious about misinterpreting how free they can really be.

The same goes if you want to be seen as a kind and compassionate person. Making it clear where the line is gives meaning to your compassion as it makes people understand it’s based on actual values rather than just a blanket response.

And if you’re seeking perfection, you’ll also have to start by accepting some things won’t be perfect. Striving to perfect something means focusing on it, while acknowledging that imperfections will arise in areas you aren’t investing time in. For a process to have perfect results, you’ll have to accept a lot of imperfect actions to get there.

So the next time you feel like you’re contradicting yourself, don’t worry — being a paradox is a good thing.

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Published October 29, 2020 — 15:44 UTC