Attracting — and retaining — talent in the startup world is beyond challenging and in the very early stages, it’s a task that’s largely down to the founder, who has to sell their vision to prospective candidates.
Founders are the most important brand ambassador for their business and are responsible for shaping company culture with their leadership style.
But startup life isn’t always easy. The pace and pressure of running a small business are just two things that can make it difficult for founders to be good bosses.
So, here are a few quick tips to help you hone your leadership skills.
1. Be a passionate and energetic boss
Tom McGillycuddy, the cofounder of Tickr, an ethical investment platform, told me “you have to lead by example, have compassion, and inspire people to come to work every day and give you their all.”
McGillycuddy reminisced about a previous boss who he said was one of the most energetic people he’d ever met. “That meant he worked constantly, loved what he did, and because he was happy, he happily devoted time to me to help me improve.”
“As a consequence, he had fun all the time and always had a smile on his face. Those memories are still at the forefront of my mind today. He got the best out of me.”
In terms of advice, McGillycuddy urged other founders to give constructive feedback to their employees.
“Give instant, honest feedback but do it from a position of caring and trying to achieve the company’s goals,” he added, “If done correctly, your team will see your compassion and honesty.”
2. Acknowledge mistakes and don’t micro-manage
Dr Elina Berglund, co-CEO and co-founder of hormone-free birth control app Natural Cycles, said the difference between being a good or a bad boss lay in acknowledging mistakes and not micro-managing:
“Everyone makes mistakes. What everyone doesn’t do is make the mistake and turn it into learning. One of the best things a leader can do is own the mistakes they’ve made, and set an example for their team on how to fix them.”
“Letting go can be hard for entrepreneurs, especially during early growth stages, but it’s something any good leader must come to terms with,” she added.
A good leader, Berglund noted, must empower team members. “I’ve never met anyone who has felt empowered with their boss watching their every move,” Berglund concluded.
3. Create a safe environment
For Jonathan Richards, CEO and co-founder of Breathe, an HR software firm, being a good boss is about actively listening to staff and creating an environment where they can thrive and grow.
“A lot of business leaders automatically default to problem-solving mode, whereby they skip the active listening part where you follow-up and delve deeper into what they are saying,” he said.
Establishing clear lines of communication and devoting time to one-on-one meetings with team members is key to avoid high staff turnover and building trust.
“Putting them first will drive productivity and results, as well as ensuring that you are the best boss possible.”
Jonathan Low, the COO and co-founder, of Jumpstory, often referred to as “the Netflix of images” agreed.
“Your employees should feel 110% safe — also when they make mistakes. That is my opinion about great leadership, and I don’t believe that great ideas come out of pressure or threatening to fire people.”
Low believes leadership is just as important as life itself. “Work has become such a big part of life and who we are. Especially in startups. We can’t just treat employees as part of our big money-making machine. We need to see them as individuals and real people.”
Being a good boss can seem somewhat daunting if you’re inexperienced but with a little common sense and these straightforward tips it should be a lot easier than you think.
Like what you’ve read? On Growth Quarters, we strive to go beyond generic ‘fortune cookie advice’ and learn directly from the people who have walked the walk. And this summer, at TNW Conference 2020 in Amsterdam, we’ll take Growth Quarters offline again with a vibrant program dedicated exclusively to sustainable business growth. Listen to keynotes from leaders from the world’s most successful companies and get actionable guidance to help you grow professionally. Get early bird tickets now and learn more about the Growth Quarters track.
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