No matter your product, as a CEO of a burgeoning company you must be resolved that you are in the people business first, all else second. Office politics, jockeying for position, each employee operating in his or her own self-interest—all this can suck up valuable energy and time if you don’t get a handle on it right away. While you can’t eliminate all office disharmonies—as a startup you probably don’t want to—the following tips can help make your company more people-friendly and less political.
1. Be your HR Department.
It’s easy when you get flushed with investor cash to start delegating tasks you don’t like to professionals. That’s great. But when it comes to hiring, don’t delegate that, at least not yet. Like a politician shoring up his base you want to personally shake hands and hire employees who live your values, philosophy and fit your culture. It takes time for culture to matriculate beyond the founders. Until it does be hands on when it comes to hiring CFO’s to janitors. You’ll be a happier CEO for it.
2. Reward performance.
Research shows people are more motivated by praise than money. Golf outings, Friday’s off or promotional gifts sporting your brand are great ways to reward employees. Employee recognition goes a long way toward keeping workers happy at your company. This in turns can minimize the rumor mill that usually start with disgruntled employees and grow into a cancer that can kill your company. (Read Daniel Pink’s “Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us,” for the research.)
3. Deal with disappointment discretely.
It’s better to deal with mistakes, employee problems and issues away from the masses. Go out for coffee, take a lunch, use a private conference room—but discuss failures in private.
4. Be transparent.
Uncertainty is a silent company killer. Morale plummets not when the company is doing badly but when leaders don’t acknowledge the obvious and give clear direction out of the valley.
5. Get employees innovating.
Zappos does this routinely. Along with taking employee recognition to new heights, Tony et. al., also allow employees autonomy to make decisions in their everyday jobs based upon their own innovation. Including employees in decision-making processes—be they operational or product-oriented—gives them more ownership and cuts down the sabotage factor.
6. Become a communication chameleon.
When talking to employees try to adopt their communication style. This eases tension and makes them more open.
7. Remember the little things.
Remember employee’s names, faces and maybe even their hobbies and favorite movies. It will go a long way to cement their connection with you and your company.
8. Fan the flames of hope.
Hope is the mother of product evangelism. Make your employees your company’s first zealots by inspiring them with the hope of things to come. Be bold in vision and sweeping in execution.
9. Pay attention to the minions.
Adam Smith wrote the perfection of human nature was to, “feel much for others and little for ourselves; to restrain our selfishness and exercise our benevolent affections.” Your company is not just you it’s made up of the people who work with and for you.
10. Promise and deliver.
This goes along with being transparent. If something’s broke promise to fix it, then fix it. Of the 18 factors that Y Combinator’s Paul Graham says kills startups the overriding murderer of a new company is making a product no one wants. A CEO not in touch with his employees and the office politics that surrounds it is in danger of not seeing the signs that her product sucks. Break out the bubble and listen to what your employees are saying. It could help you avoid the biggest disaster of them all—extinction.
Matt Powers is an Internet Marketer with Blue Soda Promo, an online promotional marketing store. He also writes on the importance of marketing, branding and logo design on their blog. Image Credit: Shutterstock.com