In his book Fueled by Failure, entrepreneur and philanthropist Jeremy Bloom shows readers how rebound and reprogram themselves after defeat and how to use the lessons from those failures to achieve winning results. In this edited excerpt, the author offers tips on developing your management skills and finding the right employees for your business.
When it comes to managing your team, should you choose top-down or bottom-up management? Top-down management, as the name might imply, means that everything starts at the top and works its way down to the next level of managers, then down to the team. While this style has been effective in some industries, utilizing a single vision and pushing it downward through the ranks can also alienate people on your team who don’t feel they have a say in how things get done. Top-down can also lead to a lack of motivation among employees because they don’t feel enough ownership or input in their work and the goals of the company, which usually reduces productivity.
One reason the bottom-up approach to management is growing in popularity is because people naturally like to feel that their opinions are heard and valued. In such environments, team members feel more connected to the company’s mission and empowered to help influence outcomes rather than blame management for the inefficiencies inside the business. As a business leader, I try to follow a management style that's fully transparent, bottom-up, and respectful of all involved.
The Keys to Building a Strong Team
No matter what positions you need to fill, you want to build a team of future leaders. Laszlo Bock, senior vice president of people operations (essentially, HR) at Google, says it’s important to look for leadership qualities from the start. This means choosing someone who can, when necessary, step in and lead. People with the ability to take charge when necessary are valued most in a leadership culture.
But as Bock emphasizes, strong team members also need to step back and relinquish power when necessary. People who are strong-minded and can vigorously support their positions should also be able to step back sometimes and say, “Okay, you’re right.” As Bock puts it, “You need a big ego and small ego in the same person at the same time.”
Other characteristics I believe are key to building a strong team in business:
1. A good cultural fit. I’ll take a good culture fit over someone who's highly competent but a culture risk. Cultural risks -- people who don’t have the “team” mindset -- can bring down the morale of the entire team.
2. People who don’t get in their own way. There are people who love their own ideas so much that they can’t accept that someone else might have a better plan of action. Their own ego can get in the way of a management team moving forward. As you scale up, make sure you don’t have a management team that gets in the way of each other. If you have too many people who love their own ideas too much and don’t know when to step back, you start running on a treadmill.
3. Humility. If someone is able to be humble, own up to a mistake or a failed attempt at something, accept criticism and move forward constructively as part of a team, this is a big plus. People who can be humble can get stuff done, and, more than that, they are great team players.
There are plenty of answers to the question: What makes a leader? But, for me, it’s simply this: Leaders are people who, when they encounter a problem, adversity, or a barrier, immediately try to find a way to overcome it. They are proactive people who don’t need a lot of guidance, they just get things done. Leaders talk about and execute ideas. They do this alone or collectively, whatever it takes. They see a problem and look for a new solution. When they fail, they look for other ways to succeed. They look toward the future, and no matter what has transpired, they always want to move forward, even if the path ahead of them is unclear. Leaders seek out new ways to do things rather than harping on what does not work.
Conversely, a victim is a person who, when they encounter adversity, a setback, or an obstacle, is programmed to point the finger and say, “It’s not my fault.” It’s always someone else’s fault. In business, victims feed on office politics, take a defeatist attitude, and follow the crowd—even if that crowd isn't heading in a positive direction. Victims don't look for new ideas and will criticize without offering a better solution.
Any time you’re hiring , you want to know what happened to the candidate at his or her previous company. If the person lost their job, why did the company let them go? People are downsized all the time, but you want to know how the person perceived the experience. For example, sometimes people go on and on and on about “The company had no idea what they were doing” ... “My boss was a moron” ... “The company will never make it” ... etc. Those types of employees will say the same thing about your company if you hire them and it ultimately doesn’t work out. A good leader with humility would describe the situation much differently by saying things like “The organizational design didn’t fit with the type of company I want to work for” or “It never felt like we could lock arms and build a unified culture” or “The values of the company were in conflict with what I believe to be true north.”
Despite trying to weed out the victims, sometimes you'll end up with someone who has the “victim mentality” on your team. Perhaps they've mastered the art of interviewing well or even start off with a very positive nonvictim approach. Their true colors, however, will surface when something goes wrong and they blame everyone and everything in sight for the miscue or mistake. If this becomes a regular response and they don’t show improvement after you have given them feedback, you should cut ties immediately regardless of how great the person is at their job. As a business leader, you can’t let the victim mentality impact the rest of your organization.