Category Archives: Management and Strategy

IS YOUR COMPANY CULTURE ON AUTOPILOT?

For startups, the early days can feel exhilarating, even romantic: a handful of dedicated employees all focused on an original idea, solving problems as they arise and growing the business in the process.  But with growth comes a range of leadership challenges: ones it can be easy to overlook until it is too late. The following are three tips for leading a rapidly growing organization. The first is to invest in human resources early.  Startups tend to hold off on investing in a dedicated human-resources function as long as possible, instead handling recruitment on an ad-hoc basis. The second is to not get attached to the original team. It is unlikely that the team a founder starts with will have the exact skills and expertise as the team that should run the organization when it has tripled or quadrupled in size.  The final tip is to be mindful about remaining an attractive place to work. Being thoughtful about culture is not the same as maintaining the early culture at any cost. With more people and more hierarchy, more structure is required. This naturally changes the culture, which may be met with resistance by employees, particularly those who are used to the more free-spirited early days.  Read More >>

TAKE 5: THE UPSIDE OF FAILURE

No one sets out to design an unsuccessful product or get turned down for a big promotion. Yet there’s a growing awareness that failing actually has its upsides. One probably messes up more often than they think. Many people like to believe that they miss the mark less than the average person, even when it comes to ethical lapses. Indeed, research from professor Maryam Kouchaki suggests that people tend to experience what she calls “unethical amnesia,” wherein they recall their own unethical behaviors with less-than-perfect clarity. Additionally, one’s career can benefit from their failure. Adversity itself is what can push rejected people to succeed. Failure can also create great stories. Failure anecdotes can show character, reveal leadership skills, and demonstrate drive. It is possible for companies to foster a culture where failure is okay. Additionally, sometimes what looks like success can actually be failure in disguise.  Read More >>

5 SURVIVAL TIPS FOR STARTUPS WORKING WITH LARGE COMPANIES

Because of the fast pace of innovation, many of today’s large companies form partnerships with startups that have the technology or know-how they need.  In theory, the partnerships should be great for the smaller company because the more-established organization has the financial resources, name recognition, and market access the startup needs.  Don’t partner with a company just for its name recognition or its financial assistance, but for how the relationship can help your startup grow. Large companies with layers of bureaucracy move slowly. Some projects take years to complete. Startups need to develop a trusted relationship with knowledgeable and committed employees and managers who are motivated to make the partnership succeed.  If negotiations become too fraught, the relationship becomes uncomfortable, things get bogged down in bureaucracy, or the timing doesn’t feel right, don’t be afraid to terminate the partnership.  Read More >>

MAKING JOY A PRIORITY AT WORK

Human desire is as essential to achieving business goals as ever. Companies are making massive investments in technologies that can more closely link their people to each other, to customers, and to other stakeholders. Joy connects people more powerfully than almost any other human experience. In any team environment, joy arises from a combination of harmony, impact, and acknowledgment. Business leaders can engender all of these in their organizations. When the diverse skills and strengths of teammates are really clicking together and harmonizing, it feels great. Team harmony leads to impact, which further fuels joy. Acknowledging each player’s contributions and cheering for each other powers the entire joy-success-joy cycle. Joy can pack as much practical punch as technology if we allow it to. Technology provides the infrastructure for connectivity, but the foundation must be a culture dedicated to the human experience of harmony, impact, and acknowledgment. In sum, joy.  Read More >>

HOW TO DESIGN FINANCIAL INCENTIVES IN PROFESSIONS THAT ARE HIGHLY TERRITORIAL

A study of doctors shows that the best incentive schemes harness a desire to expand and protect professional turf. If one would like employees to more consistently fill out tedious paperwork or be more attentive to customer needs, the solution is usually quite simple: pay them more to do it. Little is known about whether financial incentives like this work for professionals such as doctors, who have high autonomy and esoteric expertise, and often feel a dedication to “duty” over mere self-interest. Such professionals are infamously hard to manage by any means. They don’t want to be told how to do their jobs. And throwing more money at them isn’t likely to make them budge. In a study performed by Jillian Chown, doctors responded to financial incentives attached to tasks where they had low jurisdictional dominance.   Read More >>

THE PERILS OF SURVIVORSHIP BIAS

Many aspiring entrepreneurs believe that dropping out of college to start a company is the key to success. Many successful CEO’s well-known stories give the impression that to triumph in business, all you need is a big idea in college and the will to quit school to pursue it. The problem is that college dropouts do not usually become billionaires. There are many more budding entrepreneurs who dropped out of college to start companies and failed than those who succeeded. To focus on the people who left school and made it big is to ignore the far larger set of dropouts who never got anywhere. This is what is known as “survivorship bias.” Survivorship bias is an error that arises because we look at the data we have but ignore the selection process that led us to have that data.  Read More >>

STARTUPS BET THAT LONELY FREELANCERS CRAVE COMPANY

Work clubs say productivity improves when you have a buddy.  This has become a problem from remote workers, who miss the interactions of nearby co-workers in the office.  There is a new trend of ventures coming into fruition: transforming remote work into a group activity. Many people get more work accomplished where there is no distraction at home, but feel more motivated in the workplace surrounded by peers.  Start-ups like Focusmate are trying to solve this problem. This start-up features fifty minute video sessions with randomly assigned partners. For $4 a month, users have unlimited access to the program, which can be an asset for people with deficit hyperactivity disorder.  Read More >>

How To Measure The Performance Of Your Remote Startup Team

Hiring remote workers gives access to talent and cost savings. Remote workers tend to accomplish more in less time, experience lower levels of stress, feel more connected with their colleagues, and are less likely to quit their job. Today, no matter the location, budget or the skills needed, as long as there is an internet connection, a team can be built and managed. Remote employees can come with challenges as well. Without proper management, transparency, low reliability, poor communication, low productivity, and security issues can arise. Drawbacks can be avoided by hiring to delegate, having expectations quantified and qualified, and by shortening evaluation cycles. Read More >>

Start-ups: The Founding Team Is a Real Magic Bullet

The majority of new ventures fail prematurely.  A lot of this failure is due to a lack of collaboration within founding teams.  Important, early decisions are prone to conflict. Examples of these decisions include funding, development, etc.  Because tensions are so high, investors often look at the team-dynamic as much as the start-up product itself. Strong teams can overcome and navigate turbulence, leading them to success.  Founders of start-ups are in a unique situation, as they can build and craft their whole team from the ground-up. Teams should be made of both unique skills, and people with interpersonal skills.  The culture that the originating team sets usually lasts long after the staff rotates out.  Read More >>

Your Work Friends and Enemies are Affecting your Performance

Conflict may appear to be two-sided, but this is not usually true.  The basis of most conflict at work is tryadic: when there are three parties involved.  The third party is often the key to relieving tension and restoring balance. When employees feel socially balanced at work, they tend to perform better.  Researchers from Northwestern University, Harvard Business School, and University of California teamed up to discover how social triangles change over time.  They ruled relationships into four categories: a friend of a friend is a friend, a friend of an enemy is an enemy, an enemy of an enemy is a friend, and an enemy of a friend is an enemy.  If all four rules are satisfied in a tryad, the tryad is balanced. There are two possibilities for this, which are when all three people like each other, and when two friends have a mutual enemy.  Balanced relationships are important because employees tend to make better and more profitable decisions than when they are in an unbalanced situation.  Read More >>