Let's face it—startups are intense. And between all the product iterations, sales meetings, and coffee guzzling, one thing can be overlooked: keeping a pulse on your company. Being the leader of the company means being involved in what goes on each day, and that can become more difficult as your company grows.
So how do you do a good job of keeping up with everything without adding too much to your day to day?
How well are you really conducting your one-on-one meetings? If you're simply going through your agenda without stepping back to listen to your employees, you're missing out on a lot of valuable information. So instead of going in guns blazing during your scheduled (they are scheduled, right?) meetings, try asking honestly, "How are things going?"
Depending on the situation, you'll get different responses—a rant, a disaster, or a normal update. You decide where to take the meeting from there.
Tools like 15Five and TINYpulse make it a lot easier to gauge how your employees are feeling. You can use them to ask your team questions on a regular basis such as, "How happy are you on a scale of 1 to 10? Be honest." Then dig deeper if it looks like there's a problem. You can also ask people if they feel like they have autonomy or a sense of purpose at the company. Spotting little issues that you're unaware of can make a major difference for your company. It has for mine.
Some other questions you can include in your automated questions include:
- What were your biggest and most exciting challenges this past week?
- What distractions came up this week that prevented you from getting the most out of your job?
- What's one thing that you'd like to do, but aren't getting to do right now?
Beyond the structured one-on-one meetings I have with my managers, I have random meetings with my other employees during the week to see how they're doing and to spot additional problems I might have missed. It means that much more to your team when you're not just talking to your direct reports, but to everyone. A lot of startup leaders get too bogged down with their day-to-day duties, and they forget that people are the most valuable resource at a company.
If you're in startup mode, you have no reason not to be engaging with everyone on your team.
Forget about quarterly or even annual performance reviews—they're just not effective enough. Too much happens within a startup to wait 90 to 365 days to have a discussion. And if you're waiting that long, you won't be able to cram all the key points into one discussion. Holding ongoing performance reviews allows team members to correct the course immediately and feels more fluid.
Being candid is something I learned from former VP of Growth at Facebook, Chamath Palihapitiya. There's no sense in sugarcoating the truth or skirting around uncomfortable conversions—be as direct as you can while being respectful, and encourage your team to do the same. Letting your people speak candidly helps avoid confusion and makes for a more effective work environment.
Trying to keep a pulse on your company as it grows is another job in itself, but it's necessary for future growth. Once you're able to establish a process for this, you'll be more aware of your surroundings and big decisions will become easier for you. Give it a shot and let me know in the comments what the results are.
—Eric Siu is the CEO of digital marketing agency Single Grain and is part of Young Entrepreneur Council and Entrepreneur's Organization. He also interviews entrepreneurs weekly through his podcast, Growth Everywhere.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.
[Image: Flickr user osseous]