As an entrepreneur and founder, I’ve been building teams and companies for more than 10 years, leading everything from operations and strategy to community development and fundraising.
Most recently, I cofounded the shared office space startup Alley, an entrepreneurial hub that brings together diverse teams and businesses so that they can reach their next stage of growth. Through my journey of growing Alley from an idea to a venture-backed startup, I’ve learned a handful of lessons about being a successful manager. Whether you’re starting out and managing up, leading a small team, or growing a workforce of your own, I suspect that they will prove useful to your career.
1. Working Well With Strong Personalities Takes Time And Effort
It can be hard to get strong personalities to align with decisions with which they don’t entirely agree. But having every team member opt in and back a decision is key. It’s on you, as the manager, to create a scenario where everyone can get on the same wavelength before you move forward with a plan. It all comes down to communicating in a way that makes it easier for others to say yes, even if you think you don’t have the time. Putting in this effort up front will pay off in the end, and the trust you build will carry on into the next decision, and the next, and the next.
2. Having A Supportive Network Who Can Help You Is Extremely Crucial
Even if you’re the boss, you still need mentors and advisers who can help you navigate the conditions of your management career. Mentors are work/life’s cheat codes. Managing people is as much about managing yourself as it is about managing those around you, and I know that mentors have pushed me out of my own way. They’ve helped me wrestle down my ego, even when I thought I was being judgment-free. They’ve acted as sounding boards as I encountered challenges and roadblocks.
I also recommend reading High Output Management by Andy Grove. This book has served as great guidance as to where and how to allocate my time as a manager, and I come back to it time and again to remind myself how to build a self-sustaining, mature organization.
3. Learning To Listen Is More Important Than Knowing Everything
It’s impossible to learn something you think you already know. Managing is not about knowing everything (or even knowing anything); it’s about listening to understand, making a clear decision once you’re equipped to do so, and rallying full support from your team.
This openness and flexibility allows you to make the right decision in the context of your objectives. And shutting up and listening is a fantastic way to show you’re vested in your employees’ success. Make the time for one-on-one meetings and the follow-up. Be transparent about why things are happening, and where each employee fits in that context. This makes it much easier to manage your team. (Disclaimer: This is assuming you’ve hired well to begin with!)
4. Your Goals Should Be Clear And Simple
And repeat those goals often–to yourself, to your team, and to your bosses. Something said isn’t always something heard. I find that the more complex the business, the more distracted one can become by things that don’t matter. It’s helpful to be mindful of what does, and track projects and decisions back to those goals. These may be goals for the week, the month, the quarter, or the year.
It’s up to you to decide on what kind of horizon you’d like to set a goal, but the simpler and clearer the goal, the easier it is for your team to get behind it.
5. Invest In Your Community’s Success
The most rewarding part of managing people is observing growth, progress, and wins on both the individual and organizational level. As managers, we’re personally vested in the success of our people. If you are great, we will be great. Period. As I move into my next venture, I’m constantly thinking: How do we best create an organization that inspires personal growth, and growth in our local communities? How can good business impact communities in the best way and make those communities healthier? Good businesses make employees better, and as a result, both the company and employees make communities better.
A version of this article originally appeared on The Well, Jopwell’s digital magazine, and is adapted with permission. Jopwell is the career advancement platform for black, Latino/Hispanic, and Native American students and professionals.