By Raj Dash on September 17, 2007

With the number of tools available on the Internet, it’s quite possible that entrepreneurs can build a successful business online – even a media empire. However, if you expect to expand, you will need to delegate tasks at some point. You simply can’t do everything yourself and also expect to grow.

That means you need to hire people and inevitably deal with “normal” work situations. Forget about traditional leadership. I’ve only ever had a very few bosses who were good leaders, but they taught me something because they were forward-thinking. Here’s some of their wisdom, distilled by my perspectives and my experience in the workforce.

Never blame. At least, don’t blame an employee in front of another. If you have to reprimand, do it in private. This sets a bad tone, and you lose respect with all employees, as such things will get around like bad gossip.

Don’t create adversarial situations. Don’t pit employees against each other or ask them to snitch. Healthy competition is fine. Back-stabbing is like a smile, but only in that it carries a long way through the company morale, and not in a good way.

Understand the work. Be a constant learner. Have at least a fundamental understanding of the work you’re expecting your employees to do. It makes it easier on everyone when the try to tell you why something can’t be done, or that it will cost more.

Don’t put square pegs in round holes. Basically, assign the right work to the right people, to allow them to work optimally. Don’t be like those companies that shall remain nameless that give you a job you can’t do and beat down your spirit. You wouldn’t want that and neither would your employees.

Lead by example. If the company approaches a problem that covers new ground, don’t expect your employees to know how to solve it. If you know how, give them a crash course and let them take it from there. And by leading, I don’t mean leading employees like a puppy.

Brainstorm. If they still have trouble solving a new problem, brainstorm with them. Proper brainstorming requires that at least the moderator of the meeting does some legwork beforehand. Record all ideas without censorship, or you might miss the best solution, which might be unfamiliar and thus seem odd.

Ask, don’t tell. Communicate well and clearly. In a startup company with a positive environment and healthy competitive spirit, most people want to be asked, want to be challenged. Offer up the day’s or week’s “assignments” and let people pick. That is, if you’re not such a big company yet that you need to structure everyone’s roles. Don’t count anyone out. You might be suprised about who’s capable of what. Challenges also weed out the lazybones.

Be decisive. Have a strategy ready. If business problems crop up and employees are aware of them, they’ll be thinking abou their bills, their mortgages, etc., not yours. (Possibly unless you’re giving them incentives.) So be the decision-maker, indicate what needs to be done, then ask for volunteers or assign tasks if necessary.)

Consider profit-sharing. Bonuses go a long way towards employee loyalty, passion and creativity. Sure, there’ll still be stragglers, but a creative bonus “matrix” weeds them out. If your company is young, there’s only so far you can go with bonuses, so also consider profit-sharing/ private shares. Talk to a good accountant about the best way to implement these incentives.

Be sympathetic. Or at least courteous. It’s only human to not always be in top form, even with incentives. Talk to your employees, understand them and give them some leeway when possible. Have some redunancy in job descriptions, right from the beginning, to allow someone to temporarily take up the slack.

Be firm. Being sympathetic is all well and good, but you do have a business to run. Be firm when it’s necessary.

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