The Entrepreneur Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in America’s startup scene contribute answers to timely questions about entrepreneurship and careers. Today’s answer to the question “What leadership style should every entrepreneur try to adopt?” is written by Irv Shapiro, CEO of DialogTech.
One of the biggest mistakes you can make as an entrepreneur is thinking you’re the smartest person in the room. I have always tried to surround myself with the brightest people I can find, and I’ve carried this goal to every company I’ve started. I attribute any entrepreneurial success I’ve had to the great teams that have joined my companies over the years. I believe there’s no better way to build a scalable company than by hiring the best people available and never settling for mediocrity out of expediency. When I have compromised on my hiring standards, I have hurt my organization, and ultimately had to replace the individual.
How should you go about finding the best people to join your team? It’s simple. Hire smart, hard-working, ambitious, and nice people, or who I call, SWANs. You can teach skills and you can mentor behaviors, but if a candidate isn’t quick, doesn’t have the raw horsepower required for the job, or is a jerk, then you have a limited likelihood of success.
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I developed the idea for SWANs at an earlier company that I founded 26 years ago, Metamor Technologies. Metamor grew to over 500 employees in 12 years, and with that number of employees, we needed a consistent strategy for communicating our hiring requirements. By looking for these qualities in potential employees, we were able to ensure we were retaining the best talent possible. The strategy has proven successful, as my previous two companies were acquired, and my current company is growing steadily with 150 employees and over 5,000 customers.
Along with hiring the best individuals you can find, as a CEO, you must create a shared vision that everyone can believe in. This shared vision must encompass a strong company culture, product innovation, employee personal goals, and short and long-term company goals. It is naïve to believe this vision will be static. It will—and must—evolve as the organization evolves. And if you hire SWANs, your team will be able to evolve with the company’s vision.
In addition to creating a shared vision that engages your employees, it is imperative to align your company’s procedures and policies with the shared values encapsulated in your vision. For example, you must give your employees the autonomy to do their jobs. You must trust that they are working hard and doing their best work. You can then prove that you trust them through policies that align to your trust, like unlimited vacation and flexible working hours and locations. Measure your employees’ success by their results instead of the time spent at their desks. By giving your employees flexibility, they will be more committed to driving results that benefit the company, and more likely to see and support the long-term company vision.
The measurement of results vs. time also aligns with today’s always-connected workforce. Most of our team members have mobile devices that allow them to receive emails, “slacks,” and text messages. They do not “check out” when they leave the office, and respond to requests anytime they are available. Providing flexible work hours and open vacation policies align with advantages we gain as a business from our employees always being on mindset. However, when your employees choose to take a day off or want to take advantage of your vacation policy, let them disconnect. Allow them to enjoy their time without inundating their inbox. While they may always be connected, allowing them to turn off every once in awhile will keep performance and productivity up and burnout down.
Empowering team members through progressive policies doesn’t imply that you have abandoned your responsibility as a manager to monitor progress. Delegating responsibilities is a continuous—not a binary—function. When you first delegate a new task, it is appropriate to check on progress often, maybe multiple times a day. But as your teammate gains experience and has demonstrated success, you can back off and check in every few days. Ultimately, you ask your employee to just let you know if a problem occurs. During this process, remember to measure results and not time.
As a leader, I believe that the best way to grow a company is to hire the right people, create a shared vision, and then implement policies that align to both your vision and your team’s values.