A Friday series exploring Startups and the people who make them go. Read all If the Shoe Fits posts here.
Engineers constantly channel Wernher von Braun, “One good test is worth a thousand expert opinions,” preferring AB tests and data points to anecdotal evidence or everyday been there/done that experience.
This is a serious problem for most founders who are
- engineers, and
- inexperienced (AKA, young).
Tests, no matter how good, and data points fail miserably when it comes to hiring people, let alone managing them.
Proof of this comes from no less a data embracer than Google, which scrapped an algorithm that was supposed to predict successful hires, its famed brain teaser questions and rigid responses to recruiter questions.
Such was the experience of Quang Hoang and his two partners when they started Birdly, which pivoted three times before finding a solid product/market fit.
…the tumult alienated most of Birdly’s employees, who quit. Hoang attributes the turnover to his own inexperience as a manager.
“We, along the way, made many mistakes in management,” Hoang tells Business Insider. “We lost many great developers.”
Enter Plato, a new name and a new team, focused on providing techies with soft skill mentoring.
The idea, says, Hoang is that an engineer’s education is focused heavily on “hard skills” around programming and systems design. The rest has to be learned. And for programmers-turned-leaders, it’s often the “soft skills,” like management and leadership, that need the most attention.
To people such as myself, who for decades have been involved in teaching and honing those skills in managers across all fields, not just tech, it’s more of a ‘duh’ factor.
But that’s OK; just don’t call it “thought leadership.”
Most great management concepts and skills aren’t decades old, they’re centuries old, constantly updated using language that will resonate with the current target audience.
Probably one of the best pieces of leadership/management advice comes from Lao Tzu and dates to the fourth or fifth century BC; I’ve quoted it multiple times over the last ten plus years.
As for the best leaders,
the people do not notice their existence.
The next best,
the people honor and praise.
the people fear;
and the next,
the people hate…
When the best leader’s work is done,
the people say, “We did it ourselves!”
To lead the people, walk behind them.
Difficult advice to follow in a world of personal brands and excessively large egos.
Image credit: HikingArtist