I thought I would take a break from blogging about being a startup CTO and instead answer a question I often see asked: “what is your management style?”.
I operate on the basis that I absolutely trust everyone on my team and I want them to trust me. If this isn’t happening then either the trust needs to be improved or the individual isn’t right for my team. Trust is an overused term and I think it’s worth defining what it means in this context:
Importantly, this works both ways.
If trust isn’t there then everything gets slower and less joyful. I’ve not yet met anyone who relishes being untrusted. I’ve seen plenty of cases where tasks take longer because people are covering themselves because of a lack of trust.
I don’t know everything. My team probably doesn’t know everything either. I like to work collaboratively with my teams. I believe that being collaborative makes it easier to get buy-in for decisions and helps people understand why those decisions have been made.
I feel it is important to clarify that this isn’t an excuse for laziness. If I’m wanting to change how we do something as a team then I’ll do my research and come up with a reasonable starting position that we can then work on together (or scrap if it turns out to be terrible).
As I trust my team and we have worked together to make decisions I like to be hands off and let people work in whatever way suits them. I’m always available to help and talk about things. I’ll try to spot when my team is in trouble and too deep to realise they need help. Other than that, I’ll let my team get on with it with minimal reporting.
I want members of my teams to learn and develop. This means that sometimes I’ll be hands off to the point of watching people make safe mistakes. That’s a deliberate choice as I believe people learn a great deal from making mistakes. It’s part of my job to make sure that those mistakes are safe.
We spend a lot of our lives working. We should enjoy it. I try to take a light-hearted approach to everything I do. It’s entirely possible to serious things with a smile on your face and I want my team to be smiling too.
Oh, and I’ll bake cakes too.
Many companies act as if their employees will be with them forever and if they ever left then that would be a huge breach of trust. I really don’t like this.
I prefer to acknowledge that the employer/employee relationship is a temporary one. Ideally, team members would be with me for at least 2 years. Ideally, those team members will continue to learn and grow whilst they work with me. Ideally, I’d have new roles ready for these people as they grow. The reality is that they will get to a point where the next step is outside of my team and they are moving on to an opportunity I simply cannot provide. That is something to be celebrated. It is an amazing experience to have a team member come to me and say “Colin, I need to resign as I’ve been offered a more senior role that isn’t available here”. when that happens I feel I have done something right.
I know many people have different management styles. I like mine, it makes me happy and leads to effective teams that I’m proud of. I think my management style has a lot of positive feedback loops that make it powerful. Being hands off shows that I trust people which leads to greater trust which leads to more enjoyment.