Hire Great People – then get out of their way

August 13, 2020

How do you build a mission driven team that flourishes in a vibrant, healthy culture? It starts where every employee starts: The hire.

Hire for Passion and Mission

  • For anyone that is only about titles, promotions, compensation, perks, the good office (back when we had offices to go to) etc etc – that’s a no-go from the get go.  Focus on those who truly believe in what you are trying to do – and are excited for the journey.

Hire Somebody Better than You

  • This Is a talking point we hear everywhere nowadays – but the reality is 95% of organizations don’t do it.  Whether its ego or priority, too often hiring managers (at all levels) don’t even have this on their radar.  There is still a lot of baggage around hierarchy, politics and, not to mention, personal insecurities.
  • When I was at Facebook, the most influential decision Mark Zuckerberg made as CEO was to hire Sheryl Sandberg – someone with a very different background and skill set but someone who rounded him out as a leader.  We quickly realized that we now had 2 CEO’s – and while Zuck could have felt threatened, instead he knew that this would help him to be a better CEO and leader –  while making Facebook a better company.  He then spent more time doing what he loved: product design and engineering while delegating the business to Sheryl.  They learned from each other and made each other better.  The 2 best industry executives in the world (IMO) were now under 1 roof – what a massive advantage.
  • I want to work with founders and leadership teams that inherently understand this – and want to surround themselves and their teams with people that can elevate them and their orgs/ideas.  Focus on strengths and complementary skill sets is integral here.

Whatever you are

building won’t work

without the right people.

Culture and People > Strategy

  • It doesn’t matter how strong your strategy is  or how great your product is – it all comes down to people and leadership. If you don’t have the right people operating and executing on your vision and ideas – it will fail.  Nothing is more important than the people.  Hire people that you don’t just think can get a job done – hire people that will elevate everything you do: the work, the culture and other people.
  • Cultivate a culture of transparency, honesty and not just communication, but over-communication.  It all starts at the top – be a role model for those you bring on board – show them it’s safe to ask questions, to disagree with decisions and have open discussions about it.  Constantly bring people with you.  Over Communicate what is going on and what is coming.
  • Diversity is success.  Having a diverse team leads to a more productive team.  Hire for diverse skills sets and backgrounds.  Remember that while your next hire may not look like you, sound like you or have taken the same path as you, that might just be the exact thing your startup needs.

Stay Lean

  • Grow barely as big as you need to – and not as big as you can.  Less is more – that was the difference between my strategy at Google and my strategy at Facebook.  I didn’t have a headcount at Google – as many great engineers as I could hire – we would.  At FB – we had strict headcount targets – I needed to  hire 1 instead of 3 and 3 instead of 6.  We were going to grow resource constrained – and if we did that well – it would be a massive advantage.  We stretched people like they have never been stretched before – thus building programs, processes and a culture to support that was our goal.  If we did it well – we would win.

Attitude over Aptitude – no A-hole rule

  • Let’s be honest – there are going to be some true geniuses out there that I never EVER want to hire, support or work with.  If there is a choice between working with a founder who may be whip smart and talented as hell, but a real PITA vs. someone who is very talented (but perhaps less so than the former) but has the passion, vision and humility to know what they don’t know and who motivates others to do great things and is fun to work with – you bet your ass I’m hiring and pulling for that person first.  At Facebook, we had a clear no a-hole rule in sales (not easy). If there was any indication of arrogance or selfishness, regardless of what the feedback was, success they had prior etc, it was a No Hire – plain and simple. Again, it slowed us down in the short term, but preserved the culture of what we were building for the long term.

Interview your first 50 employees

  • Hiring your first 50 employees is the most critical part of building your company.  As a founder,  you want to send a message early that people are your most important asset and you want to ensure that you are building a team with well-rounded, diverse skills. Take the time to interview every candidate until you hire your first 50 – at least.
  • These fully-vetted, fresh-faced, and ambitious hires are your foundation. In future blog posts, we’ll go more deeply into management techniques that will keep them growing, fulfilled and connected to your mission. Things like:

– Weekly 1-1’s: make sure your team and other managers are keeping everyone informed and moving forward

– Company meetings: Weekly, bordering on repetitive meetings that will serve an important purpose: reinforcing key goals

In the meantime, remember: you’re only as good as your hires. So hire them well.