5 Important #startuplife Lessons Learned in 2015
Last year was different — I joined a startup and experienced how challenging #startuplife can be. I knew it will be very hard. I was looking for new challenges and was ready to deal with them.
Turned out it was even harder than I thought…
1. Enjoy the struggle
In 2015, I left the amazing Eskimi team to join startup Veleza as a product manager. The main reason — work at Eskimi was slowly turning into a comfort zone. I wanted to throw myself into something completely unpredictable.
“Who you are is defined by the values you are willing to struggle for” — Mark Manson
And Veleza gave me so much unpredictability that sometimes it was even hard to handle. This is a good read that explains why I am still doing it. Eventually, I want to be a part of a successful startup, but I also enjoy every struggle I have to face on the way. Otherwise, I would have left a long time ago.
2. Help people succeed or let them go
I still remember that strange and positive feeling when I was finally sitting on the other side of the table during a job interview. You start to see life from different perspective. But making a decision to let your team member go is a completely different experience. And it is much harder when you do it for the first time.
I joined the team of 4 great people. After some time, I realized that one team member is under-performing and spreads negative energy. Since he was here from the very beginning and was responsible for all server side — I was afraid to even think about letting him go.
We talked, I really tried to understand how could I help him succeed. I silently hoped that summer vacation will help to get things back on track. But months passed by and situation just got worse. I even started to avoid talking with my team member, because I always felt his negative energy.
I finally decided to find out if he still has any motivation to work towards team goals. Or should we thank him for all the great work and let him go. After we talked it was clear - he was burned out. Startup cannot afford people that are burned out. Even if the burnout was caused by tremendous pressures of startup life. The decision was clear to me and I learned few more lessons the same day.
3. Don’t let them burn
Startups can burn people. Even your best ones. No matter how hooked they are and how badly they want to work non-stop, day and night, workdays and weekends, without vacation — DO NOT LET THEM DO THAT. Force them to take a vacation. Ask how was their weekend. If they tell you a number of tasks they’ve finished on Sundays few weeks in a row — show them a list of great activities they can do next weekend.
And do not burn yourself! It’s quite easy with all the struggles you have to face every day. Take time for yourself.
4. Say goodbye fast
I learned, that you need to make “goodbye” decisions fast. It is better for your startup, your team and for that person as well.
“You can never make the same mistake twice because the second time you make it, it’s not a mistake, it’s a choice” — Steven Denn
Unfortunately, I had to say goodbye to one more team member the same year. The second time was easier because it was a new team member. In less than a month, we realized that our vision on how to do things went completely different directions. When we’ve realized this, the decision was made in one day.
I am glad that CEO handled all “goodbye” meetings himself. I wasn’t ready for that yet. But now I am more comfortable in making these important decisions. And hope I still have some time till I have to handle one of those meetings myself. This will be even harder…
5. Know your team members expectations
I already wrote about the importance of knowing other people expectations. But when I joined the new team — it took me some time to finally arrange expectation interviews. It takes just one honest conversation to move your team relationships to the next level.
And it always surprises me when friends tell me their manager never asks what motivates them, what are their career goals. This is something every good manager must do. And you get answers you would never think of yourself. The only way to know the answer — simply ask.