Why I Don’t Like Managing People

Mitchell Harper
Jun 8, 2016 · 4 min read

I’m good at, but don’t like managing people. And there’s a reason for it.

I’ve managed dozens of people directly and hundreds indirectly during my career as an entrepreneur, but I’ve never liked it. To me, it was a “necessary evil” that goes hand-in-hand with building great companies.

Over time I thought I’d 1) get better at it — which I did and 2) like it — which never happened. Not after 15 years of trying and working with some of the most incredible people on the planet.

Now don’t get me wrong. I LOVE people. I LOVE creating great cultures. And I LOVE seeing people move up the ranks and accomplish their goals. And I do whatever I can to make that happen.

But I’d rather stare at a wall than do any of these things:

  • Performance reviews
  • Staff meetings
  • One-on-ones
  • 360 feedback reviews
  • Read employee surveys

No matter how hard I tried, I could never get myself to like the “management” aspect of building companies.

Then one day I learned about the 3 types of people that can build companies. I think it was in 2009. Up until that point I thought that an entrepreneur was an entrepreneur was an entrepreneur.

What I learned, however, is that there are actually 3 very distinct types of people required to build a successful company.

They are:

  • The Artist: Designs and builds beautiful products. Has an eye for detail, puts design at the center of everything they do.
  • The Entrepreneur: Loves to take ideas and build companies around them. Likes marketing, testing, tweaking, scaling things up and the excitement that comes with bringing a new idea into the world.
  • The Manager: Loves everything to do with people and gets their work done primarily through hiring and delegating everything to their team.

You can be one of these or a mix of two, but generally you need all 3 to be present in a successful company. For example, you might have two co-founders. One is the manager and the other is the artist+entrepreneur combined.

Me? I came to learn that I’m the artist+entrepreneur. When paired with my Strengths Finder 2.0 profile, I am the thrust and the continued force (think of a rocket), which basically means I like and am good at:

  • Coming up with new ideas for companies
  • Creating the product, down to the smallest detail (and obsessing over them)
  • Working relentlessly to get everything ready for launch
  • Scaling the company from an idea into something of a semi-decent size (8 figure revenue) at a furious pace and keeping that momentum up for 3, maybe 5 years before I burn out and get bored

This also means I don’t like (and in some cases, am not good at):

  • Managing a steady state of pace and growth (i.e. not hyper growth)
  • Staff meetings, performance reviews, etc (everything I said earlier)
  • The day-to-day people stuff (HR, company meetings, etc)

Now there are two ways you can handle information like this.

First, you can try to learn or get better at what you’re not good at. If you’re the artist type you might decide to learn how to become a better entrepreneur and/or manager of people by getting a coach, reading books or attending a few seminars.

Good luck with that.

Second, you can find co-founders and build a team around you that make up for your weaknesses and acknowledge that you’re damn good at one thing and be OK with that. For example, if you’re an incredible manager, you might find a co-founder who builds great products and loves marketing.

The second approach, in my opinion, is what you want to focus on. Great things are built by teams of great people — never an individual, even if it may seem that way from the outside.

Behind Elon Musk, Tim Cook, Marc Benioff, Sundar Pichai, Richard Branson, etc, etc, etc are armies of incredibly smart, hard working and loyal people who give everything they can to bring the vision of those founders into reality.

Acknowledging we have flaws and can’t be good at everything lets us be amazing at the one thing we like and have the talent for. And as the saying goes…

“When you love what you do, you never work a day in your life”.

As soon as I stopped trying to be the entrepreneur+manager and focused 80%+ of my time on being the entrepreneur+artist, I instantly spent more time feeling happy and fulfilled at work.

Ever since then, I’ve always brought on a co-founder or hired great people to be the “manager”, so I can do what I’m good at and know that part of the business is running just as efficiently.

My advice for anyone reading this who feels frustrated with their company?

Take a few minutes and figure out what kind of person you are, then see if you can make a few changes to be that person more often. Life is too short to pretend you like doing something — it’s much easier (and more fun) to find co-founders and hire great people to make up for your weaknesses.

Get my new book “SANE: How To Build Your Business Rapidly Without Going Insane” at http://www.dontgoinsane.com 📚

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +492K people. Follow to join our community.

Mitchell Harper

Written by

Co-founder BigCommerce & Insane Growth. 8 companies, $200M in total sales. Startup growth advisor 👉👉👉 https://www.insanegrowth.com

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +492K people. Follow to join our community.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade