Diana Hsieh at NoodleFood posted about an interview with Steve Jobs of Apple. She quotes several parts of the interview, but my favorite paragraph is her own description of the difference between a bureaucratic company and a healthy one:
"A bureaucratic company is a company that doesn't trust its employees to make good decisions. The result is stagnation and incompetence. If a company can't trust its employees to exercise good judgment in doing their jobs, then it needs to fire them and hire better employees. Or it needs to learn to trust them to do what they're capable of doing, including learning from mistakes. Bureaucratic focus on "process" and "policy" will drive away the most productive and capable employees -- or crush them. It's not a mode of business appropriate to rational, productive people."
This really rings true for me as I reflect on the last four years of practicing hiring, managing and, yes, firing employees. Here are a few lessons we've learned that relate to Diana's quote above (in no particular order):
1. Demonstrate the "company culture" you want and then trust your employees to make good decisions within that framework.
2. Create jobs for individuals rather than hiring individuals for jobs (ie. play to employees strengths rather than forcing them to do jobs they aren't good at).
3. Problem employees, whether due to lack of judgment or being poor community members (dramatic, etc - we deal with this one a lot) aren't worth it, no matter how much experience or other great traits they have. Fire 'em.
4. Delegate, delegate, delegate. Assign tasks, train employees and let them complete them with supervision appropriate to their ability - not more, not less.
5. Explain the reasons behind your decisions, especially early on in your relationship with an employee. This lets them know that you think things through and leads to respect and loyalty.
I am still working on all of these and probably will be for the rest of my career! Who ever said being the boss was easy?!