When I first started my company, my days involved long hours in the basement writing code to build what I was envisioning for Helcim. I essentially put on blinders, my entire focus was on building the product.
Because I spent so many hours alone in my basement, I didn't make connections with other entrepreneurs or business leaders who would have been able to provide guidance or advice in the early days. What I did have though, was biographies. I read a lot of biographies because I liked seeing how other people have done things and pulled inspiration from their stories. There are a lot of biographies about people who have gone through the trials and tribulations of building a business that you can learn from. Reading biographies from great leaders reminds me that I am not alone. Even if I don't agree with all the advice, or it doesn't directly apply to myself or my journey at Helcim, there's always something to glean that can apply to your own journey.
When I shared 5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became a CEO, the second item on the list was to find a good mentor or read biographies. That is how impactful I have found biographies to be. When it comes to learning how to be a strong leader, I've often referenced the lessons Jack Welch shared in his biography. As the former CEO and Chairman of General Electric, he built a company of innovation and growth because of his ability to find and cultivate great people.
Becoming a better leader will help me grow Helcim into a strong company. I'm always striving to be the best leader that I can be, so to expand my leadership skills, I've applied some of Jack Welch's lessons.
Find great people and elevate them
Companies are only as strong as the people working for them. If you have an amazing idea, but cannot find the people required to execute it, then you're not going to be very successful. Building teams with great people, who are passionate about the work they are doing and committed to the success of the company will make all the difference in being able to achieve your goals. I prioritize spending time with my employees, so I can get to know them, show them how the team interacts, and set expectations. One of Helcim's core values is to embrace knowledge, encouraging employees to share insights and ideas means the team makes more informed decisions and is therefore empowered to act.
Resumes are a poor way to find good staff
You can't tell who someone truly is based only on what they can write about themselves on a piece of paper. It's important to meet people in person and get a feel for whether they have the passion and drive to get the work done or not. Passionate people will find a way to get the work done, even if there are challenges in their way. Finding the right people can be difficult, it takes a long time to learn what kind of people work best with you and your company. I have hired some brilliant people who were miserable to work with, and highly trained people from great schools who were lazy. The one type of person who seems to work well time and time again is someone with passion. They not only seek out the answers to questions they don't have the answer for, but they also have the drive needed to not give up when things get tough.
Raise the self-confidence of my employees
If your employees have high self-esteem they will have the confidence to reach further and try new things, unlike employees who are fearful or who are constantly doubting themselves. People are going to make mistakes, but if they're taking responsibility and learning from them then that's okay. When someone makes a mistake, that's not the time to knock them down or make them feel worse about it. Employees who are passionate and engaged know when they have messed up and will feel bad about doing so. Helping employees identify their mistakes and supporting them in remedying the issue allows them to build up confidence again and come back stronger next time.
Being fired should never come as a surprise
If someone is not performing according to your expectations as their leader, or the requirements of the team, then you need to have a conversation with them to identify where they are falling short and ask how you can help them improve. While the first conversation might come as a surprise to the employee, it is important to establish a dialogue and clear expectations of what is required of them. If the employee's performance still does not improve after these conversations, then they should only feel relief or disappointment - and not anger and shock - if they are let go.
Differentiation is good
While it's important that everyone feels that they have a stake in the company, it does not mean that everyone must be treated the same way. It's okay to reward high performers more than others. Differentiation can help create a winning team. By rewarding the best team members and removing the weakest, you set the bar high and keep your team pushing forward to reach new goals.
Celebrate all victories
When you're building a company, there can be long stretches of time where you're only focused on getting the work done. Everyone keeps their head down and works hard to achieve goals and milestones that might be far off. Success doesn't come overnight, but by making a conscious effort to celebrate the little victories, be it a marketing milestone or the completion of a smaller set of code, you can keep the team engaged and motivated. The celebrations don't have to be big, take the time to get a drink with the team after work, bring in snacks, go out for lunch, or print t-shirts. All these little things go a long way in creating a unified team that is excited to win and grow.
I've always believed that culture comes from the top. As CEO, I am responsible for setting the vision for the company and establishing the company's culture. Helcim is in a busy growth stage, with plans to add eleven new team members by the end of 2018. A larger team will test my leadership ability more than ever before, but I am committed to being the best leader that I can for my team. As the team grows, I will be reflecting on the lessons I learned from Jack Welch so I can continue to lead my team to success.