Gauging (potential) employee performance can be tough, especially when you have the magic mix of growth and constant change. While thinking about staff performance with my co-founder we always seem to end up agreeing that leadership is a core trait. The ability to listen, be humble and focus on self improvement are essential for early employees to succeed.
As a founder, you’re constantly looking for new talent while nourishing existing colleagues. Measuring their performance can be challenging, especially if you’re pre-revenue or your product market fit has more holes than Dutch (it’s just better than Swiss) cheese. How are you going to review your first salesperson’s ability to close without tested conversion rates? What gives you the authority to call out a marketeer on engagement if your customer segment has not been fleshed out?
People have told me that I should only hire a salesperson after closing 100 customers. This would indeed be an ideal scenario, but the reality is hardly ever ideal. What if your sales cycles are 6-12 months and your domestic market is tiny. Moreover, the external market with the highest potential is more (read: only) accessible for a local. At this point, the data driven approach to business - which we all aspire to have - leaves the picture incomplete and lacks real and actionable substance.
This is one of the reasons why GROM started off with fusing key performance indicators (data) with values. In absence of significant data, the latter will help you figure out the future trajectory of employees in the company.
Leadership is a key value for us as we hope to see early employees play a pivotal (managerial) role as the company grows. There are so many ways to explain and define leadership, Amazon counts over 60,000 books on the subject. At GROM we have our own take on the matter.
Be more than a “visionary”
In a world fueled by optics and instant gratification, it has become more important to sound like a leader than to actually be one (#Garyvee). Instead of constantly touting your amazing vision and solution laced oratory skills, focus on listening. And when you speak, make sure that your team actually understand what you’re saying and buy in. “Does that make sense?” might be one of the most important questions I’ve ever made my own (thanks Robert Neivert).
All your achievements in life are (at least partially) the by-product of interactions with others. Whether positive or negative, they have brought or pushed you to where you are today. Being conscious of this fact and thankful (both in thoughts and words) ensures that your team will enjoy working with, and goes the extra mile for you.
If the lifeblood of a healthy company is communication, then we see reflection meetings as the ventricle pumps and atrium (yes, I needed to google that analogy too). On a weekly basis, my co-founder and I take 30-minutes out of our schedules and put ourselves in your shoes and hope you’ll do the same. “Leader employees” view these sessions as an opportunity to grow and will play an active role in improving the experience. (“Not yet” or “never”) leaders will perceive feedback as a malicious attempt from the founders to attack them and can’t wait to get it over with.
A constructive reflection meetings require a high level of trust, self-confidence and (sometimes) vulnerability from everyone involved. It requires people to understand and internalize where others are coming from, even if they don’t agree. These traits are core to your ability to be a leader in GROM. It takes guts to both share and positively receive feedback.
At GROM we always aspire to be more than we were yesterday, and so, the above traits are not exhaustive. I would also be contradicting our view on leadership when arguing that we - as founders - never fall short. We are, however, a family which is bound by the drive to improve ourselves and our solutions everyday.