Offer Scope for Employees to Exercise Their Vital Powers

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Rules of Thumb, skmurphy

Some post-Thanksgiving musings on my belief that most people want to do a good job. As you grow your startup find ways for everyone involved to work hard, see an impact, and improve.

“Ancient Greeks defined happiness as the exercise of vital powers, along lines of excellence, in a life affording them scope” Edith HamiltonThe Greek Way

I think most people (employees) want

  • to do a good job and prefer to work hard.
  • to see an impact from their labors, ultimately that their firm’s customers to be delighted with their experience of interacting with their firm’s products and service teams.
  • to get better at what they do.

It’s our challenge as entrepreneurs to create the right environment for this.

I don’t think that working hard means

  • Long hours, at least on a regular basis (also see the following for background on why more than 40 hours a week is quickly counter-productive:
  • Having to put up with a lot of bureaucracy and poor management (note: this means you and your decisions or lack of decisions if you are in charge)
    • One thing I am surprised we are not seeing more of is four day work weeks instead of layoffs. My experience with this has been that more gets done if it’s also used as a reason to cut back on unnecessary meetings and other time wasters.

Seeing an impact means just that. As founders we need to get out of the way and create systems that allow everyone in the company to see what’s happening without having to hear it from you. This does not mean showing any less appreciation for good work, or not actively addressing areas that need improvement. But it does mean establishing dashboards and metrics that allow everyone to help steer.

It’s been my experience that most teams perform up to a set of shared expectations and a “group pace” that a manager can help to set but is ultimately only a part of, not the determining factor (on the up side, on the down side poor management can wreck even a strong team over time). I think the best teams achieve an “Easy Does It” group flow where they are moving reasonably fast but making very very few errors. They may be trying a number of experiments and not having them succeed, but they aren’t creating re-work and ill feeling internally or externally.

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Comments (1)

  • SKMurphy » Quotes For Entrepreneurs - November 2008

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    […] “Ancient Greeks defined happiness as the exercise of vital powers, along lines of excellence, in a life affording them scope” Edith Hamilton in “The Greek Way” (inspired “Offer Scope for Employees to Exercise Their Vital Powers“) […]

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