If you hardwire flexibility into your core company values, it will make things much easier to pivot later when you need to. Make a point to mix things up as much as possible. A new office layout, random events and shifting roles can keep things fresh for your team and prepare them for bigger changes when they come. Build an environment where everyone can comfortably go with the flow and you might actually survive a major company transition.
One of the most costly and toxic mistakes you can make in building an organization is hiring people who do not fit or deliver. Especially at the management level. Bad managers that don’t fit tend to hire more bad people who don’t fit. Not a good situation to be in. If you continue to grow without amputating the infection, you might find yourself with a heavily weighted and unhealthy organization. Don’t do it. Never compromise on hiring. Make sure at any cost that the people you are recruiting can do the job and fit in. It’s worth hard questions. It’s worth confrontation and debate. It’s worth negotiation. Do not be afraid to be absolutely sure.
It’s exciting to see the success and growth of an organization through the numbers: sales milestones, unique visitors, engagement statistics and more. It’s very practical and momentous to set metric goals that everyone can reach for and beat. But numbers cannot tell the whole story. And metrics can only inspire a team so far. It takes a portrait of the future painted zealously by leadership to truly inspire. Something greater to work towards. Something to believe in.
The best preachers don’t talk statistics or business. True vision cannot paint by numbers. There are no formulas or metrics for dreams. Speaking abstractly and passionately about a vision for the long-term future can open minds to the possibilities and help your team imagine their way out of the status quo.
Metrics and numbers keep an organization accountable to measurable improvements. Numbers have their place and should be respected. But they only serve to measure movements that already exist. Why not strive to make new movements and invent new metrics? A vision by numbers is not enough. The opportunities are boundless for your organization, but only if the vision you paint for your team allows them to be.
Growth is an awkward and confusing experience. By building on the old and bringing in the new, life mixes up and turns to chaos. Oftentimes, you experience bumps and bruises. In the worst of situations, there may be casualties. Whether you like it or not, that’s the name of the game. The only way to stop growing pains? Stop growing. Or die. I endorse neither. Growth and change are instrumental to life. Hell, they’re key to adaptation and survival. Suck it up, learn to love the pain and enjoy the ride.
If you find yourself responsible for staffing a team, do not take the responsibility lightly. You will bring people on board with whom you may spend more time with than your real family. More than finding skilled people who fit the bill, you need to find people with whom you like to spend time.
The modern approach to hiring is more like an arranged marriage than dating. Members of the company sit in a room together and grill the candidate, call references, and put the interviewee to the test. It’s a lot like your romantic prospect’s family attending the first date and grilling you about housecleaning or parenting. Not a natural courtship process. While perhaps less “professional,” a reasonable amount of the interview process should be spent eating, drinking and hanging out with the interviewee. It’s one thing to get to know someone through his or her skills. It’s a whole other ball game to get to know someone culturally.
It does not matter whether he or she is a prodigy talent – if you can’t get along together in person, more harm will come than good. Never hire from a phone interview alone.
How do you find “datable” hires? Start by encouraging your team to invite friends. Friends of friends have a better cultural in than a random chap off the street. If no luck with friends of friends, branch out through the network. If you find someone promising, do not settle on business references alone; find a way to collect social references as well. If nothing else, take him or her out to dinner or throw a company party. Have a little fun. Make sure you can have a good time together. After all, you’re bringing on a new member to the family. Behave and celebrate accordingly.
Seth Levine made me think a lot today about feedback loops within organizations. Employees fear giving feedback to their managers or superiors. Makes sense – if you take constructive criticism too far, you may find yourself on the street. Tragically, most managers and executives want and need advice to help them do their job better. While leadership coaches may help, third parties are not close enough to the conversation. Only people within the organization spend enough time around you to identify a specific and timely list of your faults. More importantly, outside help cannot understand all of the personality types you lead. Every team is different and takes a different approach. At the end of the day, you must own a leadership style that fits your team.
Fortunately, there are people who can help – your employees. By giving your team permission to provide feedback, you open a door to better-understand your style and flaws. Permission is not enough, however (remember: people fear the guillotine) – you must build structure to provide feedback. Some managers approach this anonymously, with surveys and the like. Others organize reciprocal reviews and have it out one-on-one. The anonymous approach allows employees to craft their responses and be more candid. A more open and direct approach can work for people who can manage tempers like monks. I suggest a combination of the two to get the full picture.
If your team corroborates specific faults across the board, you should take a pretty big hint. By including your people in the dialogue, you can empower them to challenge you to improve. If everyone can set egos aside, feedback permission can radically improve morale in the workspace, the drive for improvement, personal ownership of their role in the company, and collaborative honesty overall. I don’t care what numbers or information you share with your team; you are not truly transparent as an organization until teammates have the freedom to be honest with each other.
Writing a screenplay, filming shorts, building a reel, exhibiting talent and advertising yourself as a “director” are NOT enough. Film is a collaborative art and it takes a strong core team. The key to becoming a successful film director (or any key-level position) is to surround yourself with talented people who can only see you as a director.
True for any profession – surround yourself with people who believe in your dreams. Family and significant others are a good start, but you need professionals who can support you and your vision. Convince the industry you are best at doing one thing above all else.
I have mentioned this before, but it has to do with portrayal. If people see you as a good assistant, they will only see you as a good assistant. Best camera operator in town? Good luck getting calls for anything else. If your agent values you as a writer, hard chance earning a push toward the big chair. Show everyone you are a good director, and they will only see you as a good director.
Start on your level. It is far easier and more effective to prove it to peers who will recommend you than to a studio executive with your reel or a script. Your network is your net worth. A friend’s “I know this great director” is far more accelerating than “I know this talented guy who is working at an agency.” If your friends don’t title you a director, no one will.
Best to build your team on level, too. You need at bare minimum a producer, director of photography, production designer, sound designer and editor who can vouch for you. Part of your marketability as a director are the talented chaps you have in tow.
If you are not building relationships with collaborators, getting constant practice or stuck working a 60-hour week, I strongly encourage you to quit your mediocre day job and get busy because you are wasting time. Don’t tell people you are a director, be a director. The only person who will believe your lie is you, unless of course your lie comes true.
Share this with peers you believe in and encourage them with your vote of confidence. Success in collaboration is a two-way street.
Things get stale in the office. The same scenery, the same products, the same ideas, the same relationships. To keep your team in high spirits, mix it up.
Vacation is not frequent enough. Ask employees to find a public venue to work one morning every week – coffee shops, co-working spaces, diners, etc. Encourage them to interact with other patrons and make new friends. Satellite conversations will spark new ideas that spread internally and inspire evolution. And as your employees build relationships in new environments, the team vicariously expands its network and potential resources. Win-win for everybody.