I was a bad manager.
When I was promoted into management, I really didn’t know what I was doing. I had a hard time paying attention to employees during our meetings. I was focused on pleasing my higher-ups, so I said yes to things that should have been “no”. I thought that the number of people on my team and title actually mattered. And those barely scratch the surface of my management sins.
But I didn’t want to fail as a manager. Even more than not wanting to fail, I wanted to be an exceptional manager. I wanted to be the manager that I wished I’d had; the answer to bad managers.
Every night and weekend I read management and business books. I bought a subscription to Harvard Business Review. I took notes and studied the “good” leaders around me. I was determined to be a great leader.
I won’t lie; it was a bit of an uphill battle.
I did have help though. My teammates worked with me. These kind souls provided feedback and helped me when I screwed up. I enlisted mentors and coaches who guided me with their experience.
And over the years, I developed tricks to help me do better. I created automated reminders to ensure that I asked regular questions and remembered to follow up on goals. I had secret notebooks with note-taking templates to make it easier to reference what people said. I had bookmarks with important information like the names of children and spouses.
And as I got better in my role as a leader, people started asking me for help. I started blogging about the things I found myself saying over and over. As an engineer, I loved data; so when the analytics on my site told me people liked reading about leadership and navigating the political waters of work best, I wrote more of those posts and the audience grew. Pretty soon I had become an “expert” in teams and leadership.
What is the big idea?
With every startup, there has to be an idea.
When I first quit my big corporate job at Amazon to become an entrepreneur, I didn’t have any ideas. I hadn’t yet learned to think entrepreneurially (which is a learned skill best acquired through osmosis in my experience). So I spent the next few years running startup teams and soaking up as much knowledge as I possible could, until finally the entrepreneurial ideas started flowing faster and better than I ever thought was possible.
When I finally decided to take the leap into my own venture, I had to pick one of my ideas to focus on and build a company. And I wanted to pick the idea I knew I could make successful. THE Slam Dunk.
Why was it so important? You see, for the last 4-5 years I have been advising companies and entrepreneurs, dishing out advice on teams, product, and process. Now wouldn’t it be ironic if I couldn’t build a successful company after telling lots of other people how to build theirs? Failure wouldn’t just be financially hard, but it would be my reputation too.
I knew I could build a great product. I’ve been doing it for over 10 years and execution has never been an issue. However, the problem I was really worried about – the biggest hurdle facing the majority of startups I’ve seen, in fact – is getting enough of the right customers.
Which is why experienced entrepreneurs recommend building both your audience and product [insert link here]. You don’t want to wait until your product is launched to think about your customer pipeline.
Coincidentally, I had an audience – and they were hungry for leadership advice and training.
Better leaders is the vision
If you have a $1,000 budget to spend on employee development, there are all kinds of options. You can hire a coach, send them to a conference, or enroll them in a course. However, in most organizations, budgets of this size are only afforded to executives or senior leadership. If you only have $50 or $100 to spend, there aren’t a lot of options in the way of training for more junior or lower level employees.
However, as teams grow, strategy and leadership no longer comes from the most senior members of the organization alone. Technology has made information accessible, and companies that don’t take advantage of leadership at all levels are going to lose their advantage.
Luckily enough, this is what software does best. It can automate and scale things that are manual or expensive. And that is what we aim to build with popforms.
We want to provide coaching and training to help develop good managers into great ones. We want to help high-potential employees achieve their goals. We want to make it easier to get feedback and advice in a way that is actionable and timely. And we want to build tools that add as much benefit to the employee as they do to the manager making the purchase.
When employees ask to use our products then we know we will have done something right. Popforms is about growing the next generation of leaders – are you going to be one of them?