Do Founders Need to Be Great Managers?

Do Founders Need to be Good Managers?

This was the question posed by Ryan Rutan and Wil Schroter on their Startup Therapy Podcast last week. And I gotta tell you – this one hits home for me.

Traditionally, management skills are honed over a number of years as you climb the corporate ladder. Sometimes though, especially in the case of startups, you may be thrust into management roles without the years of experience. And this can quickly lead to an interesting dynamic when the founder of the company is…well…is not the best manager.

Spoiler alert. I’m not a very good manager, so I’m looking in the mirror when I say this!

Focus on what you are good at

It’s okay to not be good at certain things. In fact, this was liberating for me when I was able to admit I wasn’t a good manager! Ryan and Wil suggest getting to know your strengths and figuring out whether it makes sense for you to even be a manager. This resonates with me because as the Co-Founder of HireBetter, I am effective in my role in leading and creating the vision for the company, but my management skills are certainly lacking. I know this is a weakness and I consciously stepped back and promoted Cisco Sacasa to CEO. His job is to turn my vision into reality – create a culture of accountability and develop the systems and processes for us to scale. But hey, if you’re a founder with great management skills, that works, too. Just make sure you know what you are not good at as well!

Great leaders are not always great managers

If you’re a crappy manager like me, that’s okay. You just need to augment your skill gaps with people stronger than you in those areas. There is no sense in holding onto a role you are not very good at. Doing so would not only make you miserable, but probably make your whole team miserable as well. As Ryan and Wil accurately pointed out, your team probably knew you were a crappy manager well before you knew you were anyway! Show your maturity by putting the right people in the right seats, including yourself.

Crisis determines the greatness of a manager

 Great founders will always find a way to be successful, including finding the right managers. I try to gravitate towards people who serve with passion and know their own strengths and weaknesses. I know they will be motivated, and will be able motivate the team, to pull through any challenge – no matter how big it might be. Want to find out whether you have the right person for the role? Watch them deal with a crisis – and 2020 provided ample opportunities to see how people handled crises! And that’s how I know I got a killer CEO, Manager, Integrator and Partner in Cisco! He and the team handled 2020 like pros. #Let’sGo!



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