Stock Option Tips for Startups

Scary management

Have you recently told someone on your team to do something? If so, there’s a good chance that some management training may be in your future. (Disclaimer: This blog post doesn’t just apply to software development.) We often hear that the command-and-control style of management is the “old way”, and removing roadblocks is the “agile way”. While this sounds like a good thing every time we hear it, there isn’t a quick and easy way to determine how to adjust. I often find that it’s difficult to take many of these self improvement suggestions and act on them, so I prefer internal triggers that can shape behavior in an ad hoc manner.

Trick or treat

In this case, the key trigger is simple asking/telling someone to do something. What?! Our internal voices may find this proclamation to be borderline-insane as this is method by which we get almost everything done. But wait, there is a better way that creates self-empowering teams and removes the management dependence. The alternative approach, simple and elegant, involves explaining the expected result and trusting the teams to accomplish the resulting tasks. In some cases, the difference is a subtle change in the wording and intentions, and in others, there may be political reasons why specific commands are given. In the later, this is a trigger in itself that the political issues (often elephants in the room) should be tackled head-on instead of being obfuscated.

It’s true that since childhood none of us have liked being told what to do, and each of us wants to feel that we had some say in the planning. Using the method above solves both of these common psychological dilemmas. The bottom line is that if you can’t trust people on a team to know the intended result, there could be a problem with having the right people on the team or managing the team.

Confrontation meets capitalism

Can the simple rules of capitalism help you with life’s predicaments? In both family and business, all of us are forced into situations where we have reached an impasse with someone else. Often the “facts” favor each party’s perception of the conflict. Before entering into a conversation that can become heated, one simple rule of thumb to remember is the supply and demand mindset. On the demand front, it’s important to never demand anything during the conversation. The goal should be to determine what the goal is and work towards an action plan that is acceptable to both sides. This is not easy to do when we think we are “right”, but it’s a simple rule to remember once the emotions start flaring.

Lake Travis 2006 - Turtle Cove

On the supply front, it’s a good idea to start the conversation by admitting what part of the conflict you have supplied. This is the most difficult but most important part of resolving the problem because we often think in terms of facts and evidence, but the only reality is that both sides have contributed some part of the awkward stalemate. This also requires serious self-examination as the contribution may have been doing or saying nothing for too long of a time. When having difficulty identifying what your contribution may be, viewing the situation from the other person’s point-of-view can often help. In many cases, the admission of what one person supplied to the problem will result in other person following the same course, and in the end, the conversation has a much better chance of both parties having their demands met.

Say what you mean

As someone who is quite particular about the words I write, I constantly make the assumption that anything written can and often will be published to more than the present/intended audience. For example, I try to punctuate and spell correctly when typing in IM, even though I use my fair share of chat abbreviations for speed. Others choose to strive for speed in chat and email, often leaving all words lower case and misspelling about half of the other words. So, what does all this babbling about “writing” have to do with anything other than personal preferences? Almost nothing, it’s all about style and old habits in many cases, and it really doesn’t matter. What is important is the content, and specifically, how well the message is delivered.

Double Blue at Park City

In a recent email exchange with Cote, I congratulated him on his usage of “has had” in a sentence. My simple amusement of this seemingly insignificant detail was derived from an encounter I once had with an English literature teacher in college, where I used this combination. After a lighthearted demonstration to her showing where several famous authors wrote this in their books, she caved, and I became one of her favorite students. After the story, Cote remarked that things get a lot easier once you start writing to say what you mean. (Put that one in the old memory banks, and use it often.) Granted, it’s unlikely any of us would tolerate complete gibberish, but I would take this a step further and pass a little caution onto those who admonish cliches and other society-driven terms. Unless the line clutters the meaning, why not throw it in?! Because, you can’t have your cake and eat it too, since he who lives by the sword, shall die by the sword.