The past few years have been an exhilarating, yet exhausting journey. There is no shortage of learnings I took from my time at Philips and other startups that are now gone or still with me – here are a few very honest reflections on what has worked for me.
1. Being too nice
This probably could already fill a whole book. I thought being nice to people would help them grow and develop, and would give them the safety and support they needed to flourish.
I said yes to too many things.
I tried to overcompensate
I was scared to harm the trust or relationship we had built
I wanted to give them what I needed at that time – affirmation that I am good enough.
But then I realized, that what helped me grow most in my career, was critical or developmental feedback. And this is also the basis for their growth and trust.
Leaders who want their people to feel good about themselves need only provide them with clear, specific feedback. This will allow the individual or team member room for growth and development in both work performance as well as personal life since there is no incorrect answer when giving honest assessments of one’s abilities!
The discomfort of giving strong, sometimes critical has not gone away, but I know that it is important to everyone, including myself.
2. Too much ego
The ego and conflicts around titles of CEO were an issue in my first startup. We had conversations that took us away from what we set out to do, which was a problem because writing this has made me realize how stupid it all felt at the time – and ashamed for having been so caught up with these pointless discussions about who should be ‘higher’ than others during our early stages as startups! Let go today: let’s focus on being seen by potential clients/customers not just one person but many people-a team effort where everyone’s contributions count equally.
Also, hire the best people. I once passed on an employee that I felt threatened by. I still regret that to this day. Here you can read how Google hires people and there was a lot to learn for me.
3. Trying to do it all alone
When I first started I felt like the only person who could help guide my team and myself to success were just in this one room with no escape from making mistakes or feeling fear. But then again that’s what any successful company does: They invest their time into building up others so you can both succeed together! One thing led to another until eventually there were people surrounding us offering feedback on how we could improve; even sharing moments of victory with each other too-and suddenly everything changed!
I learned to create a support system, get people to challenge me in the right moments, and share their experiences and advice when I need it most.
- Get a mentor. Look for somebody that cares about you, your job, and your career. IT can be in your company or outside. Provide value for both of you, not just one way in order to make this last for a longer period of time
- Learn from experts and connect regularly
- And yes, get a coach. This is a neutral figure that can support you, help you tackle your biggest challenges, and keeps you on track.
I had an amazing support team, made up of former managers and co-workers who helped me throughout my time at the company and still are there when I need them most. They were all so patient with me as I learned how to do things and they never left my side when it came down to learning new skills!
If you need support to implement your leadership skills, giving feedback, delegation or communication to your team: Reach out!