For better or worse, some of my learnings from the last 10 years.
1) Take your time (you'll save it in the long run). Patience is a virtue. Make a process, learn from it, iterate and improve it. Meet candidates a few times, set them tasks and challenges, really understand what motivates them and what their skill set is before making any hires.
2) Be malleable with staff roles (and even subsequent business strategy). A candidate will never match a job advert. Once you've hired someone, allow their job roles & responsibilities to adapt in line with a better understanding of their strengths and weaknesses.
3) Find greatness in everyone. It's your job to bring out the best in people as much as it is their job to be the best they can be. If you accept your part in the challenge, you’ll find good staff will likely accept theirs too.
4) Staff happiness is not ping pong tables and beers on a Friday. People want to feel simultaneously challenged, loved, supported, learning and liberated. A tricky balance. To get it right takes a big investment of time and focus. Show huge amounts of empathy to each and every individual. If you want a beautiful work culture and happy staff - you HAVE TO accept this time and energy cost.
5) When the company has grown to a point where you can’t give out the level of time and focus required for every individual, ensure that you hire a layer of management that understands the importance of point 4.
6) Understand personality types. The key to motivation is to understand what motivates. Make it a priority to understand what motivates each of your staff - and help them to find that motivation as often as possible. I like the 16 personality trait test. It’s free and very insightful. It’s a good way for staff to learn better about themselves and how to engage and interact with each other.
7) Know when it’s not working out. Move people on swiftly if it’s not. This will benefit you and your employee. A bad fit can create a negative atmosphere that spreads quickly. When a staff member feels insecure, they will likely latch on to their colleagues for security - not their bosses - creating a feeling of us vs them - and so bad feelings/dissatisfaction can spread very quickly.
8) A point to reinforce the above. Look out for insecurity in the workplace. Often the key (as always) is empathy. Address insecurity and bad vibes head on. Unpack why there is a layer of insecurity. More often than not it’s due to a staff member not feeling that their work is good enough, so they hide away, which then creates a cycle of bad work, insecurity and frustration. Your job as an employer is to stop that rot, acknowledge it as very normal behaviour and then put the energy in to bring back a blank canvas mentality. Typically having a reset-style meeting where you support & fundamentally re-hash out for someone what you expect and how you can help them to create excellence.
9) Submit to the serendipitous nature of life. Timing is everything and nothing is perfect. Finding the perfect candidate is not possible. So be happy to work imperfectly with imperfect people on an imperfect project. That acceptance can de-stress and increase motivation levels for improvement.
10) Lead by example. In your way. If you want your staff to work hard - then YOU have to be the hardest worker. If you want your team to be empathetic to one another, then you have to be the most empathic. You set the most important example in the workplace. It’s the most important responsibility you have.