I have spending a lot of time thinking about how I can improve myself with the techniques you discuss on the podcast.

I’m 23, never had any directs, and work in a start-up. The remainder of this post goes in to some questions I have surrounding the execution of things like coaching, feedback, and delegation when your directs may be older then you, and have had more experience.

I am heading to new start-up (only 12 people) in May. There's a certain energy that surrounds them that I don't feel is there when I speak with friends (e.g., mid-level directors) that work for mid to large-sized organizations (IT outsoucers, banks, etc).

The culture of a start-up is not yet fully developed, the politics are testy (founder syndrome, new CEO / management, VC's, etc), the team is (hopefully) really smart, and the goal is to "just get stuff done". I feel it can be tough to execute on things like coaching, feedback, reviews, and more -- especially when you are young and not have in the back of their minds, "yes, he/she can say this because they have 20-30 years experience".

I truly feel it is a matter of relationship building and trust, as you say. But, without that experience, it may much longer to build enough wins to be able to reliably construct those relationships; especially when you don't have much experience, no degree or certifications, etc...

How can a first-time / young manager (in a start-up) deliver feedback, coaching, and O3’s, without making their team feel slighted? Having folks walk away from something like delegation thinking, "why do THEY get to tell me what to do -- they are younger than me", or, "they haven't done this as long as I have, and don't have my degree", or something of that nature.

All things being equal, I will come up against this in my career, and feel it may benefit others that are in the same scenario.

Mark's picture
Admin Role Badge


GREAT question! I know other members wonder about this, so thanks for posting.

First off, you're right. In a start up, and one that small, "big company management techniques" don't always have a good reputation. And, it is ALWAYS easier to do new things and have them accepted if you have a long track record of success in some way.

But O3's and feedback and coaching are all still COMPLETELY do-able. First off, though, let's take the feedback and O3s to peers and bosses off the table. Those are problematic in even good situations. Don't do that until someone asks how you're getting such good results.

And one more thing: it wasn't completely clear that you were going to have directs. If you don't, you're not going to do O3s, and feedback better be pretty soft, and you sure aren't going to coach anyone but a good friend (question for the audience: would the coaching model work to help out a friend?)

But let's assume you will have directs (at least, if not now, then at some point). First, DON'T make a big deal about what you're doing. Don't TALK about feedback, or coaching, or O3s. Don't give them a name...naming something makes it real to others (Just read Genesis).

On the other hand, DO give feedback. Use the DISC model to make sure you're tailoring it to lessen the impact. Give a LOT of positives early, to build up their tolerance.

DO conduct O3s. If you have directs, just tell them you want to sit down once a week to talk about stuff. Don't overdo that first mail - do a soft launch. Don't make a big deal out of it until they complain when you miss one. Then THEY are proving the value.

If you get push back, okay... take it easy for a bit. After a couple weeks, sneak in those O3s. It's just a project meeting, if someone asks. If the CEO interrupts, let him. If others mail or call, ignore them but respond promptly when done.

Don't make it about management skills. Make it about improving results and pushing projects out the door.

It's worked for me with hundreds of managers in your shoes.

Let us know how it goes. Have a safe move, and don't be so desperate to get to work out there that your spouse feels lonely in a new place. Taking a couple of days for her is worth a hundred forgiven late nights!

It's a privilege to serve you.


MikeK's picture

Mark, great response. I agree with everything you posted. I was just hoping to add my experience briefly for adam's sake.

Adam, I agree with mark that not all these tools can be presented or encourage directly with others. however, yes, you should be able to make them happen even if they are not called what they are or as formal as they might be if you really had direct reports. As for the feedback and coaching (yes, Mark, you can definitely coach a friend or peer, as I regularly do this with a good friend of mine at another company and we literally feed of each others coaching for management skills) you can make them happen. Feedback, no exceptions, anyone can provide meaningful feedback to anyone else, experience and age are irrelevent. You have to adjust the delivery of it, but it still applies.

Coaching would be a bit trickier and I'll suggest a couple things that have worked for me. If you have an area where you feel you can provide coaching to someone and they are not a direct report of yours, ask them if they are willing to work with you on something you believe you can help them with. Explain how you think it helps you get results and you'd like there opinion as well once they develop those skills. I find this very effective with peers and even with people who are more experienced than me. Do it with respect and tell them you'd appreciate learning from them as well (name something specific if you know of something).

I developed this relationship with one of my peers and we have since ended up becoming the two team leaders in our group and we are constantly trying to focus on our own areas of expertice and then coaching each other to improve and train each other. Do this with many peers if possible! This works and can be a big step forward in your leadership skills and the leadership your peers will perceive.

Good luck with it!!

MikeK's picture

adam, I'd recommend getting a few leadership books as well to learn that base skill set while working towards more management roles.

Maybe Mark or Mike can post their favorite leadership books if they have any, as that category seems to be missing in their manager book selection (however, they are focused on manager tools here, not leadership per say even though its VERY related).

I've just read through a summary of the 360 degree leader by maxwell and although I haven't read the actual book yet, its one I'm going to recommend to some of my directs who are wanted to focus on leadership skills. Its looks good so you might want to check it out!

esanthony's picture


Being a 30-something manager in small companies I understand what you are talking about. What Mark said about "not giving it a name" is absolutely true. It is so much easier just to do it without being formal like in a larger organization. I just did that here. I only have 3 directs but I just did 60-day reviews on all of them. I didnt call them that but it was just effective for me and them as if they were formal reviews.

Also, a startup can be the greatest roller coaster you will ever ride. If you develop the habits that Mark and Mike teach in their podcasts the ride will still be just as thrilling but the track will be smoother.

Good luck!


adambullied's picture

Wow! Guys, this is fantastic. The support and advice of such a well-versed and experienced community is EXACTLY what a guy in my scenario needs.

While I've pretty much learned most of the "concepts" I know from books, actually hearing things from folks that have been there and done it is much richer learning experience. That being said, there are plenty of reading materials on Mike and Mark's list that I want to check out.

I'm confident, going into my new company / role that I'll be able to start working with the tools comfortably, and as 'esanthony' said perfectly, make the track more smooth.

Thanks again guys -- this has been extremely valuable for me.