Monday, December 7, 2009

Give People A Big Shot In Small Doses

Smart workers get restless, they want to learn and grow. Sometimes they are looking for a challenge or they want to make themselves more marketable by picking up a new skill. Whatever the reason, it is critical to provide your employees with opportunity. The longer an employee is stuck doing the same ol' thing, the sooner your employee's productivity will either drop or they'll start looking for another job.

Facebook is growing rapidly as a company, and most of the people that work there couldn't care less about social networking. They are there because Facebook lets them work on cool shiznit. I met a guy recently that is a database expert with ridiculously good skills, and he told me he went to work at Facebook because he's working on a cutting edge database called Cassandra. I met another guy who worked there, and he joined the company because they'd let him work on a ton of different PHP projects.

If you want your people to grow, give them tiny doses of cool stuff to work on. It could be anything. Let them run a meeting, make a technology decision, write a blog post, hire an intern for a week, or call a customer. Encourage them to ask questions (including the dumb ones) and answer all of them. Share your wisdom and knowledge as they tackle these micro projects and give them feedback right away when it's fresh in their minds. Not only will your workers be happier, they'll also turn into bad ass future leaders in your little empire. Even if your employee screws up their little project, so what?! It was small for a reason :)

An article on (How To Build Great Leaders) talks about IBM's Corporate Services Corps (CSC). The CSC is designed to stretch IBM executives, which helps them learn how to tackle challenges and learn from them. IBM knows that putting talented a employee in difficult situations is investing in the employee's futures, and that employee knows it.

One of the most valuable experience I had when I worked at Transmeta was running an internship program. I kind of sucked at it, but I learned a ton. I learned managing people is hard, they never do what you'll expect them to do, they want you to provide them with structure, and that I am much better then any intern will ever be at Diablo 2.

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