At Strategy Lab we are looking for Rockstars. I know it’s an overused term by now and does not convey what I intend to in this post. But follow along and it will all make sense soon.
A Rockstar, in the software development field is someone who does the work of 10 individuals. Sometimes expressed as 10xer. These Rockstars are known to work faster, harder, solve more problems and get more done than any average employee.
But there is a downside. When you become really, REALLY good at something your ego shows it. People who are Rockstars are rarely easy to work with.
There’s a great article on the topic from Fast Company: 10X, Rock Stars, and the Myth of Meritocracy, a quote from the article: “I’ve met people who are the most brilliant programmers, but they make things that never see the light of day because nobody else can work with these people,” Grady Booch, a veteran IBM coder said.
Being a Rockstar isn’t easy. Being on a team of Rockstars is difficult but not impossible.
At Netflix Reed Hoffman always looked for Rockstars. He wanted people on his team that could work at incredible speeds, get enormous amounts of work done, and hopefully get along with the team. He talks about his theory in the book No Rules Rules.
Once you start working with Rockstars and hiring Rockstars it becomes an expectation that everyone performs at that level. That can be hard from people that haven’t performed at that level but it doesn’t mean they can’t learn.
Early on at Stratlab when hiring someone you would find out almost right away if they were a Rockstar or not. Usually within the first day or week we would see a sign, either good or bad.
I will never claim that our team is easy to work on. Quite the opposite really. Everyone on our team is remarkably good at something so when someone new shows up the immediate reaction is to reject. But some of our best people have shown how to reverse that rejection, through their work they become Rockstars too.
Without hard work you are nothing.
When you are on a high functioning team that gets a lot done, productivity can be contagious. A strong work ethic is the backbone of the Rockstar ethos. Without hard work you are nothing. When you see everyone around you working diligently it’s hard not to follow suit.
How do you find Rockstars? You have to find them young, just after high school or when they’re in post secondary. If you look for people in the working world you need to look for the best of the best. These people will cost a lot to hire and to keep. Plus hiring a Rockstar bring their ego into play, generally not a positive thing for your current team.
Instead, make Rockstars. Create a workplace that allows (encourages) people to become Rockstars. Changing the way you manage people, how you run your company and how you “flex” your authority.
Rockstars don’t work for autocratic bosses. Rockstars generally don’t like being managed or told what to do. What you need to do is give them challenges, set the goals, create the ideal outcome. Then get out of their way!
We want to create Rockstars
That’s not easy but some things we do are specifically to cater to the best in their field.
No clock in or out time. If you’re still tracking your employees working hours you’re missing the point. Freedom is a powerful motivator and it creates trust. Stop worrying about when your team is working and start finding work they’ll want to work on.
Work where you want. We work out of Path Cowork, a space that’s a wide open office but still has private rooms if needed. Our team can work from home any day of the week as well.
Personally I’m a big fan of the 4 day work week. Be on call 24/7 but hang out with your family 3 days a week. You’d be surprised at how much work you get done on those 4 days of “work”.
Endless holidays. Take as much time off as you want. Rockstars don’t apply for vacation or plan their 4 weeks out each year. No, Rockstars take a lot more time off because they’re working so hard when they’re in the office.
At Netflix many people took more than the average time off for vacations. Did that hurt their work life or productivity? Nope, it did the opposite. If you know your employer allows you to take as much time off as you want don’t you think you’re going to try to not only get your job done but to do it in a way that they’ll never want to let you go?
You can’t control people, why try?
The more rules you have around the office the more reasons you give Rockstars not to work there.
A couple weeks back I was explaining to some friends how we manage our team and how everyone is paid based on self reporting (they tell us what they worked on and that’s how we pay them). It’s very much like an honour system. The response from my friend (who works in the construction industry), “that’s easy for you, you work in the creative field, we work with trades, you just can’t manage them like that.”
I accepted it as the truth but later on reflected on what he said. The only reason it doesn’t work for him is that his company doesn’t trust employees enough. If you don’t trust your people you will detail their job out, how long it will take them to do it and ensure they clock in and out before and after they’re done.
Without Trust you will have no Rockstars
Every company starts off running it “like a company”. Profits before people, setting up the perfect “model”, and exploiting your people until you make a profit. Luckily this is a dying business model.
The idea of trusting your people, giving them the benefit of doubt, and paying them what they think is right isn’t a traditional way of business. It’s the future and it’s one of the best ways to grow your company.
Keep not trusting your people and they will finding ways to cheat the system and your company. Find ways to trust your people and they’ll find ways to grow your company for you.