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Interpersonal interaction

Managing people

Managing vs. leading: various ppl have their own definitions of these things. I'll consider a 'manager' as the person to whom others report, and a 'leader' as a fuzzily defined position of trust that you cannot have by virtue of people reporting to you, but only by actually earning it. Note that my concept of 'leader' is slightly different from most people's; usually in business books the CEO at a company is defined to be a 'leader' regardless of how other people socially relate to the CEO. However, this difference is less meaningful than it seems, because usually the task at hand is not to perform sociology to discover who is playing the role of 'leader', but rather to try and learn and practice the skill of 'leadership', which is the skill of becoming a good leader.


giving feedback: remember to praise

You should give praise as well as constructive criticism. In fact, you should praise more often than you constructively criticize, even during conflicts.

However, don't give insincere praise.

Typically, try to give praise in public, but criticize in private.

giving feedback: constructive criticism

However, you should also constructively criticize.



don't micromanage and don't do it all yourself

A common "gotcha" that is found in many sources of advice to new managers (e.g. ) is not to micromanage and not to try to do the work yourself instead of delegating.

However, it should be noted that the advice not to do the work yourself may only apply once you have more than a couple of people to manage (one commentor in the previous link put the threshold at 5 people), which is almost never the case in an early-stage startup. For example, if there are only four people in the entire company, every one of those people had better be doing some work aside from just managing the others.

Leading people


you have to care about the project

you have to care about people


often swept under the rug in the self-help literature is that people respond to success. What i mean is that, if you have great leadership skills but you fail, the effect of the failure will be similar to if your leadership skills weren't as great as they are, and if you have terrible leadership skills but succeed, the effect of the success will be similar to if your leadership skills weren't so terrible as they are.

communicate a steady stream of wins.

listening to people

neither actually listening nor appearing to listen are good enough on their own, you must do both

think and say 'we'

caring about people

  neither actually listening nor appearing to listen are good enough on their own, you must do both

narrative (where are we, where are we going, and how are we getting there)

natural leadership

one version: at the end of the day, who do people pay attention to? there is a fast version of this; if you put a group of strangers together and ask them to make some decision, if you observe near the end of the discussion, one or a few leaders will say something and that will seem to determine the decision.

i'm not saying that this is the only attribute of natural leadership or that there can't be natural leaders who don't fulfill that criteria.

another version: if you call a meeting, do people come?

visions, mission, values

setting an example


  even most of pessimistic people respond better to optimism
  the CEO should never have a bad day
  i hear this kinda sucks because it means you have no one to support you when you have a bad day
  i hear this kinda sucks because it means you have the 'nobody knows the trouble i see' problem
    of course you need to point out the trouble you see so that everyone is trying to avoid it, but you can't make it seem unstoppable
  i hear this kinda sucks because it means, due to your optimistic projections, you must solely take the responsibility for determining if/when it's actually time to quit
  i hear these 'kinda sucks' are ameliorated by cofounders


i hear it can be poisonous when cofounders confide in non-cofounder employees about their issues with the other cofounders. i'm not necessarily proposing a ban on this, as this is hard to enforcably stop.

Rich vs. King

For some founders, the primary goal is to increase the value of the venture and the value of their equity stake. For others, the primary goal is to execute a vision. Most likely most founders have both motivations, but some are probably more one or the other.

The visionary motivation may sound more noble, but in order to execute a vision, a founder needs to have enough power over the company to get it to follow that vision. So, founders motivated by vision seek power and try to make themselves into Kings.

A Rich founder will more often compromise in order to pursue success. Better a smaller slice of a bigger pie. Whereas a King founder not only cannot compromise on the vision, and they also cannot compromise on their own power over the company.

Some empirical support for the idea that there is necessarily a tradeoff here:

If you are a vision (King) founder, how much equity do you need to keep, and how far does this deviate from the average? For a case study, see . My conclusion: if you have a vision, don't take more cash than about 20% of your premoney valuation in the first 3 rounds (facebook did 10% but they're crazy lucky).

Due to Noam Wasserman.

labels for people

the title of this section is tongue-in-cheek because everyone knows that you should look at people wholistically rather than reducing them to labels. Still, i've found that reading about archetypal labeling schemes for people and for psychological concepts has sometimes led to insight about mistakes i've made or things i've missed about other people, so i'll present some here.

Myers-Briggs personality types

Sisney's four styles

Producer, Unifier, Innovator, Stabilizer

(note: another way of stating the producer style is: competitive, with concrete goals)

Goleman's six styles of leadership

A simplistic interpretation is that the Authoritative style is the best, the Affiliative, Democratic, and Coaching styles are good, and the Pacesetting and Coercive styles are bad. However, a major point is that Goleman found that effective leaders have mastered more than one of these styles, and switch between them as needed depending on the situation. The best leaders have mastered as least 4 styles.


Although Goleman recommends using multiple styles depending on situation, if you had to pick one, this is what he suggests is the 'best' single style.



Could also be called 'consultative'.


Pacesetting A surprise is that the 'pacesetting' leadership style is not very effective, except in some specific situations.



read more at (is this the same as ?)

another person's summary at

attributes of organizational climate

"First defined by psychologists George Litwin and Richard Stringer and later refined by McClelland? and his colleagues, it refers to six key factors that influence an organization’s working environment:

-- (paraphrased)

Goleman's attributes of EQ

"Self-Awareness group:

Self-Management group:

Social Awareness group:

Social Skill group:


SCARF (de)motivators

Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness and Fairness

note: aversion stronger than attraction

Batista/Pugliese's four dimensions of leadership

" Expert vs. Coach

The primary leader archetypes: the Expert with the answers, whose extensive domain experience is the basis for their authority, and the Coach with the questions, whose expertise lies in helping people discover the answers for themselves.

Evangelist vs. Motivator

Our word "evangelist" derives from the Greek "euangelistes," which means "bringer of good news." The Evangelist is on a mission to spread a message, and their goal is to rally others to their cause. The Motivator is agnostic, seeking to identify others' personal goals and help them move forward in their preferred direction, whatever it may be.

Trainer vs. Mentor

The Trainer is focused on the task at hand and shows others what is to be done (and how to do it better). The Mentor is focused on others' development, and immediate tactical performance is secondary to long-term strategic growth.

Mediator vs. Facilitator

The Mediator seeks to resolve conflict and maintain harmonious relationships in the service of group effectiveness. The Facilitator seeks to maximize learning and ensure that all voices are heard in the service of candor, integrity and authenticity. " --

Sisney's Producer / Stabilizer / Innovator / Unifier


Don't unfairly blame

Be careful not to blame other people for things that may not have been their fault when talking to third parties (even if they aren't there). For example, it's easy to think that something didn't get done because a subordinate didn't do it, when actually you were the one who dropped the ball, but the subordinate didn't want to point that out. If you blame the subordinate when talking to a third party and they find out, they would feel really bad.

Yes men

If you are the boss, others will feel pressure to agree with you. Sometimes you may want to keep quiet about your opinions in order to be able to hear what others really think. Some people advise the boss to speak last at meetings.


Five Things I Did to Change a Team’s Culture

"1) Get on the Floor. While I had to be careful not to get into the weeds, by getting my hands dirty my credibility with the team grew.


2) Move People to Other Teams...make people do all the jobs. Only when people have seen things from all angles can they make real and effective adaptations to changing circumstances or effect real change within a complex organisation.

3) Remove Bad Influences...People don’t like to talk about this, but one of the most effective ways to change culture is to fire people. There’s a probably apocryphal story about an Orson Welles trick, where he would get a stooge to show up to work on the first day on a shoot, do something Welles didn’t want, and Welles would fire him...removing people who are obstructing change. That doesn’t mean you don’t follow due process, or give people clear warnings, or help them to mend their ways, but nothing sends a message of ‘I disapprove of this bad behaviour’ than dealing with it firmly....

4) Take Responsibility for Hiring...

5) Take Responsibility for Training. And training isn’t just about being in a room and explaining things to people – it’s about getting in the field and showing people how to respond to problems, how to think about things, and where they need to go next. " [1]