When I was co-launching Chaos Gears 3 years ago, I knew it was going to be a wild ride. I had no previous experience with leadership, had not graduated from business school, and not read tons of literature. However, from the very first day, I knew and believed in one thing – talented and highly-motivated people that we have to find to make it happen and make it great. Upon the recent reflection, I realized that each minute, those sleepless nights, lots of arguments with my spouse about getting home late every week were worth having. It was worth it, sharing the ups and downs with those tremendous people who I had the privilege of meeting on my journey. Today’s story will be about our internal culture and people because eventually, their effort and talent will decide whether your idea will succeed or not.
Responsibility and trust
Whenever we think about extending our team, I tend to come back to the thought, “what would piss me off if I was an employee.” In Chaos Gears, 90% of hired people are engineers who to put it lightly, don’t tolerate nonsense. No one does, but to be honest highly-talented engineers quickly get bored and frustrated when there is a lack of transparency and innovation. If you build an environment where “responsibility” is a top priority, it has to be a two-way street. You cannot demand a responsible culture without paying strong attention to that from your side. I always ask myself whether those people properly-recognized the responsibility I need from them and if I’m able to present the same approach toward them. Likewise, commitment and trust are two-way communication. There is no trust without cander. Only a well-defined shared vision and a clear understanding of why we have to act in such a way to contribute to a kind of freedom we want to give to those people.
Let me draw a conclusion for this part: “If you want to trust people, let them trust in you.” The company is not a family for me and won’t ever be. Family holds its members close no matter their ineffectiveness, building some kind of comfort zone around them. For me, we’re the team having one goal. We’re a group of people who rely on each other, and if someone is playing below the expectations, I fight for one’s improvement; however, if it doesn’t bring results, we then both know the time to leave the team has come. No hard feelings. Being a coach (a leader) means being responsible for everyone and keeping the bar always at the highest level.
Do not limit creativity.
Once you have trust in your responsible team, then you’re closer to unlock their creativity. Easier said than done because it has to go in parallel to the company’s best interest and our customers. People working at Chaos Gears know that there is no one way or rule for solving problems. The way you approach that only depends on your creativity. It is rooted in either our goals or our customers, but we always try to find new paths. Let me give you an idea of what I mean. Just imagine you’ve encountered a technical problem to be solved for one of our customers or maybe for an internal business issue in Chaos Gears, and you’re obligated to solve them. The rule is simple “do not make your boss happy” because I do not know everything. I trust that your decision based on your innovative attitude will bring an outstanding result. You always have to think like it is day 1, and what was working yesterday might be less effective this time. Improve and automate. For me, building an open space for creativity in the team is all about understanding our “players” needs and describing the context whenever some details are missing. Let them “breathe” and surprise you with the results. This is the most exciting part for me in our company.
Do not sit quietly when disagreeing.
Before we launched Chaos Gears, I experienced situations where colleagues from my previous job decided to avoid confrontation with their bosses when they felt that they were wrong. To be honest, so did I. Obviously it’s easier said than done to tell someone that we totally disagree entirely with their decision, especially with our supervisor. Nonetheless, in order to truly unlock people’s potential, besides giving them the freedom in choices, we have to make them understand that team is also about disagreeing with your “coach” and other teammates. However, not following someone’s idea by just saying, “I don’t agree” is not enough. Please give me the reason, present me the facts against defined statements, and then discuss. That’s the rudimental way of not limiting brilliant ideas for me. To let someone, via sort of arguments, convince you that there is a better solution for a problem we encountered. Regardless of how much you disagree, remember to be kind.
Do not misinterpret the “family.”
I’ve already mentioned the institution of family above, but at this point, I’d like to elaborate it a little bit more. Chaos Gears is not a lifetime arrangement. I’d like, from the bottom of my heart, all of my Chaos team colleagues to stay as long as possible with us. However, the reality of the market is as it is. Nothing lasts forever; therefore, to reach the highest performance in a team, everyone has to know why he or she has been chosen for a particular position in the team and what’s the context of his job. Good understanding and a clear vision of the goal we want to reach is fundamental. We make mistakes but learn lessons to explain the context better. Intentionally I’m highlighting a “family” model because there is a popular consideration saying, “we want you to feel at home.” Still, for me, your home is where your heart is, and heart is not a good advisor in the workplace, especially in the cloud computing industry (I’m far from making this opinion a general one). Your mind is your weapon, and smart people in your team know that. Generally, they already have their families, so after entering the company, all they need is team spirit and being part of something valuable.
Family is the top priority.
Regardless of Chaos Gears high productivity goals and common vision we’ve set on a timeline, your family is for us your priority. As a team, we can do great things, but your mind has to be free of personal problems and disrupting thoughts. That’s why I always repeat to my colleagues that whenever something is wrong in your private life, take a day, even days off, take care of your relatives and come back filled with positive energy. Many times we forget what is truly important in our lives. Nobody will turn around time, so do not blindly chase the rabbit. Honestly, I tend to forget about that from time to time, but our team lives with a feeling that in order to do great things, your mind has to be your friend, not the enemy.
Just be a human
In conclusion, I would repeat the motto I continuously remind myself, “treat others in the way you want to be treated.” Our team is not even close to the playoff, not to mention winning it; however, the future that is looming on the horizon makes me believe that such people like those we have right now and those who are joining are leading us to our “own trophy.” From this point, I wish each company, each team a championship in your own league.