- A millennial startup CEO says managing fellow millennials comes down to letting them take on more than they can handle — and fail.
- If millennials don’t feel like they’re being pushed, they will get frustrated and may potentially quit.
- This management philosophy reflects Silicon Valley’s seeming obsession with failure as a path to success.
Failure stings — even if you’re only watching someone else fall flat on their face.
As a manager, you need to get comfortable with this feeling.
An article in Quartz by millennial Jake Poses, former vice president of product at Thumbtack, posits that managing millennials comes down to letting them fail.
Poses, who is now the CEO of another startup and has managed 60 millennials on different teams, says he struggled with this idea when he first became a manager. Then he realised many of his millennial reports were “frustrated that they weren’t being pushed,” and that telling them they can’t take on more than they can handle was demotivating.
Now, Poses writes:
“I often give millennials on my team something that’s a real stretch. I put them in charge of a project with a big and ambiguous scope, ask them to build something with a new technology, or even give them the responsibility of managing their first person.
“These are usually stretch opportunities where failure is ok. I save the mission-critical for people who are proven.”
Poses’ allusion to “stretch opportunities” sounds similar to the goal-setting process at Google. Googlers set goals and key outcomes, and are graded on each outcome on a scale from 0 to 1. The objective isn’t to score a perfect 1, but to land somewhere between 0.6 and 0.7.
The idea is that, if you score a 1, your objective was too easily achievable. If you score between 0.6 and 0.7, then you were probably thinking big.
Poses writes that sometimes he’s pleasantly surprised when someone fully achieves their stretch goal: “That’s how I find my true stars.”
The concept of celebrating stumbles is part of Silicon-Valley culture, where a mantra is “fail fast, fail often.”
For example, there was a conference in San Francisco called “FailCon,” where entrepreneurs could present on their biggest flops. But according to The New York Times, the conference was eventually canceled in the US, partly because Silicon Valley was already pretty comfortable talking about failure.
If Poses’ article is any indication, the near-obsession with failure among startup founders is now trickling down to the way they manage their employees. Hopefully it will pave the way for their success.
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