Managing people is one of the most challenging parts of an evolving career and running an MSP. I learn that every day talking to MSPs and managing a team myself.




       Simon Sinek giving the ITNation 2013 keynote speech.



I hear (and feel it) over and over again - as an individual contributor, I know exactly how to be successful. I set my goals, I work hard and I cross things off my list. I like to get things done. I love the feeling I get when I cross something off my list. I feel like a winner.


Creating success as a manager and leader isn’t quite as easy. I’ve learned so much from other great leaders but watching isn’t enough to understand the challenges of leadership and build my own pillars. Goals around loyalty, developing talent, and building trust aren’t something I instinctively know how to accomplish. They can’t just be crossed off a list; they’re the product of a never-ending effort. I didn’t realize what I was supposed to be setting goals around until the Simon Sinek keynote at IT Nation about his upcoming book “Leaders Eat Last.”


Here are the 5 key leadership tips I took away from this inspiring keynote:

1. There’s a cost to being a leader. The cost? Self-interest. That doesn’t mean I have to be a martyr. I don’t need to give up everything but I need to be willing to sacrifice (and my team needs to know I will). I need to ask myself, “Am I willing to sacrifice my comfort so other people are more comfortable?” That leads me to my next point.

2.  My team needs to feel safe. It’s a basic human need. To illustrate this point, Simon told the story of Bob. Bob was a CEO of a small company and when the economy was threatening to shut down his business, he pulled his team together and created a furlough program (and no, I’m not talking about the government). His logic? “It’s better that we all suffer a little than have anyone lose.” While times were tough, the team stuck together and tried to be flexible for each other so that those who needed the hours got less furloughed time than others. Bob now runs a team that’s as loyal as teams come. You can’t steal his employees because they feel safe. They know they can trust their leader and their team to take care of them.


3.  My team needs to trust me. The formula for trust is simple: Time + Energy = Trust. My time and energy matter to people. Showing up doesn’t mean just showing up physically and giving time. I must to be present with my energy. It’s the same concept as showing up at your son or daughter’s soccer game and staring at your phone the whole time. You should’ve just stayed at the office. Your physical presence is not the same as being truly present.

4.  Revise my reward system. The current reward system in most businesses is to reward the leader for a team’s great job done. Why not reward the leader for growing a great team? Why not reward the team for working together? I want to work with my team to set goals that require them to work as a team and check-in on how you’re accomplishing them. At the same time, I need to remember not to become addicted to goals. It’s the fastest way to destroy relationships and drive people to cheat.

5.  I will set the standard for people to come into my company and team. I have to remember that when I’m hiring, I’m not looking for people I like. I need to find people who believe what I believe – that we’re helping small businesses grow. Your company mission should tell people what you believe and you should find employees that believe in it too. The results are happy people who are better at their jobs. There are 2 huge benefits to happy people. 1) People are better at their jobs when they’re happy. 2) Your clients won’t love you until your employees love you. They can sense uneasiness and will jump ship faster than an unhappy employee when they’re faced with it in real time.


What is leadership? I have to admit my definition has evolved after this presentation and I’m realizing it will continue to evolve. For now, I’m saying it’s the instinct to protect, not just plug numbers into spreadsheets. Great leaders get love, loyalty and people who want to make them proud. I hope to take all of these back to my team and hope that you’ll take the time to grow your skills and your team in the same way.