At Nimbus, everyone is expected to clean. Our UX Designer cleans, our Operations Manager cleans, even my Co-Founder and I clean. Of course, we do not clean every single day, but cleaning is a core part of our company culture. We make it a point to perform the same shifts as our cleaners do at least once a month.
Many would see this as a wrong way for a CEO to spend his time. But I disagree.
Staying Close to Operations, Building Products People Want
One advantage of working on the ground is that it helps us better understand our customers and to develop better products to add value to them.
Startups commonly build solutions for a ‘problem’ which did not exist in the first place. All these lead to expensive waste of resources, with the worst case of all to build products that no one wants.
As managers, when we make time to do hands-on work, we become the product that our platform offers. We start to see what reality is like on the ground. It also helps us to develop new ideas for our platform and to build stuff that makes a difference for our clients.
It is also one of the reasons why I believe startups should let their tech team rotate roles on a regular basis and do some customer support. In the past startups that I have worked for in the past, it took our techies long periods of time to fix bugs in the system.
Often, Operations diagnosed the problem but were communicating and relaying it to an engineering team busy with other work. Although there was visibility on the issue, the engineers did not feel the problem as profoundly as the customers or operations team do and nothing gets done.
On the other hand, when you rotate and make members of your engineering team deal with customer complaints and firefight tech issues, this changes the game. Once they experience what it is like to get the same complaints from customers on the same problems, there is a natural urgency. They will work to fix those bugs themselves.
Servant Leadership and Putting People First
From experience, I believe there is no better way to engage and win over others than through servant leadership. Every manager knows that they have to motivate their people. Of course, the most popular way to do so is a competitive salary and generous compensation (we do that too here at Nimbus). Most managers and companies take these approaches as the default strategy of focus in retaining talent, but while it is indeed a compelling incentive, this is only one way of motivating a person – an extrinsic way which relies heavily on external rewards (like money, title or bonuses) to encourage people to strive harder.
Even though we are proud to lead our industry in compensation, I daresay a big reason why our employees stay with Nimbus is not about the money. Instead, it is because they have never worked anywhere else where the management will do the worst parts of the job along with them- including cleaning the toilets, emptying the trash and washing the dishes.
Good managers know that the most powerful way of motivating and managing people is to transform their mindset from employees to business owners. In other words, to make every employee take pride in their work, which in turn makes them intrinsically motivated to perform the work that they do; As the saying goes, pay someone well, and they will just work for a paycheck. But win someone over, and they will work for you with blood, sweat and tears.
Furthermore, a manager getting into the thick of action achieves three things:
- It gives our employees a much stronger sense of being part of a team and motivated by our mission to do whatever it takes to create happy workspaces for everyone;
- It makes our employees aware that their work is significant since they can see higher-level management also rolling up their sleeves and pitching in;
- It reminds us of our mission and why it is essential to lead by serving others first
It is for this reason that every employee at Nimbus, regardless of title or position, spends at least once a month working in the field, providing actual service to our customers. We call this Back To The Floor™
In instilling this culture in our organisation, I believe it is the purest expression of our philosophy to put others before self and to lead by serving. It is also time and money extremely well-spent, because it pays off handsomely in employee morale, management empathy, and increased productivity and wellbeing for everyone with whom our paths cross.