An Uber lesson: If you hired you, what would you say at a performance review?

Ride-sharing company Uber has been in the headlines for all the wrong reasons in the past 12 months.

A recent edition of TIME magazine published an article with the headline, “Uber’s Travis Kalanick Shows How Growing Up Is Much Harder Than Simply Growing”. Kalanick, one of Uber’s founders, has stepped aside following a damning report from a month-long investigation into the company’s corporate culture. Once a seemingly unstoppable start-up, the future of Uber now hangs in the balance. Its website, which talks about “community” in terms of its workers, has more than 2000 jobs advertised.

It’s worth remembering that Uber is not alone with these problems. Many high-profile global businesses have faced similar challenges. Steve Jobs had to leave Apple at one stage due to his inability to manage people effectively. Elon Musk did the same thing at Tesla. And last week, Dave McClure, founder of the venture capitalist firm 500 Startups, resigned after he admitted, “I’m a creep. I am sorry.”

How do you rate your people skills?

We usually associate growing pains with children. But they also apply to business. The significant theme in these high-profile departures, even though some may only be temporary, is that the individuals involved had not learned how to effectively manage people. They failed to create a positive workplace culture and establish the necessary processes to keep their employees engaged.

I’ve seen this play out in many small businesses. One start-up even told me recently that his first two hires had ended up with Fair Work Australia because he hadn’t treated his employees properly.

Now is a great time to start a business. The barriers for entry, in many cases, are low – ie. not a lot of capital or resources are required. However, if you don’t have the right people and management skills, it’s easy to waste time and money hiring staff who do not hang around.

Know who you need to hire – and how to keep them

When you start a business, it’s important you’re aware of the skills you don’t have. What are the things you don’t like doing? What do other people do better than you? Hiring people who can fill your skill gaps is a critical part of running a business, but before you hire them, you must:

  1. Define the role.
  2. Prepare a position description.
  3. Recruit.
  4. On-board.
  5. Have a management process in place that includes constant engagement from you.

Hold yourself to account

Remember to uphold and demonstrate the qualities you expect from your staff. You must set an example. Treating employees with disrespect, avoiding difficult yet necessary conversations and failing to engage with staff is a recipe for disaster.

To improve your people management, try to do the following:

  1. Get advice from a mentor or experienced business owner, who can help you identify the skills you and your business require.Â
  2. Attend courses and workshops, read books, get a business coach and do whatever it takes to learn what you need to learn.
  3. Practice delegation and conversation.
  4. When problems arise in your business, look in the mirror and ask yourself: If you were the person who hired you, what would you say at a performance review?

I work with solopreneurs, couple-preneurs and SMEs that want to develop their people skills, improve their management ability and reduce the number of difficult conversations they have with staff. If you need help with this, contact me at

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