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Ender Core Values: Autonomous Superstars

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It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.

Steve Jobs

A healthy workplace needs mutual respect.

For some, it’s an ego boost to tell others what to do. Others wish to be bureaucratic gatekeepers. These are not the people we want at Ender. We want everyone to be an owner. 

In Phil Knight’s Shoe Dog, he talks about his passionate first employee. Nike’s first employee sent so many letters to Phil that he stopped responding. Did the employee become disheartened and stop working? No, they worked even harder. They cared. I wouldn’t suggest any manager ignore their team, but this is an extreme version of laissez-faire management.

In The Outsiders: Eight Unconventional CEOs and Their Radically Rational Blueprint for Success, the profiled CEOs hired autonomous leaders in charge of divisions. The leaders were essentially mini-CEOs who ran their area of the business with complete autonomy. This works wonders but only with superstars.

The job of a leader is to decide where to allocate resources. The most important resource is people. When a manager petitions for more resources at Amazon, they request the number of people necessary with specific skill sets to complete a project in a given timeframe or to stand up then own a line of business, e.g. a project needs 8 backend engineers, 6 frontend, 2 machine learning engineers, 2 data scientists, and 6 operations people.

Being autonomous means you’re constantly learning, improving upon your craft. You seek feedback to improve upon yourself. You ruthlessly prioritize. Deliberate practice is your norm. You’re autonomous because you take responsibility. You’re an autonomous superstar because you care about results.

Autonomy is a double edged sword. With autonomy comes power. When outsiders hear of crazy things going wrong at startups (e.g. a Cloud Kitchens employee running a PR campaign without approval of anyone in management), they think it’s insane. But that’s a feature of startups, not a bug. Effective startups don’t spend hours preparing or debating images on a slide deck nor spend all day in redundant internal meetings. Besides what’s necessary for compliance, startups lack checks and balances. There isn’t time for it. We don’t have training wheels. You can go fast, but you can also fall and bang yourself up pretty bad.

That’s ok with us. We practice minimum viable structure and default to laissez-faire management. We strive to have the people and culture where this continues to scale.

Sound fun? We’re hiring!