Looking back on my days as a lance-corporal of industry, my biggest regret is that I spent too much time dealing with crappy employees and not enough to honouring the good ones. I was CEO of Intelligent Games, a 65-person computer game developer in my twenties. I sometimes felt more like a social worker than a boss.
My inexperience then and my desire to be liked meant that I spent a lot of time trying to be fair, doing things to build good morale and generally treating the minority of miserable, grumpy and inefficient employees like the most important part of my business. Wrong!
The top ten percent of programmers massively outperforms the rest. For more on this, check out Peopleware. They solve big problems. Get more done. Whine less. Enjoy their work more. Make fewer mistakes. Same with graphic designers.
I should have spent my time helping them do their job and trying to develop the middle mass of developers improve so that they approached the top ten percent. Reading this article – The Secret to Having Happy Employees – in the New York Times, I realise my biggest mistake. Not firing the bad ones soon enough. D’oh!