Startup Lessons: Management (1-5)

I had the opportunity to manage an intern (and potential full time hire) during the last months of 2014. Here are some of the lessons I learned as a Manager & Mentor…

On Supporting Your Intern to Deliver Great Work


  1. Provide More Direction. Guide efforts towards the most meaningful problems.

The experience that you have directly in the trenches gives you context and insight into the most meaningful problems. These might be the ones that cause most pain for your users, or the biggest bottlenecks in your sales funnel. Help channel your intern’s efforts toward solving the most meaningful problems.


  1. More Prioritization. Help them identify the 80/20 of high impact solutions.

Now that you’ve helped identify the most important problems to tackle, help your intern prioritize them. Help them list out the 80/20 of problems and have them start with the first 2 of them. This way your intern has 2 concurrent projects, and doesn’t move on to other problems until he’s solved these first. Above all, make sure the work assigned gives your intern the opportunity to shine. It is your responsibility as a manager to provide the opportunity to tackle meaningful problems that allow them to show the calibre of what they’re capable of.


  1. More Progress Review. More feedback, more advice, more review.

You’ve done the work before. You have a good (decent) idea in mind of what the solution should look like. More importantly, your intern will want to make sure that we he/she is working on meets your expectations. So it’s important to provide feedback often, both at initial and middle stages of a project. Also, feel free to ask your intern about how they plan on tackling a problem, and provide any advice you may have. Your input on the methodology might help save them time and guide them to a better solution.


  1. Define Success Metrics. Pre-Post Term. Let them know what they’re working towards.

It’s incredibly difficult to evaluate someone’s working if you don’t have an objective measure to assess the quality of it. It’s also very difficult for someone to “do great work” if they do not have any idea of what great work looks like. Defining Pre & Post term success metrics will be useful in aligning both you and your intern to a common vision of success.


For example, if you define that they will be responsible for increasing the Customer Satisfaction Score (%), they’ll have enough guidance and creativity to work on improving the key metric, innovating and experimenting different tactics along the way. Success Metrics will help clarify “what you want them to achieve” and give them the autonomy and ownership of “how to achieve” those results. It’ll also make the Final Evaluation conversation much more clear, giving you both an objective measure on which to evaluate their performance.


  1. Less Solo Coaching. Others can coach too.

You are not the only person responsible for coaching your intern. Anyone, especially the most senior members on your executive team have the responsibility to share their advice and feedback with your intern. When it comes to your intern’s work, many people have great ideas and suggestions that might be helpful. Additionally, your intern might value the opportunity to gain your colleague’s perspective on the same matter, broadening their scope and adding context to the problems at hand.

This is the first set of lessons to share. Let me know what you think in the comments below!

Cheers till next time!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s