Critical to any successful business are the leaders who set the tone for the speed, culture, and vision of the operation. Whether the business is a Fortune 500 corporation, a healthcare facility, or an entrepreneurial start-up, a great leader must at times wear the hat of an even better manager to ensure the commitment and coherence of employees to the overarching company mission. One of these leaders is Jimmi Hundreds, founder and current CEO of Superego Clothiers, a retailer of sustainable street fashion.
Day to day, Jimmi is responsible for events, social programming, marketing, branding, sales and product development, financing, team building, and web development, you know, the standard entrepreneurial plate. But in addition to this all encompassing role, he is also responsible for seven core employees and over 20 remote brand ambassadors. Yet, when asked about these employees, he is quick to intervene and call each of them “leaders” because they take on their own responsibility. According to him, the main role he has to fill is to make sure he communicates coherently with his fellow leaders.
This co-leadership approach makes the company a team effort in which each member’s performance is evaluated through agreed upon individual and team goals on a yearly basis, which are reviewed quarterly. This gives each team member a greater involvement in the company and power over their roles. As the company is still considered a start up, many disciplinary measures are quite flexible, and are often defined by a collective discussion of the situation at hand. While there are no set disciplinary actions, certain items such as meeting attendance are recorded, and expectations outlined in contractual agreements and brand guide are understood as the behavioral skeleton for all members. Jimmi strongly believes that a traditional “reward-punishment paradigm” will not cultivate the behavior and energy he wants his team to have.
In his managerial role, Jimmi cites one challenge that constantly manifests: small mindedness and shirking, which is when an employee avoids responsibility. These employees are simply there for the paycheck and are, what Jimmi calls, “proactively disengaged,” and, in turn, become a “liability on your balance sheet disguised as an asset with a title” as Jimmi brazenly refers to it. For him, as it would in any organization, this behavior destroys the collaboration and innovation that he has so painstakingly nurtured in the culture.
Instead of truly working, these employees marginalize themselves for categorization by title and payment, creating an unnecessary and destructive sense of survival of the fittest. His solution to this issue, as he has learned over the years, is to approach the problem employee face to face and essentially call them out on it. Jimmi believes that it is a function of not being where you really want to be or insecurity. But, it doesn’t simply stop there; he also gives recommendations to the member and works with them to foster the interplay and innovation between individuals to optimize the company. The goal is to instill a “holistic organizational perspective and disposition.”
As Jimmi Hundreds reflects upon his position throughout the conversation, he continuously makes sure to put his co-leaders on a platform of great respect. His admiration for them comes not only from the fact that they are loyal to his vision, but also from the fact that their talents often exceed his own, and have helped pave the way for the success Superego Clothiers has thus far experienced. While the challenge of individual selfish nature continually arises, it is one that Jimmi combats using the company culture to innovate as a collective.