Forty minutes in. A few more uphills. A few more recoveries.
Have you ever been to a Peloton class? If you have, I hope you’ll understand that feeling near the end where you’ve never resented anything more in your life than the fact that you are clipped into a bike and surrounded by an intimidating group of seemingly overachieving fitness addicts. Circles of fluctuating cadence, output and resistance are outwardly measuring every moment of your tiredness. You give up because working out should be FUN and who needs another five minutes of this STRUGGLE BIKE.
WE DIDN’T COME THIS FAR JUST TO COME THIS FAR!
^^That’s Cody and I am shamelessly his #1 because he is 🔥and inspirational and brings all the energy to class that you left at work. DID YOU THINK IT WAS GOING TO BE EASY, BOO? I KNOW YOU DIDN'T!
My mind wandered outside the studio for the first time that class to Sukoon. We are redesigning both our Technical Up-Do Hijab and our Technical Classic Hijab, two products that I have LIVED AND BREATHED over the last 2 years. To say the least, I have sweated through these iterations at least 300 times before taking them into production. Why do people say business isn’t personal? What could be more personal than sweat and savings accounts?
“It’s just a hijab.” <— what my design consultant told me earlier that day as she quit. She had been underperforming for a few weeks already, and "Hire slowly, fire quickly" kept running through my mind. There’s no room for second and third chances; it’s too important: your time, your product, your momentum.
So when she quit, I was relieved. In our final meeting, she kept her sunglasses on indoors…in the middle of a gloomy winter day. Ok, this is how it’s going to be, I thought. She seemed angry. She spoke. She was angry. Why though? I asked a few questions, I asked if she was ok, she said: “F**k this. It’s just a hijab.”
I pedaled harder. “DID YOU THINK IT WAS GOING TO BE EASY?” I asked her. She didn’t respond. I asked again, did you think it was going to be easy to invent something new? To redesign a product that has never been effectively made before? Did you think it was going to be easy?
She stared at me blankly. Or so I assumed, as I searched for her soul through her sunglasses. And she finally said “I thought you were chill.” As she left, the guy next to me stared at me in disbelief. The coffee shop was pin drop silent and I was mortified. He bought me coffee and apologized on behalf of humanity. (I love NYC sometimes.)
I was shocked because I realized in that moment that...she actually thought it was going to be easy? Because we exchanged Bitmojis and met at coffee shops and sometimes a 10:30 turned into a 10:40. I am a pretty “chill” boss, but does that mean I’m setting a culture of sub-par work product and ethic?
Should the people that report to me think I’m a jerk? Should they be scared of what happens if they make a mistake or they show up 5 minutes late? That’s the kind of cut throat, finance culture I was trained in. There was a recession, I was lucky to be employed at all. My first boss certainly wasn’t “chill.” She was tough on me — never mean but certainly tough — and maybe through that I learned how to be accountable and build work product that I could always stand behind.
I’m still trying to figure out the kind of manager I want to be, but Sukoon feels too close to my heart to constantly be “managing” people. I’m “chill” because I miss co-workers and jokes between our cubicles. I miss leaving work at work and I miss having a work family. So when I bring on a new hire, I feel energized by them. I want them to be happy, I want to be their peer and shoot the sh*t...but I still want to deliver an A++++ product to the market. I expect and want to be able to do both these things. Sukoon isn’t my “job” — it’s my entire life. Its existence drives every choice, every breath, for better or for worse. I want it to be fun and collaborative and I want to feel like a team, and while there are moments in which I must manage, I don’t always want to be a “manager.”
There’s no perfect way to cultivate company culture or become an overnight manager. You live and you learn from experience but that doesn’t stop me from trying to read my way into perfection. And in this pursuit, I came across Jay Desai’s The Indispensable Document for the Modern Manager. Gadgets and appliances have user guides, so why don’t people?
It’s BRILLIANT. Jay shares his own user guide, and one of the most compelling sections is when he highlights his own flaws and struggles. “I am flawed. I'm not great at process. I can be bursty. I sometimes leap to conclusions, rally people around it, then backtrack. I can go into a hole when strategizing. I put together frameworks that I don't hang on to for very long. I'm a workaholic and will work at odd hours.” He implores his team to "Commit to providing me direct feedback when I’m blocking your or the company’s success." It's brutally honest. It's humbling. It's an empowering call to action.
So here I go: putting it all down in my own user guide. The onboarding read of who am I, what I expect, what to expect, where I might fail, and how because of AND in spite of these things, I hope we can build, scale and execute a vision that is on the cusp of materializing.
WE DIDN’T COME THIS FAR JUST TO COME THIS FAR. So here we go, a little further, a little better, a little bit more indispensable. Because two years in, I never thought for a moment that it was going to be easy.