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When You Manage, Manage With Your Employees

To motivate your workers, don't just manage. Be an advisor, says Coursera co-CEO Daphne Koller.
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In a taped interview with the Wall Street Journal, Daphne Koller, co-CEO and co-founder of Coursera, an online education provider, explains how she divvies up responsibilities with Andrew NG, the other CEO. Apparently, it's not all that hard. 

"There are certain areas where I take primary responsibilities, and there are certain areas where Andrew takes responsibility," she said. "And then there are areas where we both have to get involved in because there is just so much work to be done." 

Specifically, Koller takes the reins on university relations, while Andrew takes deals with "a lot of the products and engineering and hiring, and a lot of the discussions with stakeholders, governments, and so on." 

But when it comes to employee management, she takes a different tact. Rather than separate herself from their work, she tries to get deeply involved. 

"I think one of the things that you do as an academic is that you learn to manage with the person, who is supposed to be reporting to you, rather than just manage them," she said. "So when you have a PhD student, they come to you, and you work together to identify the research topic that is interesting to the student and yet is well-aligned with my interest as an advisor."

In doing so, Koller has found she's kept her employees excited about the goals they were working toward. "They can come to work feeling really motivated about the work that they do because that keeps them more productive and it makes for a much better product," she said. 

Another valuable lesson she's learned as an entrepreneur: It's OK to say "no" once in awhile. In fact, it can even be necessary.

"I try to be very selective with the opportunities that are presented to me to identify the ones that could have the biggest impact on our endeavor," Koller said. "I end up saying 'no' a lot."

IMAGE: Getty
Last updated: May 15, 2013

JANA KASPERKEVIC | Staff Writer

Jana Kasperkevic is a graduate of Baruch College, City University of New York, where she earned a bachelors degree in Journalism and Political Science. She covers start-ups, small businesses, and entrepreneurship for Inc. Her work has appeared in The Village Voice, InvestmentNews, Business Insider, and Houston Chronicle, among others. She lives in Brooklyn.




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