Building your team can be both exhilarating and confusing. Whether you are leading a group or a company, learning how to manage is an awkward experience fraught with poor communication and hard feelings.

It took me a long time at Contour to learn how to stop doing and start leading. I had to become far more direct and less passive aggressive. But even more challenging than learning how to better communicate, was finally realizing what people actually want.

Whether your employees will tell you or not, I've found they desperately want these three things:


A lot of employees will ask, "What's our vision?" The question is simple enough, but they aren't looking for a single-word answer. What they really want to know is, "What do you believe in?"

The fact is, nobody wants a job. People want be part of a company that is clear about what it stands for and where there is no confusion about what is right and what is wrong.

Creating a single purpose and a handful of values is hard. But I highly recommend spending time on this. Regardless of how refined your purpose and values are, start by making a list of what you believe in.

As Simon Sinek put it, "People don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it."

Freedom to Make Decisions

It's easy to underestimate people. Especially as a founder learning how to be a CEO, you can get caught up in your own solutions to the problems at hand and inadvertently controll the number of decisions everyone else can make.

Joy at Work by Dennis Bakke is one of the best books I've read about understanding people. Although Bakke's story is about running a public company, he explains how everyone wants one thing: the ability to make decisions.

To enable decision-making that moves your business in the right direction, employees need to understand the company's purpose and what the rules of engagement are. Nobody wants to make bad decisions, so empowering your people to work together to solve problems is incredibly important.

The freedom to make decisions leaves people saying, "I love my job."


People don't pick a job based on money, and if they do, you probably don't want to hire them. The best people are willing to take a lower salary if they believe in the purpose, have the opportunity to make a difference, and know you will take care of them.

Caring about people doesn't take money, but it does take time. It means creating an amazing work environment, welcoming people on their first day, remembering anniversaries, being flexible with vacation, letting people work from home, and providing health coverage. In other words, it's the little things.

I used to think a higher salary was more important, but it's not. No matter how much you pay, when everything is broken, they will quit.

Remember, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, as Aristotle said.

Building an amazing team will be one of your most important jobs as a leader. But fostering loyalty takes time and a commitment to putting people first.