August 11, 2022

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Tech executive Emil Michael has been at the forefront of a myriad of major brands...

Tech executive Emil Michael has been at the forefront of a myriad of major brands from ride-sharing to fintech. Now at the helm of DPCM Capital, Emil Michael says it’s important to recognize employees who are in it for the long haul. He recently discussed the matter on “The Deep End by On Deck” podcast.

“Every company goes through hard times. I think you’ve got to identify the people who are going the distance, make sure you’re doing the best to keep them,” Emil Michael says. “To be your best ambassador; these people are  usually the magnets who attract other people with their missionary outlook. They understand the culture and they’re going to be the best recruiters.”

From his earliest days as former senior vice president of field operations at Tellme Networks to his days as the chief operating officer of Klout, Emil Michael has always made a practice of surrounding himself with the best people for the job. “You’re all working hard toward the same goal,” he says. “People need the motivation of a leader who has passion and speaks with conviction.”

While under the mentorship of late, great Silicon Valley strategist Bill Campbell, Emil Michael learned to lean into hard problems and to fearlessly face challenges head-on.

Employee Retention Takes More Than Money, According to Emil Michael

Emil Michael says he advises having a tight group and taking measures to retain them as long as possible. “It can’t just be money,” he adds. “It has to be motivation, it has to be growth, [and] it has to be opportunities you’re helping them find.”

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Michael has had a history of mentoring and caring about employees. He took Katelin Holloway under his wing at Klout and encouraged the budding human resources professional to grow and hone her leadership skills.

“I think that’s where it switched very quickly from manager and employee to mentor-mentee, for me,” Holloway said during an interview where they reminisced about their professional journey.

“I think it was when I realized that you were really truly there to help support me, that this wasn’t just a, ‘Come in and get things done and make sure that the books had the right numbers.’ You really enabled me and empowered me to grow and learn.” Today, Holloway is a one to watch: she’s the founding partner at Alexis Ohanian’s venture capital firm, Seven Seven Six.

Emil Michael Advises Taking the Time to Know One’s Team

Emil Michael says it’s crucial to ask the employees the right questions, including finding out if they want to angel-invest and helping them expand their scope inside and outside the company to provide more attachment to the ecosystem of the firm. Michael says showing employees their leadership has a vested interest in them also goes a long way.

“I cared a lot about it,” he says. “I would spend a lot of time with people, especially as they got toward the midterm, two, three, four years into Uber, making sure I understood what they needed to go the distance and that I was doing it.”

More Than Being an Entrepreneur: Leaders Must Motivate Employees

For Emil Michael, motivation has always been an inside job. He says feedback from his employees matters and he maintains strong communication within his companies.

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“That’s why your job as an entrepreneur turns into a management job, whether you like it or not to a large degree,” he says. “Because you become dependent on these people and you need to spend, put in the time as a manager and as a leader to actually understand and deliver these kinds of things because that pays off in big ways if you’re able to keep that core group motivated.”

Emil Michael believes it’s crucial to share as much information as possible about what’s going on at a company. And he admits he looks for boldness when it comes to team members. “If this high-stakes, high-pressure volatility is not for you, you want to figure that out sooner rather than later,” he says. “And then if it is for you, maybe this is a chance to thrive because it gives you energy.”

He advises empowering employees to be thinkers on their own and to have opinions. The progressive tech magnate says he also makes sure all employees at his companies feel they can speak up and share ideas, including junior employees.

“We wanted to enable anyone to have an opinion and not suppress it just because they were junior. So empowering them to be thinkers on their own and to have opinions. That doesn’t mean all opinions were good, but it means that good ideas rose to the top only if you said them,” he says. “So say to them, don’t be afraid to say them. It’s sort of that boldness that I look for and try to instill in younger folks.”