2 min read

One Star vs Five Star Managers

One Star vs Five Star Managers

One of the things that Brian Chesky, CEO of Airbnb, attributes to his company's success is that he imagines what an "11 star" Airbnb experience looks like, then works backwards to what's feasible:

A 10-star check in would be The Beatles check in. In 1964. I’d get off the plane and there’d be 5,000 high school kids cheering my name with cars welcoming me to the country. I’d get to the front yard of your house and there’d be a press conference for me, and it would be just a mindf**k experience. So what would an 11-star experience be? I would show up at the airport and you’d be there with Elon Musk and you’re saying: ‘You’re going to space.’

This is a useful (and fun) heuristic that you can apply to pretty much anything. It gets you to be explicit about rankings and set lines in the sand for what "mediocre, good, great, amazing" looks like.

I recently attended a workshop for managers and here's our group came up with. I'd love to hear what you think.

One star managers:

  • Actively undermine your progress: due to jealousy or incompetence
  • Constantly change priorities (or: no prioritization at all)
  • Make you feel exploited, not managed

Three star managers:

  • Won't make you hate your job, but won't make you love it either
  • Try to please everyone; afraid of difficult conversations
  • Is an "order taker" from upper management levels
  • Delegates well-scoped tasks that you just need to execute

Five star managers:

  • Give you stretch assignments suited for your level
  • Delegates problems to you; you're expected to work out the solution
  • "Tough, but fair" – puts you on the frontier of your comfort zone
  • Provides clarity amidst chaos, distills information to what you need to focus on
  • Cares about you as a person, not just a member of the team

We didn't take it all the way up to 11 stars, but even up going up to 7 stars yielded useful ideas.

Seven star managers:

  • Helps you shape your career goals, then helps you find opportunities inside or outside the company, cheerleading you the whole way
  • Pushes you to build your internal and external personal brand. Puts you in front of leadership, finds chances to get you industry recognition
  • Works with you to amplify your strengths, either by choosing projects aligned with your talents or coaching you to double down on innate skills
  • Fights to make sure you are fairly compensated
  • Gives you new ways of looking at the world, upgrades your brain's "operating system"
  • Feels more like personal mentor than a line manager

If you've got anything to add to this list, please do share.