I’m joined by client and friend Heather O’Neill, the CEO and Strategic Partner for tech consulting + UX firm, Pixels for Humans, to talk about hiring, firing, and managing micro-teams. With over 20 years of experience in her field, Heather prides herself on her ability to help business owners grow their companies while maintaining the values most important to them and shares with me the many lessons she’s learned about growing and developing strong small business teams. 

In this episode, Heather and I cover:

  • Control, trust, and power dynamics when hiring and managing a team
  • Transitioning from managing the work to managing the people doing the work
  • Learning to be a manager while you’re still responsible for certain deliverables
  • Hiring with honesty and firing with integrity
  • Feedback, introspection, and self-auditing throughout these processes

Early lessons learned in a leadership position

With two decades of experience in her industry, Heather learned many of her first lessons in leadership from watching her own managers take charge in the first few roles she had in her career. It’s a vital and extremely lucky position to be in to be able to watch others grow, succeed, and even fail in leadership and managerial roles before taking on that role yourself, but many of us still aren’t prepared for the many tough decisions that come with being in a position of power professionally, including making hard hiring and firing decisions based on needs and availability. 

“I initially relied a lot on my network, on who I know. Nepotism is alive and well…but it’s completely inequitable and unfair.”

Shifting from do-it-yourself to leading the team

A huge talking point for Heather and I is the entrepreneurial urge to micromanage and take on as much work as possible. Although this feels like a good thing for those that desire that control, it can quickly lead to burn out for ourselves and our employees. No employee wants to constantly have to worry about a boss lingering over their shoulder, nor should you hire someone who cannot get the work done without you having to help them every single step of the way. Hiring can be a difficult process, but avoid the urge to take the reins in someone else’s role. 

“When you’re the solo business owner, you’re the everything at the end of the day. When you have a team, you have to let your team do the stuff you hired them to do, even if they don’t do it the way you would have done it.”

Leadership as a learning process

As a coach, I always advocate for clients to constantly seek feedback and learning opportunities in everything they do. This especially includes the area of management, where I have seen many people struggle with relinquishing control, building confidence in hiring, and stressing about the idea of firing employees. In Heather’s experience and my own, there’s always going to be mistakes to be made when trying something new and when learning how to be the CEO of your business, but what matters is learning from expert advice and from your own failures. 

“You are going to make mistakes. There’s no amount of seminars or training…that will really prepare you for what it’s like to be in charge of someone’s livelihood in that capacity and to have that power over them.”

Knowing who you’re leading and what you’re leading them to

In the same vein of micromanaging, Heather’s important reminder for business owners is that your role becomes leading the team when you enter into a position of managing employees. While you may still have your own tasks and deliverables to meet, your primary focus in hiring and managing staff needs to be on leading that team to success within your business. Instead of hovering over shoulders, taking on more work than necessary, or focusing too heavily on meeting every client need, hone in on leading your team and giving them the agency to succeed. 

“You’re leading the team, you’re not leading the work and you’re not leading the clients.”



Application deadline for Cohort One of One Year from Now: The Residency is Friday, December 3rd, 5pm CT: brainspaceoptimized.com/residency

Learn more about Heather on LinkedIn, Twitter, and the Pixels for Humans website

Connect with me through my website and on Instagram.