Scaling The Management Team
My friend Bijan wrote a great post last week about the challenges a startup faces in scaling its team and building a management layer. His post inspired me to start a new series here on MBA Mondays about scaling a management team. Here's what I have in mind:
First, I will post about what I've seen work in the three phases of a startup that I used in my burn rate posts; Building Product Stage, Building Usage Stage, and Building The Business Stage. Those will be my posts for the next three weeks.
Then I will invite a few founders & CEOs to do guest posts on this topic. I have a few members of this community in mind as well as a few founder/CEOs that I have worked with over the years. I expect there will be four to five guest posts on this topic.
I have not done a lot of guest posts on MBA Mondays to date. But I am not a manager and don't consider myself an expert on this topic. So we'll get some experts in here to make sure we get this right. It's a very important topic.
(Wow, I don’t think I’ve ever been 1st to post!)All the mistakes I’ve ever made in building my own team was hiring for the wrong reasons. Too much focus on what they’ve already done, as opposed to what they can do as part of the team.As an Angel Investor, it always seems we hired too fast – we build the team before we built the customer base. When the customers eventually tell us what they really want, we were outfitted with the wrong team – and burned through too much cash getting there.It seems to be a balancing act… hire for positive attitude, the ability to learn, high “bandwidth”, but avoid having too many people “at the top” too quickly.
these are some of the core themes for my post next week!!!!
By the bye, I have no idea how you keep up with this community. They are some of the most thoughtful, active commenters I’ve ever seen.
Frankly, that is what attracts me here. I don’t comment other places as often. I was pretty much told to shut up in one place and blackballed in another. This community is awesome in its openness and willingness of its leader to invite others into his circle.
I can see how, even on a “very slow” day it can feel like, “dang, I don’t want to miss anything…”
It can be addictive. 🙂
The bozo quotient is small here. Somehow the bozos, yahoos, and pop culture types don’t like the content. So, example of the secret of a good community: Focus the content on some non-trivial subject, attract the people who really like the subject, bore and lose the rest, and then have some reasonably good discussion among the people who stay.
This community is amazing. Reading the posts and comments every day has taught me so much – like an MBA for entrepreneurship. Can’t wait to read the upcoming posts. It’s such a meaty topic. Moving from stage 1 to 2 and 3 is often outside of the founders comfort zone, so hearing a detailed recount first hand of how others did it will be gold.
We keep Fred on his toes…and he does the same. Kidding aside, the community is a self-generating dynamo of ideas and passions. And this is slow day…a very slow day actually.
slowly but surely
There is a catch-22 situation in the early days. We need doers, not managers, but those folks don’t necessarily grow with the company to become managers later on. At least that is my experience. Looking forward to reading these Monday posts over the next 7-8 weeks!
that is the meta issue that frames the entire set of posts i plan to write
Have also seen start-ups have problems hiring in when they’ve put these people in management roles because the new people don’t necessarily see a strong set of peers.
If they had peers in the target startup, there would be no need for the new hire.It is betting ‘on the come’ on leaders.No pressure though.
Totally with you Elia. Present the same problem to a big co mgr vs. a startup employee. The first one will start a spreadsheet or ask how long they have to write a plan for it. The startup employee will just do it, get instant feedback and refine it later.
I’ve worked with a number of large companies, too. I hate this part.There is a strategy that I like, which is to hire, in the early days, VPs. Then, when the company grows, higher CxOs over top of them. No position degradation to get people upset and managers get put in place when needed.
Startups create go-to-market expertise.Few big companies focus on this issue – see Alchemy of Growth above.It is the crux.
I’d even say throw out the extra titles all together early on. No Directors, Managers, or VP’s. Just problems you’re responsible for solving.
Regarding speed and hiring, I have a quote from Amancio Ortega (Spanish entrepreneur, #7 in Forbes’ richest people list): I’m surrounded by a great team because I’m very slow to hire and very fast to fire.
Barkeep! Pitcher of Sangria to this end of the bar!!!
There are 3 key characteristics that are must have, and I never deviate from. Whoever I hire has to be:- smart- a nice person- work hard These sound generic, but they are the basis for getting things done.
The next step is two sided – requires you to know what you need in the hire.Prepared.Aligned.A good fit.
I like those, William.I do need to see a creative, slightly devious spark that’s bought into the success. As in, if they see some opportunity that I hadn’t define, but supports the bigger picture, I want them to — ideally — do it. If they don’t have that spark, to me, that’s a B player.
Yup. I think these were just baseline requirements.
Great topic. Bringing in a management layer is critical but is full of challenges – particularly cultural ones. Managers who’ve only had bigco experience often have impressive resumes full of fancy brands but can find the challenges of a startup that needs to scale to be a challenge that is completely orthogonal to their prior, extensive, management experience.
exactly. such a tricky issue.
Do you think that people from some industries make the transition from large companies to startups more easily?
In my experience it’s been less about the industry and more about the type of organization they were in and their personality. Jobs with very specific deliverables are better prep – for example sales and many engineering jobs. Jobs where they had to build the system versus just maintain the in place system are much more of a proxy for their performance in a scaling startup. Try, at all costs, to avoid people who were promoted bc of their skill at managing internal politics and self promotion. Relevant skills to climbing a corporate ladder but counterproductive in a startup that is trying to avoid politics, not develop them.
I agree. It’s not about the resume; it’s the person.
Most startups hire line managers when they need commercialization.The resume logos and the rush of ‘ being grown up ‘ are so intoxicating that the startup never defines the job & never matches the incoming person’s desire, skills & experience w the actual need.They just jump @ the logo & breathe a huge sigh of relief.Just as funding is not success, ‘ name hiring’ is not success.
Yeah – you know – to build on that. After I left startups when I was young I can’t tell you how hard it was to convince people that I was “big company” enough. It was an incredible slog to convince them otherwise. I eventually (with pluck) elbowed my way in and was top performer.That fast-forward a bunch of years and I was interviewing with startups and I got — we think you’re too ‘big company’ and not sure you’re fit for startups.Frankly people see what they want to see and follow a mold in their heads. They generally are quite blind to the actual behaviors that matter.
A lot of really good hires get missed because of a lack of creative thinking or the fear around hiring that creates a “hiring rut.” I am not unsympathetic — there is a lot at stake and hiring can feel mysterious.
This blindness is caused by fear. There’s no fallout for passing on someone with an “interesting” resume — you’ll never truly see what they could have done for you.Nothing can dispel this fear like learning to define what you want (as @JamesHRH said earlier in this thread) and from there, how to screen/interview accordingly. It’s a refinement of vision beyond logos and other signifiers we use to identify people as “us” or “other.” Many of these signifiers are false!
STARTUP IS BUILD 3RD ENGINE WHILE PLANE IN AIR. ONLY HIRE PEOPLE GOOD WITH WRENCH.
So true. I like that – should put it on our JD’s. “Must be good with wrench”. Roll up your sleeves and get to work.
The right kind of people from large companies are very entrepreneurial. Because at a certain level moving up gets harder and harder and you really have to work around the system and be bold to get noticed.
I definitely ageee – The right kind of people are everywhere. At my previous company we hired many – for line level field office managements jobs – from big companies. But at our company their role was very similar to what it had been in the big companies they came from and the jobs were very tactical and performance easily measured. The VP they reported up into had also been a bigco person but prior to joining us had already proven himself in startups. He had a good eye for bigco people who would not be able to transition. All this being said, it’s been my observation that most people who only have big company experience won’t effectively make the transition to working in startups and those who do transition take a 6 to 12 month adaptation period. The day to day in an established mature company is so different from the day to day in a small or scaling company. Just adapting to the new environment, much less being effective in it, is, understandably, difficult. Whenever possible, I’d prefer to hire someone who has already demonstrated themselves in a startup. For every big company person who would effectively makes the jump, there will likely be several who don’t effectively adapt.
Oh, yes — the “professionals” who could pretty much only take last year’s spreadsheet and increase the numbers by 5%. That stripe didn’t last long.
I suggest The Alchemy of Growth ( on iPhone & fighting Disqus, sorry, no link).The 3 stages are innovation, commercialization & line management. The book lays out a compelling description of who (& why) succeeds in each stage. The +5% types are line managers that you hired to commercialize.Not as much their fault as…….For a textbook on innovation management, I recommend Dealers of Lightning ( Turinng into Oprah’s Book Club here).
awesome.the biggest and most successful startup i was at had scaled to 35 when i joined; it about doubled at exit time.the people before me were a combo of sales pros, who were the type that would always choose comission over salaries; stepped-down moms (which i didn’t understand then, but i do now) and hippies.i joined a stripe of generally better educated but “other” in terms of skills: the last generalist influx before the “experienced” management types and freshly minted ivy mba grads.as an internet crossover in the first boom — someone who could read and write and suddenly had the opportunity to invent myself — i’ve never looked back.the big co. product managers who specialized in knife fights across the org chart came in the next batch, and fled quickly. ambiguity, uncertainty, three business model changes per morning; they couldn’t handle any of it. of course, those were the parts the people who stayed startup people liked best.then came a layer of true professionals, and they were mostly pretty great.
Like that title.
ONLY HIRE ENTREPRENEUR FOR STARTUP.OTHERWISE YOU HIRE WOLF FOR OCEAN.IT NOT WORK OUT, EVEN IF GOOD SWIMMER.
probly why so many people that work at startups swear like sailors 😉
i don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about.
🙂 🙂 🙂
Seems like personality characteristics become highly important in making the shift from big company to startup — same experience with different characteristics can mean different outcomes in terms of successful management hiring. There are startup personalities in big companies — and you can tell who they are by how they operate in that environment. I think of them as captives needing to be freed.
Really important topic Fred…as you’ve noted before, this is one of the three “jobs” of a CEO and as people like Jim Collins have said, it a crucial difference between Good and Great companies.Among the reasons I find this difficult for first time CEOs are:a) They have the mistaken belief that their job is to be the “boss” and to know “better” than those they hire and or team with. It’s a perverse belief based, I think, in guilt and anxiety: I’m higher up (“What,” I often say, “the food chain?”) and so I should be able to do the job better.b) The reason the person is CEO is often because they are the founder and, at one time, they did nearly everything. Giving up and delegating (even to people they recognize are better skilled) is scary and destabilizing. They wonder, well what’s MY job then?c) Fear of the loss of control is often an obstacle but it’s NEVER present alone. I find it’s often accompanied by a fear of the loss of purpose (related to the second point).d) The team that got you to a place where you are now in need of scaling the management team very often consists of friends who were crazy enough to believe your idea in the first place (and equally often were unemployed). They may not be scaling their skills or maturity as quickly as the company needs and so you get the problem of having to reshuffle (or, even worse, fire) co-founders/friends.There are other reasons, of course. But I think this is an incredibly important topic and something I run into all the time.
would you be interested in writing the final guest post of this series?
I think he just did 🙂
When Jerry really writes, he is incrediblethat was just a comment
I’d be honored.
Jerry, I have a question for you in relation to a).One of the underlying issues there is an ‘A’ player CEO refusing to hire ‘A’ player teammates. And while we probably know the theory (esp emphasized in the Steve Jobs book) i.e. A players work best with A players etc, one of the challenges here is an inevitable clash of personalities.’A’ players typically bring huge persona’s with them (and likely with massive ego’s to boot).. Yet, they are definitely good for growth.How do you coach CEO’s to handle this? Especially the younger ones..
If you start to hire B players, they’ll hire C players, and you’re toast after that. I’ve not heard of A players wanting to hire anything less than other A players except in big companies when that tends to happen for political and turf building reasons.If you’re talking about strong personalities, I would rather hire a wild winning horse than one you have to constantly whip to get them moving.
I agree about wanting to build with people with the right energy but I don’t think that people who bring “huge personas” and “massive egos” are “A” players. Usually those traits are some sort of compensation for another challenge (which will only surface later on).Part of the issue is the challenge between hiring people who are very skilled at tasks (say Sales or Finance) and people who are, themselves, good managers/leaders. I think building the “Management Team” is just that—a task of building (and growing because sometimes it’s organic and you, as the senior leader, can teach people to be better leaders) a team of managers.One of the biggest challenges is handling the person who is really skilled but is terrible at managing, working with others, fitting into the culture.
I agree with you that A players and huge personas are not always related, as Rohan implied.Yup, on the last point- especially if that person starts to negatively affect the work of other team members, that becomes a problem, and the manager needs to stay ahead of that issue. A destabilizing star worker is no longer a star worker if they are negatively affecting others.
IT ONLY EGO IF YOU WRONG. MOST PEOPLE WRONG.
Yup. Makes sense..
MOST NERDS NOT UNDERSTAND “LEAD” AND “MANAGE” ARE SKILLS, NOT LEVELS.FOR NON-NERDS, THAT MEAN IT NOT HAPPEN AUTOMATICALLY WHEN YOU VERY GOOD AT OTHER THINGS.
And so many discount the process of getting those skills (or falsely equate having those skills with someone who happens to come from a company whose logo we recognize).
I reply here to your EGO comment, since no reply option below….As a woman I have worked with all, men and women. Men bring a lot of ego. Women less. Best women bring no ego at all. Just get work done, by whomever, for whatever credit, including none (just job done). What a luxury. No drama. Can’t exalt it enough.For this I seek women for my biz.
Jerry, what value do you think the “A player” (or B, C) designation brings to building a management team?
Honestly I don’t like the designation…I used it only in relation to Rohan’s question above. I’m not a fan of strict performance designations as they too often appear limiting in scope and not particularly useful.Part of creating what I like to refer to as a non-violant workplace is to take the time to see the people with whom one is working and work together to craft expectations and gauge performance against those expectations and organizational need. That just feels humane (and, ultimately, more effective).
Agree 1000%. Thanks, Jerry.
“Part of the issue is the challenge between hiring people who are very skilled at tasks (say Sales or Finance) and people who are, themselves, good managers/leaders.”What about conversely — those who are great leaders/managers but not as technically strong?Love the point made in your first paragraph about massive egos and huge personas not representing “A” players. Sometimes hard to get hiring execs to see this, especially in hiring for sales.
Donna, this is an important point. It’s given lip-service often, but it really is important beyond that. We (in my group) discuss this often as a culture element. We say that we must be “ego-less”, although that is not really completely natural. Still, it’s a constant goal in the same way that a monk might pursue enlightenment. Working with smart, caring people is a real joy, and can be an environment which can solve problems very efficiently if constructed properly. Leaving the ego at the door allows one to reap the benefit of knowledge of the “collective” which is so much more powerful than that of any single person – i.e. see AVC as a “collective”. Wow, what a great resource. We believe in listening to input from entrepreneurs, technicians, doctors, cab drivers, doormen, trash collectors and homeless people… If we (as a collective or individual) wish to solve real problems, we must strive to understand each perspective, and in order to do so one’s ego must be left behind. :)(edit: typos, as usual + changed “taking” to “listening”)
I think the only answer is to stay focused on what positions you’re filling. Like many on the list, I agree that not all folks can grow into managers/leaders…perhaps more likely managers rather than leaders.A head of sales who understands the sales process, and the challenges of closing, is incredibly valuable. But many sales people might be best suited to stay in sales (and even happier). I’m speaking, of course, in generalities but that’s sort of the nature of this whole theoretical discussion.
Yeah. I can imagine that – the star individual contributor having to manage others. Very helpful.. thanks Jerry!
One of the greatest errors that is ever made in business is making a great salesman into a mediocre sales manager.Doing and managing are two very different things.
The cleverest leaders never allow their followers to even know they are being led.It is amazing what can be accomplished if you don’t fret about who gets the credit.
Not caring about credit is a secret weapon.
BEST PERSON TO HIRE IS ONE THAT NOT AGREE WITH YOU.BUT ONLY IF THEM RIGHT.
But only if they help you to BE right.
EMPLOYEE THAT CARE MORE ABOUT SELF BE RIGHT THAN TEAM BE RIGHT GET EATEN.
oh – i like your name! very zen 😉
But you never know who’s right, do you? :)I guess that’s always the challenge..
I think hiring A players is part of what defines a true A player executive.This doesn’t mean that B players don’t hire A players, but keeping them is another thing.Sometimes when someone is a CEO or high level executive, you don’t always know right away that he/she is not an A player because sometimes it takes longer for decisions to play out. Someone who may have developed a hit product may seem like an A player because of that success and the types of people that success initially attracts to the company — but over the long run the company’s effectiveness will diminish unless there is an intervention.
Culture/environment also plays a huge role in whether someone succeeds. (Or is perceived as successful, more pertinent to large companies.)
The smoothest operations require a bit of friction — dynamic tension — to make the operations smooth.Do not allow personalities to clash — let ideas wrestle with each other.When ideas wrestle, the grand champion idea is always better.You cannot have greatness without dynamic tension.The idea that a CEO should go home calm and comforted is simply wrong. The CEO should find himself referring the wrestling match of ideas and being torn by the attractiveness of each idea and then ultimately fashioning an ultimate solution which mines the best from all his minds.Mining minds.
I love the thought of ideas wrestling with each other, JLM.I’m not able to reply to the other comment of yours about managing and doing.I cannot agree more on that. Somehow the discussion in the thread seems to indicate otherwise.
Ok, how about practical advice about how to delegate.
Delegation is a form of letting go and accepting that you’re afraid. Oftentimes, out of our own fears (based in either objectively true facts like you really are going to run out of cash or subjectively true facts like if I give this up then what will be my role), we hold tightly to things.I remember the first time I went sky diving. I was so afraid that I wanted desperately to hold onto the lines connecting me to the ‘chute. The instructor was smart enough to warn me that doing so would only make me spin (and likely vomit). So I had to will myself to do what seemed unnatural–let go of the rope. If you follow the Big Three Rule Fred has written about, and build a great team of managers (folks who are better than you are), you can let go and enjoy somewhat the ride.
And there’s nothing wrong with glancing up once in a while to “make sure the rope is still connected.”That’s my acid test for real delegation. Am I verifying that it’s getting done and testing/watching the customer experience from time to time? Or am I hanging on to the rope?
What a great take on the metaphor. I’m gonna steal that one!
I think of “follow up” as the flip side of “delegation.” Two sides of the coin.
Coaching is the “buzz word”
Delegation is also accepting that someone else can find the result you want through a path you wouldn’t have taken…
True…but the dynamics are different at different levels.How you delegate from a CEO to a CMO is different than how you delegate from a CMO to a brand manager.Trust is key. Delegation is key. Respect for a different way of thinking is key. But you just stay closer.Management and delegation in my experience at least is a rolling dynamic.
@fakegrimlockLeadership creates the environment. Execs create results.Trust – & good measurements – connect the two.
“Trust, and verify.”
MANAGEMENT IS TRUST SOMEONE ELSE CAN BE MORE RIGHT THAN YOU.
I don’t think of it in all caps (sorry GL!)Management isn’t letting go, it’s leading.Two different things entirely.What I found that when you hire really great, talented, brilliant people, it’s less about managing and more about guiding.How you do that is another itssue, but that is the intent.
@awaldstein:disqus ME THINK US ONLY DISAGREE ON SEMANTICS.LET SOMEONE ELSE BE RIGHT NOT SAME AS LET GO.
STARTUP IS JUMP OUT WINDOW, TRUST WINGS HAPPEN BEFORE GROUND.NO HAVE TRUST, NO HAVE ANYTHING ELSE.
To me trust is binary: you either have it or you don’t. My policy when hiring: they have my trust from day one. It’s up to them to keep it that way.
EMPLOYEE SHOULD FIGHT TO KEEP TRUST LIKE FIGHT TO KEEP JOB.BECAUSE IT IS.
Exactly right. Close your eyes if you have to but take the damn leap.
Micromanagement: Failing to see the wood for the trees. 😉
why are people so afraid?because they have no practice.but practice they must if they want to perfect.trust is entwined with practice as method to arrive.no one thinks it’s so simple.
Do you think sometimes fear is learned? I keep wondering about what I am afraid of and my experiences shaped my fear
I’m sure Jerry has more to say on this than I do. But I would start by asking yourself what you’re afraid of, and why.
I have been doing a lot of re-evaluating of that recently. Some fears seem to be innate, some seem to be acquired and slowly gotten rid of.- posted via http://engag.io
Fear is mastered in increments. What scares me may not even register with you. Fear and risk are acquired tastes.
I agree fear can be mastered in bits, like prayer beads, and the unique fear fingerprints we all have, and develop, and overcome, over time is fascinating journey.Though risk seems to be baked into the DNA of some, it can be bred in others simply by using perspective and vision. And what is risky to me may not register with you as you mentioned for fear.
FEAR LIKE VODKA. DRINK UNTIL NO AMOUNT STOP YOU.
mental lube dislodge physical blockwhat have you to lose except fear?
Umm, why would I drink that much, my stomach and head would hate me…- posted via http://engag.io
BECAUSE IT METAPHOR.
DISQUS BROKEN, LEAVE COMMENT 5 TIMES.
DISQUS BROKEN, LEAVE COMMENT 5 TIMES.
:)- posted via http://engag.io
BECAUSE IT METAPHOR.
BECAUSE IT METAPHOR.
BECAUSE IT METAPHOR.
BECAUSE IT METAPHOR.
i think i’d vomit if i went skydiving even if i wasn’t holding on to the rope!
First jump is a freebee, one has no idea what to expect. The second is “informed consent” and you already know better.Thereafter you know what you know and you reason yourself into taking the next jump.Betweeen the plane and the ground, when the canopy is open and the sky is quiet, it is delightful. First Christmas type of wonderment.It is the landing that conjures up all the problems.
Exactly right. And the vomiting only comes from the spinning…or when you’re sitting in the airplane, climbing.
I realized yesterday between the combo of reading this and going rock climbing the first time:Sometimes you have to fall to get stronger (though I have yet to conquer that wall. Tomorrow is another day)You have to let go because there is no other way up, unless you let go and try again.This somehow seems to fit, i think because of the unnaturalness of falling (same with skydiving). You have to do the unnatural to grow.
As a gymnast and diver I have soared, twisted, turned and fallen.But heights mess me body up.
Delegation can only be effective w/ a commensurate climate of accountability.Not just the kind of “I’m going to check up on you accountability” but the kind of accountability that is made up of trust and responsibility.The kind of accountability that sounds like — the whole damn team is counting on me doing my job and doing it correctly.
Shana the way I like to look at it is that you need to define the “edges” — the basic framework is the role, responsibilities, inputs, outputs, and tools they may require. Oh, and timing.But then you actually don’t want to be prescriptive about the “how”. Because your way may not be the best way; with latitude they may have something better. Let them make it theirs.As you work with someone over time, they need less such guidance. And of course less guidance comes with maturity as well.And this is why you actually want to hire people better than you — so they can kill in their job and stretch beyond it, which allows you to lead bigger + better.
Basic hows are a good idea though. What are those edges, how do you identify the shape you’re working with?
The edges are the items I listed up-front.You have to decide them in the context of what you need the overall entity to accomplish, and who else is working on what, so you avoid overlaps + gaps.
It boils down to articulating what you want. There’s a useful acronym which is “big company” (thus I feel defensive when discussing with entrepreneurs): when delegating, state outcomes that are specific, measurable, actionable, realistic and timebound. (SMART. Ech.)Beyond some perfectly defined outcome, it’s about relationship, especially in rapidly changing environments, where what you wanted done last month might be irrelevant. There’s nothing like having someone waste time on an outcome that no longer makes sense.
Small point but sometimes new people can bring a new font of energy to the endeavor.This is particularly true w/ folks who have a bit of technological expertise and can inject the energy of their expertise.I am experiencing this right now w/ the addition of some young social media folks. It is energizing and enervating.
JLM! How the hell are you? Hope you had a great Christmas!
Could say the same to YOU, Tereza! Hope you are well, friend.
Indeed, same to you.I have been nursing a particularly painful dislocated shoulder which has already ruined two ski trips.Fell down an escalator in Ft Lauderdale enroute to Key West in spectacular fashion. Ascertained I cannot actually fly unaided.Don’t tell anyone.Painful and enduring lesson. Other than that, Mrs Lincoln…
Awww….sorry to hear that. But your secret is SAFE with me. Zipped lip. Hope that shoulder feels mucho better in 2012. Nothin’ a Pappy can’t fix, right?
Well said. There comes a point where you have to have that “talk” with a given employee. At that point, there’s prob a 50/50 chance to correct behavior, if that.
WHAT FEATURES NOT BUILD AS IMPORTANT AS ONES YOU BUILD.WHAT EMPLOYEES NOT ON TEAMS AS IMPORTANT AS ONES ON IT.NEVER BE AFRAID MAKE HARD CHOICE FOR EITHER.
According to my paperback (there’s a thing) copy of the Oxford Concise Dictionary of English Etymology the word ‘boss’ originates in the US but is of unknown origin. I find it remarkable that a word that has so much ‘weight’ in the consciousness of a society is of unknown origin. It hints to me than its precise meaning is open to a broader and differing interpretation from person to person, and that confusion and disagreement about the role in a business is therefore inevitable. Almost better to throw it out. Ban it even. Start with a new lexis, and not only for ‘boss’. Too many of these other titles are of limited help in understanding the process of successful progress.techberlin.com – nearly came to your Berlin thing last September. Got stuck in Munich. Another time. Cheers 🙂
The Online Etymology Dictionary offers this etymology for boss:”overseer,” 1640s, Amer.Eng., from Du. baas “a master,” M.Du. baes, of obscure origin. If original sense was “uncle,” perhaps it is related to O.H.G. basa “aunt,” but some sources discount this theory. The Du. form baas is attested in English from 1620s as the standard title of a Dutch ship’s captain. The word’s popularity in U.S. may reflect egalitarian avoidance of master as well as the need to distinguish slave from free labor.Your comment here reminds me of Professor Sheffield’s take on “Who’s The Boss” in Community (in one of the funniest sequences on that show): http://youtu.be/DYhaTPg8lOE
Did you watch the clip? Genius.
Would love to have had you…I’m also the type to go to dictionaries. ;-)I wrote a piece on my blog a few months back called What Do You Need? in which I talked about the sort of infantilization that can often occur when we defer to the “boss.” When I do talks on leadership (and draw my pyramids on the subject) I usually get a laugh when, in describing how the traditional view places the CEO at the apex of the pyramid, we often associate that role with the Alpha Dog, the Mom/Dad, or even God. And we may rail against the disempowering style of a boss-daddy but we sometimes secretly are complicit because it allows us to disown our own responsibilities.We can be complicit in our own infantilization as employees.
KEY TO STARTUP IS SHARE POWER, RESPONSIBILITY.NO ONE HAVE ALL OR NONE OF EITHER.
Exactly right. The promise of a startup is the shared power, shared authority which can be the basis a much more satisfying work experience. Finally, you get to contribute and be appreciated.BUT with that promise comes shared responsibility. I led a discussion on management at a software company recently and towards the end, one young woman, the head of QA, got it; she said, “What you’re saying is that we’re all responsible to think like managers and leaders.”
BE RESPONSIBLE MOST SCARY THING OF ALL.AND BEST.
Pincus calls this “everyone is the CEO of something” inside Zynga
You state a very important reality. There are many folks who want to be led. They may want to be led because they have faith in their leaders and like the outcomes.When you go to the pay window together, you become addicted to the organizational dynamic that got you there.Successful teams do not spend a lot of time lusting after being the leader if the leader is effective.
I think people are funny…when I taught in college, I had my students read two books to start the class: Plato’s Republic and Machiavelli’s The Prince. My point was that we, as societies, cultures, and organizations, often say we want the Philosopher King to lead us but we inevitably elect/follow The Prince.I think part of the reason is that taking responsibility for our own decisions is scary. It’s often easier, even if it is disempowering, to abdicate responsibility and leave it to the “boss.”
The military has an interesting exercise they engage in — peer reviews at elite military schools.At Ranger School or C&GSC, they ask — which of your classmates would you want to serve under in combat and which one do you think would be the most successful in combat?Bear in mind these are the Army’s best of the best, the Regulars who WILL run America’s wars and any one of whom, given the right breaks, will end up wearing 4 stars.They ALWAYS pick the bastards. The guys who can make cold blooded decisions in the heat of battle and who don’t give a shit about what happened 10 seconds ago, they just keep on looking forward. Guys who can look at ALL the lives of their subordinates not the man they just lost.Then, they often ask — who amongst your classmates will go the farthest in the Army?Not the same bunch of guys, don’t ya know?The politicians go the farthest every time.
I’ve often said that there’s a role and a place for the kind of command and control decision-making…to mock myself, if I were working in a building that was on fire, I wouldn’t want the CEO walking around and asking people what they need in order to evacuate.I think truly great leaders know how to command when necessary and know to use that authority sparingly.
@jerrycolonna:disqus Further to your comment below. The ability to effectively lead in a crisis is a different talent than just general leadership.I have known leaders — primarily military leaders — whose most seemingly off hand comments were obeyed like they were flaming tablets from on high.Some folks just know how to command and some will never learn how.
You said it better than I did.
i think we have the philosopher king running the US right now. he should read The Prince.
Even worse, we THOUGHT we were getting a combination of the The Philosopher King AND The Prince.
Jerry — the longer I work as an executive recruiter, the more I recognize the great need out there for people who do what you do and appreciate the value! Glad that Fred will have you close out the series — looking forward to it.The word that came to mind in reading your comment is “objectivity.” It seems that objectivity is one of the key factors that will determine a leader’s success and even helps to determine whether someone truly is a leader. Speaking of which, I wonder if you see a distinction between “leadership” and “management” and whether this factors into the ability of a management team to scale?
Thanks Donna. That’s awfully kind of you. I’m biased of course but I’m a huge fan of coaching and wish it grows even more. I need more coaches.
Is that a cattle call, Jerry? ;)Personally, I’m strongly leaning toward receiving the training at some point. I think it would be a natural expansion of my current role (and strengths) and would further allow me to combine my passion for startups and for leaders – finding ways to help both succeed.
I should have been clearer…we all need more, good quality coaches…especially those with real experience in startups. Donna, happy to chat about the pros and cons of coaching as a business, career. ping me via email.
Totally true — but not by any means confined to first-time or start-up CEOs. Point D, in particular, rings true — not so much because the team is made up of friends, but because the growth of the company requires a growth from the individuals that they aren’t willing or able to take on.
Well said. In many ways, none of these points are limited to start up CEOs.
The most important consideration is how the CEO perceives his role in the organization. Is he at the top or the bottom?The CEO is ultimately a servant to the organization whose entire being is based upon a simple notion — what support do I need to provide to the organization to lead it to where I want it to go?It is both leadership from the front and support from the base. It can be no other way.
Most of this applies to any leader. Learning to listen and get out of the way are key. It comes easily to no one, but to some easier than others.
Great perspective Jerry. What I found is that as CEO, I followed the great advice to hire up – to surround myself with the smartest people I could find for each role. But, I can also say that as I did this, I began to feel a bit like “what the hell am I doing leading this team of amazingly talented people?” It is one of the strange experiences of being a CEO of a fast growing company.
that is a familiar refrain. i hear it a lot from founders. but remember that they joined the company that you started.
Great contribution Jerry and I couldn’t agree more! I’ve experienced item (d) on several occasions – I call this process linking management subsystems. Very common dogma that looms throughout an organization.
Bravo. Valuing the art of management is half the battle.I’m curious: have your views on this topic changed since the 90s? If so, I’d love to hear what you see differently, and how your view evolved.
not so much changed as evolvedi have learned so much in the past 15 years
I hope you’ll tell us more on this!
I never recognized it before, but the “stages” of growth are extremely important. We as entrepreneurs tend to underestimate the 2nd and 3rd stages.This is why I sold my second company….I doubted at the time that I had what it takes to go really big.And I got the opportunity to sell my company….but more importantly the opportunity…….to work with the best entrepreneur I’ve ever known (who went from 3 people to $600m building a cult brand), under a public-company CEO (who went from a $2m market cap to BUYING the $600m company),and building and managing products for a customer base of millions of people.Now I know extremely well…. how to hire, how to scale, how to partner with public companies, how to delegate, how to lead…..and that I’m READY.
Wordsent tomorrow from my DeLorean at 88mph
What’s the next step going to be, Andy? 🙂
I’m waiting for the perfect Yoda quote before doing anything….
Hmmm.. Meditate on this, I will.
I’ve never been in the position to get an acquisition offer that I seriously considered turning down.I know of the entrepreneur you’re talking about, so I can imagine how much that benefit weighed down on the side of selling, before even considering the impact of the money.Three stages of company development, and definitely more than one stage of entrepreneur development.I for one can’t wait to see what you do next, whether it’s next year or five years from now.(Immediate edit for clarified grammar: I know OF the entrepreneur you’re talking about…don’t know him personally.)
When I was helping founders get to the next step, I used a marketing tool called The Switchbacks. In essence, it was Fred’s three stages, but I included my belief that each stage requires a substantially different culture ( Learning, Completiing, Leading ).I believe that scaling a team – as Fred defines it – creates far more risk than assembling a team that can go from 0-100. The obvious risks are that execs that work @ scale are not effective before that point ( but picking those people is why Founding CEO is such a fun gig).FWIW – switchback is a mountain climbing term. A friend suggested it – always liked the analogy.
yes, the switchbacks between the three stages can be really tough
Can’t wait!Remember the little people. 😉
Great timing…..we just added a 3rd to our little startup…still way less than what we really need but one team member at a time will do I suppose :-)I’ll be following this carefully. Great timing.
Looking forward to reading the upcoming posts. I’ve hired and fired others and myself. It’s the hardest thing to figure out who to hire and when.Another point that most everyone tiptoes around is age. Quite often we think of the “old” people as the ones with the big company senior management experience (i.e. managers, not do’ers). But as the commercial Internet reaches maturity, those of us that entered the field 15 years ago are 15 years older (can someone please explain how that happened! ;-)And while we’re 15 years more experienced, I don’t see my start-up peers as workers that don’t roll up their sleeves. Conveying this to younger founders can be a challenge.
Very excited about this series! Something I am in the middle of myself right now and it’s challenging!
Great…What community means and how you foster it especially across the latter two stages should be an important conversation. As many different opinions as there are situations. And as many ways to staff for it.
Ideally, there’ll be a sense of community in a co., but it’s not primarily a community. You don’t hire and fire members of a community, do you?
I wasn’t clear, sorry.In all three phases, but mostly in phase 2 and 3 that Fred is going to address, you need to develop a community with your early users and build on that to a market.How many startups by friends do you join and download and bang…nothing. Managing that early community is one of the most critical and oft neglected aspects of getting the product right.So…who’s job is that? That’s what I meant.
OK, that clarifies your initial comment.
For every startup CEO and manager to be careful of, what can kill a startup: http://legendarymoves.com/?…
What’s most critical for scaling is the immediate management team under the CEO. Because a start-up is a very dynamic organization, and is known to have growth spurts and turning on a dime moments, each and everyone of the management should be stepping-up with every bit of progress made. Actually, each person should be a step or two ahead, anticipating what needs to be done next, instead of reacting to it. If the CEO sees that one of their direct reports is not pulling their own weight and/or not progressing in lock-step with everybody, then there are decisions to be made about keeping that person. Not one person can slow the rest of the train. At the end of the day, it’s about keeping the team motivated, celebrating each milestone, setting and managing the prioritization of goals (what to do next, and not do), and keeping a tight view on everything. I’ve been on both sides twice big/small/big/small – and although there are common management principles that apply across the board, what you do in a startup position is almost counter-intuitive to how you do things in a big co, and vice versa. Seeing and doing both sides has helped me a lot. Big Co management vs. startup management is as different as knowing how to drive a big car vs. a motorcycle.
How many people do you know who are expert motorcyclists, airline captains & cruise ship captains?Yet everyone assume that startups CEOs ( even successful ones ) are skilled at all 3 stages.
Exactly. I didn’t consider the air and sea metaphors. Was trying to stay on the road with cars vs. motorcycles 🙂
Looking forward to this series of posts!
Sitting at a desk all day on a computer is not so hot a working lifestyle – to be blunt, it can at times be rather crappy. Only hire people wanting to get to and from the office by bicycle, and I’m not kidding. They’re fitter, healthier, sharper, more motivated, and more productive. Provide secure storage, ideally showers, and have the tools around to deal with mechanicals. Suitable applicant needs a better bike/ equipment? Offer to help with buying, and again I’m not kidding. Provide cycling employees with what they need and they will become very willing employees. They won’t walk away easily. Team…and have as few mass meetings as you think you can get away with. Very unproductive things mass meetings.
There was an article in the WSJ a few years ago about a tech co that relocated from DC, I think, to Colorado, with similar thoughts in mind. Workers ditched pizza dinners for mountain biking. But they also started clocking out at 5pm, if memory serves, instead of burning the late night oil.
Shifts, and dirt road map roadsters only :-)Mountains are for hiking, climbing, and skiing. Bikes have no place there.
ME, GRIMLOCK, THINK COMPETITORS ENJOY HIRING AWESOME TALENT YOU BIASED AGAINST, DESTROYING YOUR STARTUP.
NEED BIGGER ASTEROID.
just blow them away….in whatever format you like
Looking forward to this, I’m involved with a company/organization in each one of these three stages.
You are who you roll with.
So eager to see this topic develop. A valuable one!
Fred, If only you could get the guest posts cover topics on what not to do stuff and may be some real case scenarios where turnarounds really happened, that would be great and inspiring.
i will ask them to do that
Looking forward to this. Finding the right people seems to be my biggest challenge. Over the last year or so I was well down the road of ‘letting go’, but then a key bad hire or two and I’m back to just doing it myself.
Many of the entrepreneurs will be first-timers (myself included). I personally run into the issue of not being able to say, definitively, *THIS* is the path we’re taking. I know it in my head (or I think I do, at least!) but I’m not great at writing it clearly for the team.I am afraid of bringing on a “senior-level” person if I’m not yet clear myself about the path we’re on. At our size, and “senior” person will have to be thought of as a partner, and I don’t know how to make sure we’re aligned from the start.
ME LIKE. MOST STARUPS DO OK WITH “HOW TO BUILD”.”HOW TO KEEP GOING” NOT SO MUCH.
builders vs managers
It seems to me that to make much progress with this topic, need to be clear on why a person will or won’t do various things, good or bad, within an organization.I’ve seen people easily work diligently and effectively for the good of an organization and seen other people working for other things and against the good of the organization.In simple terms, an important question is, how to have people really working for the good of the organization instead of something else?From what I’ve seen, the main issues of a person’s contributions to the organization have mostly to do with their desire to contribute and surprisingly little to do with their qualifications in knowledge, skills, talents, and abilities. In particular, if a person does want to contribute, then commonly they can get necessary background material on the job without unacceptable delays.When people didn’t contribute well, the reasons were hidden agendas, various issues between their ears, ulterior motives, secret hidden personal motivations, private alliances, various anxieties, jealousies, resentments, hostilities, some pleasure in seeing others fail, etc. Such considerations can result in people being disloyal, dishonest, and destructive.Many of these considerations are covered by ‘goal subordination’ in the literature of organizational behavior.Apparently one partial solution is for the CEO to lead and manage well so that the organization is closer to perfection than any one person in it. So, have fairly clear responsibilities and numerical measures and also be prepared carefully to evaluate initiative, originality, and creativity when those are part of the job.Without progress on such considerations, I see not much chance of progress.I haven’t been very clear here on the problems or the solutions so hope others can provide more.
The concept of “scaling a management team” is crucial not only for start ups but also for small companies and or companies growing very quickly.Nothing can kill the growth of a company as quickly as the owners/founders inability to scale management. Speaking from hindsight, it takes the ability to realize and accept the fact that what was once “your” or “our” company has grown to being “a” company. Passion is a wonderful motivation but at some point you have to acknowledge that passion has to give way to expertise; and that may mean that you end up dealing with your equals rather than subordinates.I agree with everything Jerry Colonna said, but would add that it is not only the difference between a “great” and a “good” company, but that it will also date the eventual demise of a company.I remember telling my two partners the year we hit 100 million in sales that we had been “lucky” thus far and now it was time for us to be “good” and we went round and round about our areas of weakness, I had management consultants and executive recruiters in, and it came down to the basic fact that neither one of them could see that we would not being “letting go” but rather gaining control of our future; because the reality was at that time we did not control our growth as it was out of control.This series will probably be the most important one you have ever done Fred! I hope every passionate, working like a mad person 24/7 entrepreneur/small business owner reads it and begins to prepare their “weltanschaunng” for price of success.
I’m curious, Carl. What did the executive recruiters do to help you in this process?I’ve got an inkling, but don’t want to presume.Agree with you about the significance of this series.
Donna,The reality is outside of tech start ups and VC funding most small companies truthfully have no idea how to develop an organization or management team; and thus you find people rising to the level of their incompetency, or an entrepreneur busting his ass carrying a company full of “friends and family.”I used executive recruiters to not only find candidates for the positions that I knew we needed but I also used them to assist in pointing out the positions I had not thought of. I initially sought to fill jobs but I realized that the executive recruiters were interested in finding “fits” (I went in looking for an off the rack suit and ended up with a tailored suit).At the time I was the only “outsider” in the organization, a northerner with no apparel experience and I was not related to either of the owners nor had I worked for either one of them in the past. Talk about “inbred” whew!Honestly, we never thought about our corporate “culture” but we definitely had one and it took the recruiters to point that out.I the recruiters also made me realize that we really were not the company we thought we were. One thing about growth is that you do not notice how different your responsibilities are from when you started. Where as in the beginning just making a trip to the airport to pick someone up may be a big deal and as you grow and evolve you do not realize that now you are making 6 trips a year to Europe, spending 20 weeks a year out on the West Coast, and beginning to converse in German with your European workforce.Then it dawns on you what has been achieved in 5 years and it adds a totally different dimension to the search for executives to take you the next five years.It was a brutal process but it put the perspective on candidates who could grow our business and fit into the culture….
Thank you for sharing this, Carl. Refreshing to hear that you were able to use the assistance of recruiters in a way that truly utilizes their expertise. We hate to be “order takers” and would much rather serve as consultants — the good ones at least. It is amazing what we learn as recruiters by doing what we do — I wouldn’t trade the education received for anything! I’m proud of these recruiters that served you so well! By the way, did my first searches in apparel a couple of years ago. What a fascinating industry — I thought I knew the industry by recruiting OUT of it several times for consumer products clients, but not the same as recruiting IN it. Even these searches had a technology component. Technology is everywhere!
When someone knows their “craft” then I find them to be a sheer joy to work with and learn from; and yes, I learned quite a bit from these recruiters (one who is retired is still a dear friend).Apparel is a really misunderstood industry; its part art and part science. Some of the most brilliant tech people I ever met came from Kellwood, which is a huge apparel and home furnishings company.
I will have to tackle this issue shortly so I am grateful to have it aired here.Love all the comments.But I have no ego in this. Just right person, right work, right time.I have no other internal metrics to solve the, to me, foreign, equation.As founder I am beyond thrilled to hand over work to others. As a woman perhaps I have less ego invested. Just do the work. Or as my friend says “Get it. And bring it!!”
I’ve been wanting to thank you but didn’t know where to direct this. Was going to figure it out. This is a temporary thank you!
Oh you got them. Great.Love to have your [email protected]
Thank you. Will do.
Fred, I am very excited about this series and will eagerly await each week’s installment! I believe that a better understanding of the requirements of scaling at each phase will lead to smarter, more strategic, more meaningful hiring that will lead to building better (including happier and more productive) teams, resulting in more successful companies.Personally, I learned a good lesson several months ago in my eagerness to join a startup. I think that if I better understood the stage this company was in (usage vs. business), I would have realized how precarious the job was. The experience was worth it even though short-lived. But I would like to help companies avoid these kinds of hires.
First and last post should be: scaling the CEO.Too often I’ve seen entire management teams thrown out, and the CEO stay in situ. How does the Board recognise that the CEO has managed to hire great A players, but has not managed to communicate, motivate and lead them?How many opportunities does a CEO get to do that? How many great execs are lost in the process? How can the CEO continue to hire A grade execs when the word is out that the CEO can’t lead them?Perhaps Boards can look a little bit closer to home before jumping over the CEO and thinking that management teams are the problem.
oh man. you’ve hit on my unsolved question. i stare at it every morning and never come to the answer.
You have said so much better what I was trying to communicate earlier!I’ve seen cases where the IPO and the scrutiny that comes with this reveals a lacking CEO. Wall Street can be a tough and unforgiving critic… and then there are shareholders…
Sometimes events dictate how you hire. In 2005 as I was preparing a start up, we had business, sales before we were ready. It wasn’t running a bit to catch up but more a sustained sprint. I needed people, talent and staff now. Hiring was all the time and I was shanghaing people when needed. After about 18 months there was a slow down and I could do some “recruiting” rather than grabbing people. We had proven talent join us but in a lot of cases they didn’t mesh with what we had become. People got tossed and I realized that the culture of the company had become strong enough that we could hire and the organization would almost train them and mold them without much of a formal or designed effort. Each time out is different and you never know until it happens.
Fred – consider segmenting two different types of businesses – services and software. I’ve built four successful companies and have done both services and software – and most recently did the “impossible” transitioned a services company to a software company in the RFID space (www.ODINRFID.com). There is a big difference in scaling the management team for software and services – especially from a sales leadership perspective. The last point I think is important is ensuring founder(s) have accurate self-awareness. As CEO if _they_ are to scale they need to understand their strengths and weaknesses; if they can sell they should help the VP of Sales close deals and spend time giving product feedback to CTO. If they are technical; they should spend time listening to VP of Sales and working with VP of Eng to make customer requests a reality and in sensical priority. CEO should join an organization like YPO or YEO to get the kind of candid feedback that really helps them grow and learn about themselves.
interesting idea. how do you differentiate between what is software and what is services? every company we invest in has a large degree of software involved, but i am sure you would characterize some of them as services
Something I’d like to throw out there is attention payed to the Instagram model. I’ve always been a true believer that small teams of A+ folks who share chemistry and vision can crush the competition. I also believe that a majority of consumer internet companies don’t need a whole lot of FTE scale to be effective. However, this kind of small structure can make it even more challenging to scale the management team when the time comes – because the time always comes when you need to scale that piece.I’ve witnessed twice in my career great companies become shells of who they were culturally because the founders scaled too quickly and did not take the difficult road of growing the management appropriately. It’s extremely unfortunate to see a talented team disband in response to “The Bozo Explosion”.Looking forward to more on this topic 🙂
I’ve always believed that if you’re CEO and your spending too much time on any specific thing that’s not culture, vision or strategy that’s the sign that you need additional management to cover that aspect of the business.Which leads to what I think the CEO’s true job is – it’s to consistently hire her or himself out of a job. And do it with much more intelligent, disciplined and skilled people who you can learn from.
Lao Tzu wrote: “A leader is best who, when the work is done, the people say, ‘We did this ourselves.’ “
LEADER LIFTS EVERYONE, NOT JUST SELF.
When I ask (in an interview) about the executive’s behavior around delegation, I always follow up with a question about the motivation for or philosophy around delegating. Answers vary from it is a more effective or efficient way to get things done, utilizes the talents of others, maximizes use of the executive’s time, etc.The scale is tipped by those who answer (sometimes in addition to the above) that they are committed to delegation as one of the best ways of stretching and developing team members to maximize their growth. You learn from responses like this whether someone is a coach.