Author: Casey O'Connor
In my career, I spent years in leadership where the role was mostly managing controlled chaos, mid-flight assembly and readiness to tackle any fire. This approach consistently led to growth. Yet, not without shortcomings. Accepting challenges are expected and reality dictates that nothing ever fully goes as planned. As for the people breathing this air and drinking the Kool-Aid, they had a nice level of scrappiness leading to willingness and desire.
When channeled properly, teams look to overcome anything and move in any direction they were told. Having early adoption and culture of bold readiness was required to stay connected to the demands of our customers and create a user experience based on that knowledge. Using the best tools and resources to accomplish these things also enabled teams to act upon their culture’s values...
All that motivation to win doesn’t mean we always went in the right direction. Poor navigation came back on leadership not putting a focus on the right stuff. In my observation-based opinion, it came back to one thing which consistently led to great outcomes and was the right stuff. That one thing was the understanding and prioritizing the user experience. When the perspective of the client was a priority, better questions got asked pushing for better solutions to make our product more easily consumed. Knowing our audience then can be translated to a more accurate wish list of what your audience wants. Keep your team on their toes because the market doesn’t take breaks.
A company may see growth from a sheer will but also need to examine success for clarity of what mattered most getting there. Through all the changes over time, there were more wins than just having client awareness. There were also reciprocal yet unexpected outcomes in forms of company culture. Back to the first note about controlled chaos and so on… It certainly wasn’t boring and was even fun at times.
All the change we faced keeping in front of our audience kept the teams ready and mobilized. This is where the culture gut check comes into place. If you had to face a change today, would your team be ready for it? Is leadership creating the type of culture that would embrace change or resist it? This is where you ask if your leadership is strong enough to handle change? Did they put in place the right foundation that created a culture that would embrace needed change?
Even with clear targets, KPI’s and extreme ownership complacency can still find a home. Responsiveness to change can be an excellent litmus test when gauging your culture. Knowing the team must do what is needed to engage clients, only best practices can be accepted. If complacency is affecting the organization, one place to see that is receptiveness to change. When growing the business means growing the size of the team you three levels; willingness to work, consumption-based strategy and plan and tools to execute. These will keep you moving in the right direction. This is important to note as you do not want to change merely for the sake of changing. Maintaining course will require leadership that is agile by nature but also aligned with the bigger goals. If moving “the new system” is perceived as an inconvenience without regard for the greater good solved for, you may have a broken culture on your hands. Ideally, getting there requires the right people in place and the tools available for them to best perform...
There is also a place between attaining all three levels. Before hiring the infrastructure to maintain them, leveraging good business partners will be the answer. Partners who provide to your team mature insight and non-biased feedback as well as familiarity with the resources available before hiring individuals. As growth occurs anywhere from start-up to the international organization be sure to invest in getting the right people that are aligned with the company purpose, values and vision. Get the people who want to be at the forefront of the marketplace demands. Invest in knowing what market needs are by allowing people to stay in front of customers and last make sure the right tools that scale with you along the way are being used. Doing these things are paramount, however, doing them with a small scrappy team may be too burdensome at times as individual skillsets may be limited leading to burnout. Avoid a broken culture by finding the right business partner.
Success is about having good partners as you grow. How this works is allowing your team to leverage the strengths of an entire firm for what they are best at solving vs hiring all the people yourself in a rushed fashion. When leveraging partnerships, you allow the people on the internal team to be best at what they were hired for along with the freedom to take time building out. Ramping up with partners also allows your overhead to be on demand vs a permanent commitment of employees. Markets change, and customers leave eventually. Your team must do all it can to stay in touch with the motivations of your clients and serve their needs. Early Adoption of trends and tools will keep you at the front of the competition.
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