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My company is growing. Do I ditch speed or teamwork?

Sacrifice nothing, says advice columnist Maynard Webb. Sometimes you have to go slow to go fast.

My company is growing. Do I ditch speed or teamwork?
[Photo: Nikola Jovanovic/Unsplash]

Editor’s Note: Each week Maynard Webb, former CEO of LiveOps and the former COO of eBay, will offer candid, practical, and sometimes surprising advice to entrepreneurs and founders. To submit a question, write to Webb at dearfounder@fastcompany.com.

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Q. As my team grows, how do we balance collaborative decision-making with acting swiftly? 

—Founder of a fast-growing Silicon Valley startup

Dear Founder,

You’ll want to do both.

Remember, sometimes you have to move slow to go fast. That means that you have to make sure that you put practices in place and principles to work that enable and empower others.

When you start out and you’re doing everything yourself, things are easier and faster to decide because everything goes through you. But on the flip side, that doesn’t allow you to scale, because there’s only one of you and too much to handle.

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Your goal should be getting your team to be better than you at all of the things you are doing today. That will enable you to make decisions both swiftly and collaboratively. But that requires you to coach them. Though that may feel like a burden in the moment, doing this today is what will allow you to focus on bigger things tomorrow.

It’s counterintuitive because human nature is such that everyone likes to feel needed. It’s scary when you discover that things people once depended on you for can be accomplished by someone else. But don’t ever be afraid of that. This is progress. And now, your secret sauce can be spent on higher order problems. You are freed up to do more.

There is a difference between running to keep up and running to get ahead. All of us aspire to get ahead, and the only way to do so is to have the team keeping up, which enables you to go farther faster.

To get the most out of your teams, there has to be a strong foundation of trust. This trust has to go both ways. Once you have this foundation, your team will hear your voice and know the right thing to do in the moment—and you will trust them to do it.

This is the process I recommend to help you make decisions collaboratively and quickly:

  1. Assess the capability and willingness of the team to do the task. Often, people will volunteer for a challenging assignment, but you have to take an honest look and decide: Can they, and will they, really do it effectively? Always put the best team in place.
  2. Communicate what success looks like. Be crystal clear on all of the expectations: For example, what is the timeline, quality, budget?
  3. Make it clear that if they encounter problems, you are there to guide them. You must ensure that they are comfortable coming to you when issues arise. Overall, you are still accountable for the results. And it’s easier to fix problems when you hear about them early.
  4. Establish checkpoints to monitor progress. This prevents you from receiving nasty surprises at the end—a time when there is little you can do to efficiently course correct.
  5. When the team delivers, celebrate their success. Even though you are the one who is ultimately responsible, let the team have the roles of the heroes.
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