aka, How to scale your organization

I was reading an excellent blog post on the classic book “High Output Management” by Andy Grove. The blog post does a better job of summarizing the book than I ever could, so go read it now.

I want to talk about an aspect of leadership that I call “Who is your Champion?” Like the book describes, it is an illusion as a leader that you have direct control over what gets done in your organization. How things get done, what gets done, the quality of work – it is all out of your direct control.

However, what you do control is who does the work. This is indirectly very powerful and you need to be very deliberate in using that power.

As the leader, you set the goals of the company. You set the values of the company. And by that, you set the culture of the company. It is critical that you hire people that share those values and understand those goals.

Ok, so now you have hired smart people who share the company values and understand its goals. They are going to do what you say, right? Nope. Now you let them work towards the company goals. Since you have hired smart people that share the company values and understand the company’s goals, they will eventually come to you with ideas on how to do it better.

This is the critical part. Now you listen. Is the idea good for the company (not just the worker or their team)? Does the idea match the company’s goals and values? Note that I did not say “Is it how you would do it?” That really has no bearing. And that is where the Champion comes in.

Every idea, project, endeavor, whatever, needs a champion. If there is no champion, the idea/project/endeavor will fail. If you have a team member that comes to you and wants to do some thing, they will be the champion of that idea. They are now invested. They will put forth an amazing amount of physical and mental energy to make that idea successful. Their sense of self depends on it. Because of this, it matters less that this is the best idea (hence, your idea), but that you have someone you know will kill themselves to make it happen.

You may be inclined to tweak their idea, or simply tell them how you want things done. The problem with that is now you are the champion. That is ok, as far as it goes. But you can only be the champion of so many things before you start to fail at them.

I am not saying you need to rubber-stamp every idea that is brought to you. You can and should challenge them on it. Discuss with them how it is best for the company and helps meet the company’s goals. What you will find is that this discussion will often weed out many ideas, as (lets face it), many people come to you with ideas that make life easier for them or their team, but end up making life harder for the rest of the company. Since you hired smart people that share the company’s values, having a frank discussion will usually see them come to that conclusion without you having to make it.

Lastly, if you find yourself having these discussions and people aren’t talking about company values and company goals, then you have a staffing problem. None of this works until you exercise your one true power – hiring the right people. Hire them and then let them help you take this company to greatness.

This is how you scale your company.

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