When it comes to scaling a business or growing a team, the teamwork skills that got you to the present moment are not the ones that are going to support you through high growth.
“As organizations begin to grow fast, they naturally focus on their obvious, operational deficits: They need more people in sales, more engineers, a product manager, and so forth. But they don’t focus on the context that creates teams that are high-performing with extraordinary teamwork and cross-functional collaboration,” says Amie Devero, President of Beyond Better and an executive coach for high-growth startup founders and leaders.
“But, hiring for new roles and adding headcount won’t solve those challenges with longer tails. Teamwork is important, but it is incredibly difficult to work as a cohesive team when the strategy –that is, the game plan—isn’t clear; and when the leadership doesn’t know how to structure and quarter-back collaborative work within a team and across different functional teams.”
The skills required for growth are thus more tied to the bigger picture: having the right goals, the right people in the right roles, and a scalable structure. Here are four critical skills to focus on as you and your team take an organization to the next level.
You can’t scale a business without experienced leadership. And there is a big difference between being a top-performing individual contributor and a leader who is able to foster fast growth and exemplify great team management skills. For that reason, Devero says it’s critical to get coaching and training for new managers and leaders: “They need to clearly distinguish the skills and behaviors that will support their leading a team from those that made them a great individual contributor.”
“In the absence of that, the team will only be as good as its members. But with really extraordinary leadership, a team is more than the sum of its parts, and its work as a team can generate extraordinary results.”
2. Strategic planning
You also need to run a tight ship when it comes to strategy and planning. You can have the best people and leaders but you won’t be able to scale if you are working on the wrong things and focusing on priorities that won’t create a big impact.
“Because of the urgency to solve specific problems –like faster development, or closing deals—other, more abstract concerns get left behind,” says Devero. “For example, although there is urgency to hire and produce results, the results don’t usually exist in a cohesive strategic context because strategic planning hasn’t been seriously addressed.”
Creating a strategic plan that ties individual initiatives to the longer-term strategy is absolutely essential. “Without a clear plan, teams just execute projects. At a very superficial level, that may be enough. But it doesn’t lay the groundwork for truly inspired or innovative work over the long term,” adds Devero.
“Giving a clear plan to everyone lets each team create their own deeper mission that can persist and evolve over time.”
3. Career development
Each team member also needs individual motivation to succeed, so knowing how to develop the careers of others matters if you want to scale a business. Devero recommends creating two promotion tracks: one for managers and one for non-managers, something that is often overlooked.
“Strive to create a promotion track for non-managers so that people have a bright future if they aren’t interested in becoming managers,” she says. “Organizations end up with a mediocre class of leaders by failing to promote individual contributors to more leveraged and better-paid roles.”
It makes sense. If the only way to grow along with the company is to join management, everyone is going to want to do that to further their own career interests. But not everyone is cut out to be a leader. “Most people should not lead teams, and so most organizations end up with teams that under-perform.” Creating two distinct promotion tracks allows you to motivate and develop outstanding leaders as well as outstanding individual contributors so the team can be a well-balanced force.
4. Organizational design
Organizational design is the skill that ties strategic planning and people together–and it’s a critical skill in any company looking for high growth. You can’t afford to wing it when you want to considerably scale your operations.
“New hires come into an organization in which functional experts have been transitioned into management roles, but the new managers have never managed anyone before. There may be metrics, but they are often simply discrete measurements of key deliverables like sales or revenue. They aren’t connected to a full strategy, ” shares Devero.
“ Everyone knows that it’s critical to sell and generate revenue, but there isn’t a strong strategy for which sales to go after. The market is only loosely designated in the hunger to close deals.”
Embrace the skills above to avoid those pitfalls and you’ll have a high-performance team that can set relevant goals, innovate, and execute, adapting quickly as the company grows.