Achieving the impossible

As teams grow, it’s inevitable to feel like it’s harder to get things done. This is normal.

There are many theories for why this is – from the telephone game example we all played as kids to theories like Dunbar’s Number, which claims that humans are only capable of supporting a small number of stable social relationships.

But whatever the reason may be, it’s the solution that matters. Which is why I want to focus on how to prevent this feeling from taking over in the first place.

So as your own company and teams grow, I encourage you to optimize for the following:

  1. Stay focused and move quickly.
  2. Question everything.
  3. Assume best intent.

These three things alone won’t completely solve every issue as you scale, but they will help you continue to operate as if you’re still that small, tight-knit organization.

1. Stay focused and move quickly.

At Drift, we have a core set of 8 leadership principles. Two of these speak to our need to stay focused and move quickly:

  • Have a bias for action and deliver daily results.
  • Put the customer at the center of everything you do.

We believe in small teams that are close to our customers. Our goal is to have as many of the daily tactical decisions made closest to the customer. By optimizing for this, we minimize the number of large groups that form to make consensus decisions.

We also strive to reduce bureaucracy by minimizing processes and meetings wherever and whenever possible. When in doubt, prune the meeting or the process. Keep decision-making lightweight, quick and low-cost.

2. Question everything.

I believe in the following four words: “Use your best judgement.” Don’t wait for permission. If you’re always focused on optimizing for the customer first, your instincts and judgement will usually lead you in the right direction.

But when companies grow, norms that are actually stop-gaps form. These are not the best solutions in the moment nor will they scale for years to come. So, if you think something is broken or you have a better way to do it that optimizes for the customer, push for it to happen.

Now. Not later.

3. Assume best intent.

Be aware of perception. Strive to understand the difference between behavior and intention. As your team grows, personal relationships undoubtedly fray. We lose that “family” like feeling we had when we were 8, 20, 100 employees. So when in doubt, walk over to the person and chat 1:1. If they are far away, hop on a video call and chat. Text, Slacking and email are not good enough. Too much is lost in translation.

Take the following for instance:

You’re late to a meeting. You judge yourself on your best intention to be on time. It was by accident that you’re late. Now flip that. Someone else is late. You probably judge them based on the fact they they’re late instead of their likely intention to be on time.

But that’s a double standard!

Talk it out and always assume the best intent. There is no substitute for 1:1 conversations, none.

So how are striving to keep your teams connected even as your business scales? Let me know by tweeting to me or replying here.

Have a great weekend!

– DC

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