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3 key pillars of building a growth culture

by Tom Otton
Managing Director

Fast growth is hard.
Not just hard to create, but hard to manage. Clearly though, it’s a good place to be, and in this tech-driven society, it’s often seen as fundamental as companies fight for diminishing venture capital dollars.

Culture comes down to individuals.

It’s the glue - the often-unwritten set of norms that a team takes on as they pull together and look to build something bigger than themselves. It’s critical to both developing fast growth and (even more so) maintaining it.

And while leadership plays a critical role in setting the path, motivating, and leading the way, it’s only by having certain attitudes ingrained in the wider team that a company and brand can really grow rapidly.

What if…

It’s actually what’s said after these few words that will tell you all you need to know about whether somebody’s going to increase or reduce the pace of your potential growth.

“What if … this idea we’re working on fails?” … “What if it wins?”

While there’s always a time and place to reality-check your direction, when you’re dreaming, running and building quickly, the positive dreamers in your room need to vastly outnumber the glass-half-empty crowd.

The only way to succeed is to have real passion for the work.

If there’s consistent negativity in your team, then you need to correct that quickly; nothing takes the wind out of a team’s sails than somebody consistently bringing up the negative alternative. Champion the dreamers.

As the leader of a team, it’s your job to protect the downside. Look at the worst-case scenario and make sure the decision you’re about to make sits on the right side of the risk-reward ratio. But you should only do this at the end of the brainstorming, before final plans are made, otherwise you’ll only dampen the team’s potential for creativity.

Communication

Improving communication to improve business performance is nothing new, but it’s the level that this needs to be taken to achieve and maintain growth that’s the differentiator.

Let’s take Tesla, for example. Elon Musk is very clear about how he sees the changes needed in corporate communications:

"Instead of a problem getting solved quickly, where a person in one department talks to a person in another department and makes the right thing happen, people are forced to talk to their manager, who talks to their manager, who talks to the manager in the other department, who talks to someone on his team. Then the info must flow back the other way again. This is incredibly dumb. Any manager who allows this to happen, let alone encourages it, will soon find themselves working at another company. No kidding."

A better way, Musk wrote, is to speak to whoever you need, whenever you need them, however it best serves the company. It should be the core of every process, as streamlining reduces not only the time taken, but also the risk of miscommunication that could cost the business millions.

Something I learnt recently from Tony Robbins is the ‘Value Chain’ and the concept of

‘Clarify & Verify’.

Value chain analysis is a process of using a flow diagram to map out every personal interaction and communication required to get a job done. You’ll be amazed at how many steps can be removed from the process once you write this out. The fewer people involved, the lower the chance of mistakes.

  • Map this out for the 5 most important processes in your organisation and I guarantee that you’ll make changes to the process.

Clarify & Verify is paramount in the communication process above. It’s about both parties involved in sharing information, taking responsibility to,

  • clarifiy that the other party has understood what they are being told
  • verify with each other what the next steps are

‘Extreme Ownership’

This is a phrase coined by the highly decorated Navy Seal Jocko Willink, which means exactly what it says. It means that,

  • every team member takes complete responsibility for their work
  • the words ‘that’s not my job’ are never uttered in the workplace.
  • the leadership understanding that ultimately everything is their fault, since they are the ones that create the systems and put people in positions to succeed or fail.

When each person on your team is passionately grinding away on work that they own, they become highly engaged, and proud of what they are creating individually, but more importantly as a whole.

It’s important to note that this doesn’t mean loving every piece of work they have to do, but often it’s the monotonous work that allows another team member to push boundaries, so together we grow faster as one.

With the right people, the right communication processes and everyone aligned on their responsibilities, there’s no limit to what you can achieve together.

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