How your team reacts in moments of upheaval and change is entirely a reflection of the leadership. Fast growth can reveal tremendous opportunities and also major flaws. You and your team need to be ready for all eventualities, good and bad.
What does growth look like for your organization and your team?
The more you can plan for growth, even unexpected, overwhelming and unbelievable growth, the better you’ll be positioned to cope with it. Moreover, you will be in a far better position to help your team through it.
Part of that planning is about the collective vision for the team and the company. The organizational value system is the bottom line for any team: without a shared understanding of and belief in these core values, it’s difficult for a team to stay on the same page, in times of upheaval.
Another part of the planning is having an understanding of what the end game looks like and sharing that vision with the entire team. It’s not about random growth but rather having a target and finding the best way to achieve it, without throwing your team into chaos. That’s not to say that you will achieve your target, but if you assume you will, if you work towards it as if that is the planned end goal, you and your team will be better prepared.
Establish mission-critical processes
In the midst of change, it’s tempting to drop certain processes and cut corners, in the name of expediency. Just like the crew of Apollo 13, who had to ‘fire up the L.E.M.’ (lunar module) a lot faster than the checklist allowed for, your team might need to change directions mid-course. If they do, it helps if everyone has a strong understanding of what processes MUST be maintained and which can be pushed off or ignored, for the time being.
This is also a good time to focus on your core business and not get too distracted by thinking that adding more is better. In growth mode, more is already a given. Splitting your resources to go in new directions isn’t helpful at this stage.
Clarify potential issues
Understanding potential issues in provisioning your product/service, including customer relations and other supply chain processes, will help you and your team in dealing with them. In other words, expect the unexpected.
Coping with issues that could occur if you succeed in achieving fast growth only works if you can clearly communicate with your team what those issues might be. You also need to be able to communicate what your expectations are in dealing with the issues. Use ‘what if’ scenarios ahead of time and work through a problem, rather than attacking it without thought.
Put key staff in the right roles
This means reorganizing existing staff so that they can be most effective and also hiring staff based on future needs, not present status. The last thing you want to do when you get where you are going is having to replace staff who aren’t up to the task.
You’re looking for critical thinkers in all leadership roles, whether that’s sub-team or even sub-group levels. The ideal staff in key roles will be people who can be accountable to themselves and work independently.
Take care of your team
If you want your team to take care of your end customer, you need to take care of your team. Unplanned growth can lead to a lot of stress, overtime and people taking on more tasks than they ever expected. Loyalty isn’t automatic: it’s earned. Assuming people will ‘suck it up’ because they want to keep their jobs is the fast track to an empty team room!
Instead, make sure that your team has the tools and support that they need. This means looking at your key individuals from a professional and a personal point of view. Your team leader is going to burn out fast if they never make it home for dinner for weeks on end and their 4 year old starts calling the nanny ‘Mom’. Take stock, assess the workload accurately and recognize the efforts being made.
Ultimately, unplanned, explosive growth can be a gift, but mismanage it and it will become a drain. Set yourself and your team on the right path, with the end goal in mind, and you’ll be ready for when growth comes calling!
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