I was talking to my friend and kick-ass CEO of Edufii, Marilou McFarlane, a few days ago about what she looks for in the members of her leadership team. She said everyone needs to be “responsible, dependable and redudant.” I modified it to transparent to make it a little broader, but I think it shows keen insight in what high-growth CEOs need from their team to get the job done. So what does it mean?
This should be a no brainer, but when the CEO or other leader asks for something, it’s generally because she needs the information right away. Even if you work remotely, or perhaps especially if you work remotely, you owe her a response even if it’s to say, “I’m at the dentist right now, but you’ll have it by six.” Or “I can deliver that, but it will delay this other milestone that I promised.” Everyone prefers not to make decisions in a vacuum. Don’t force them. They’ll only be frustrated with you.
Again, not a shocker, but it’s amazing the number of people who don’t do what they say they’re going to do. Early in my career, I was always a little surprised when I would deliver something on time and the person on the other end would say, “wow”. I’m like, really? Isn’t that just how you do things? By the way, this is a really low effort way to impress people.
If you say you’ll have it by six, have it by six. And if there’s some emergency then at least let the recipient know it’s not coming (see Responsive.) Under this heading, I would also add that CEOs don’t just want dependable regarding deliverables. It’s dependable regarding “say what you mean, mean what you say” and honesty and ethics too. Frankly, when you’re doing a startup sometimes it feels like the company against the world. You don’t need the additional worry of playing defense against your own team.
When Marilou said redundant, what she meant was that if a key player is traveling or on leave or even exits, the company can’t stop moving forward based on the knowledge that lives only in that person’s head. For her, it’s a teamwork issue where there always needs to be someone who can fill the hole, regardless of the functional area.
For me, that statement keyed a thought that maybe the goal should be transparency because it’s key to the scaling process. No one should have the only password, the only access, the only knowledge of how this or that process works. If you’re in a leadership role (or any role) make it your business to codify what you are doing if only in an outline and share it. (I save these file here, I back them up there, I use this vendor for that.) Or if you’re on the tech side, make sure you’re writing well commented code. Basic documentation for transparency purposes will not slow anyone down, and is a good company best practice to establish early. Because at some point, as you add people, you will stop running everything as a project and start to transition to process. Early work in this area will make that a much easier task.
I think some people think that secrecy and hoarding are ways to keep power and make themselves indispensable. What it really does is keep the company from scaling. And if the company is growing it only creates more opportunity, not less. Here’s a great article from First Round on that by the way.
So there you have it. Responsive. Dependable. Transparent. Key qualities needed from folks on the leadership team. What else? Also, how do we hire for this? How do we bake this in as part of the culture? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.