(3 minute read / 43 minutes front to back)
Consider hiring independent coaches to assist the staff at all levels of your organization, not just your highest ranking officers.
I’m not talking about generic leadership or personal coaching, I mean domain specific skill coaching. Free up your mid-level managers and senior executives to drive performance by tasking coaches with developing people and ensuring the best ideas receive the attention they deserve.
At the very least, hire coaches with domain experience for every function that drives your KPIs.
This can save you big money in the long run.
Fortune 500 CEOs hire consulting firms like Mckinsey, Bain, and BCG for long-term engagements because they know that the people on their staff are mired in political battles and have limited perspectives of the business overall. These firms work to check and balance the businesses they serve, and they often make billion dollar improvements.
But the experience can be jarring when consulting firms are brought in to fix problems after they have erupted. Staff are often “let go”, and this creates a hostile relationship between staff and consultants, to say the least.
It doesn’t have to be like this. Startups and mid sized businesses can proactively employ the same independent approach the 500s use to create a positive experience for everyone and save a ton of money. Because, let’s face it, cleaning up the mess after it’s been made is ridiculously expensive no matter how big your company is.
The big consulting firms tend to solve big problems, Technical Coaches only need to ensure the performance of your solutions, team and code. Startup founders can hire Technical Coaches for a few hundred dollars an hour, or a couple thousand dollars a month.
$2,000 can save a founder hundreds of thousands of dollars.
$100,000 can save a CEO tens of millions of dollars.
Imagine what they can do across your entire organization.
Most engineers aspire to be Rudy one day.
He is a great CTO, and he’s one of the most caring and dedicated technologists I’ve ever known.
But, what makes Rudy interesting is that he recently led a startup that ended up blowing up all over the news in a great way… one of those super successful companies that we all hope to be part of. And, while leading this team, Rudy fell short.
Despite being extremely dedicated and capable in most areas, Rudy struggled with a couple critical things.
His directors fought with each other incessantly because he didn’t create upward mobility. The codebase was a disaster because he struggled to set boundaries with the executive team – people who understandably wanted to prioritize new feature development above everything else. And, the technology team was always understaffed because he struggled to manage expectations. These problems led to more problems, and eventually a massive amount of technical debt built up which stopped progress in it’s tracks.
The end of the story isn’t pretty. I respect this man immensely, but his team failed.
He was stripped of responsibilities, then demoted, then pushed out. His team wasted millions while squabbling over “build vs buy” decisions and political fiefdoms. And, his company never figured out how to capture and engage customers online because his team couldn’t support marketing well enough (at least in part).
Later, the company lost 50% of its multi-billion dollar valuation.
But, Rudy wasn’t the problem.
The problem was that Rudy had not previously been the CTO of a company growing so fast; and the CEO never appointed an Advisor, Advising CTO, or Coach to help shore up his weaknesses.
Fast growing organizations quickly outpace even the best leaders.
But, coaches can help your staff grow with your organization – increasing the performance and longevity of your most expensive staff members: CTOs, Technical Cofounders, VPs of Engineering, Technical Directors, and Technical Leads.
For example, CTOs of high growth companies often lose effectiveness after 18 months. The reason is that effective CTOs help grow organizations to a size they no longer know how to manage. But, when your coach supports your CTO from day one, they are able to look ahead and help your CTO identify personal weaknesses and ways to grow with the company.
If they can do this for CTOs, think about what they can do for middle managers.
Your CTO, if you have one, probably doesn’t have the time or skills to cultivate the staff working for him/her. Likewise, your middle managers probably don’t have time or skills to cultivate their staff.
Many executives assume checks and balances naturally emerge as their organizations grow, especially if they make themselves available and check in with their teams often.
Only partially true.
Yes, the people on your staff can help each other avoid mistakes and call attention to bad decisions. But, every organization I’ve ever encountered has both a chain of command and politics to contend with.
This means you can’t rely on your staff to tell you the whole truth because everyone that works for you has their own agendas, limitations, and myopic views of the business. You can’t rely on your equity advisors, because equity advisors of large companies sure as hell don’t have time for regular solution, team and code reviews. And, you can’t rely on your own inspections because you don’t know which tires to kick.
This is why coaches matter from the day you start your business to the day you sell it. They provide you an independant voice free of political considerations by which to inspect and respond with.
And that means the people in your organization will be more likely to focus on achieving results than promoting themselves.
This guide focuses on Technical Coaches because that’s the side of the organization I most often work with, but there is no reason that approach herein needs to be attached to technology.
Consider working with independent agents consistently across all high risk, entrepreneurial, and growth arms of your business.
Make coaches a permanent presence in your organization.
Consider hiring coaches to assist your staff at all levels of the organization, not just your highest ranking officers.
You need independent people, not internal staff. Checks and balances won’t form naturally, even with great management.