Create An Exit Strategy For Everyone
Ask every member of your staff “Where Are You Headed And How Fast?” and then work to help them accomplish their goals.
Hold the conversation early and often. If you don’t, your team will implode.
You’d Think A $2 Billion Startup With 500 People Would Have Basic Leadership Principles Down…
I recently consulted with a very public startup and was stunned by how ineffective the technical team was. The team operated at about 25% of the velocity they could have given the talent they had.
In this case, the problems stemmed from political battles between four talented team leads, and their conflicts usually resulted in disaster.
Let me rephrase – the problem was that the CTO failed to create a career path for each of his talented leads, and in the absence of clear direction, they fought for attention.
Most engineers tell me they want to be a CTO.
The thing is most organizations only have one CTO and many engineers… so how exactly is that math supposed to work out?
HR tends to focus career path conversations around promotion, but this doesn’t make sense for most companies. There are far fewer leaders than followers at every tier of influence. The default career path should be OUT not UP. Then, if you grow, you can make new positions available to retain your talent.
The only authentic relationship you can have with your staff happens when everyone understands they are signing up for a tour of duty with you. They will help the company grow, and in turn they will learn skills they need try a harder job – probably somewhere else.
When people understand they going to leave after X years, they stop fighting with their peers. I promise.
Find Paths For People That They Didn’t Know Existed
CTO is not the only path for an engineer.
Just to name two: Architect and Consultant are viable choices, and they require different skills. Checkout my article on CTO vs. Architect for more.
You will create a much more cooperative (and effective) environment when you help your staff find paths that aren’t competitive with each other.
No Leader Will Stay In A Job That Doesn’t Stretch Them
And they shouldn’t.
Educate every person on your team on the skills required to do your job, and cultivate those skills in them. Replacing yourself is the highest accomplishment you can make at any level of an organization, and will only result in rewards for you.
Most people are scared to work themselves out of a job fearing that they won’t be able to find another.
The truth is that the world around you will be so impressed that you were able to replace yourself that you’ll be invited to walk through much bigger (and profitable) doors.
Checkout the book “The Five Levels Of Leadership” for more. You can find it on my resources page.
The end of the story
Returning for a moment to the leads that fought for attention earlier in this post: one ended up starting his own company, another took a role as an Architect elsewhere, the third became a CTO for another company, and only one stayed.
Imagine if they had identified these paths while they worked together and developed skills to help them all along the way. How much more effective do you think they would have been. How much more effective would their teams, and the company overall been?