Video of the Week: Stanley McChrystal – Leadership is a Choice

For our video of the week, watch Stanley McChrystal: Leadership is a Choice. Enjoy!

From YouTube: “Leadership is not a talent or a gift. It’s a choice. It’s not complex, but it’s very hard.” General Stanley McChrystal explains to a packed auditorium of 600 at Stanford Graduate School of Business. McChrystal shares his perspective on leadership and influence discussing the importance of understanding culture, leading by example, building trust, and creating a common goal within a team. McChrystal is a four-star general and former commander of U.S. and international forces in Afghanistan. He also served as the former leader of Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC).

Video of the Week: Patrick Lencioni – The Four Traits of Healthy Teams

Patrick Lencioni, one of my favorite authors, talks about The Four Traits of Healthy Teams in our video of the week. Enjoy!

From YouTube: IESE Prof. Marta Elvira recently spoke with Patrick Lencioni, an expert on building teams and healthy organizations, at the World Business Forum in New York. In their discussion, Lencioni points out that healthy teams have the following four characteristics in common: 1) cohesive leadership 2) intellectual vibrance 3) the ability to communicate clearly and 4) structure, without being overly bureaucratic.

Counterpoint on OKRs as Bad for Small Teams in a Startup

Rand Fishkin, founder of Moz, tweeted out an interesting counterpoint from Steve Olechowski  about OKRs being bad at the micro level in a startup:

A few notes from the email:

  • OKRs were counterproductive to his small team at Google, felt bureaucratic, and killed productivity one week out of the quarter when people worried about them
  • Macro level OKRs were good for focus
  • When product cycles or iterations are shorter than a quarter, OKRs can incentivize the wrong things
  • Watch the Google Ventures video on OKRs to understand them
  • Overall, he feels small, nimble teams are less nimble with OKRs

OKRs, wildly important goals, and SMART goals are all great methodologies that have their place. The key, as always, is to apply them intelligently.

What else? What are some more thoughts on OKRs as potentially bad for small teams that have shorter time frames?

4 Team Rapport Building Questions

As part of creating a high performance team, it’s important to build rapport and understanding of each person at the human level. I’ve found that introducing an ice breaker or personal sharing element to off-sites or planning sessions is a great way to get to know each other and develop a foundation of trust.

Here are four simple team rapport building questions:

  1. Where are your from and what was it like growing up there?
  2. How many siblings do you have and what’s each one like?
  3. Where do you fall in the sibling order and how did that impact growing up?
  4. What was your most interesting or difficult challenge as a kid?

The next time you’re planning the agenda for a team meeting, whether it’s a one-off strategy session or a weekly meeting, consider adding a personal element for people to get to know each other better.

What else? What are some more thoughts on team rapport building questions?

Transitioning from Free Flowing to Structured Organization

As a new startup is getting off the ground, and the team is focused on product/market fit, there’s often little organizational structure. Everyone is heads-down focused on building something people want to buy and, with a small team, everyone knows what everyone is working on. Only, as product/market fit is found, and the organization grows, the need for organizational structure grows. Yet, many entrepreneurs, especially first-time entrepreneurs, are so caught up in the whirlwind of the business (especially when it’s going well!) that they don’t step back and start to put in more process and structure. I’ve even seen an entrepreneur scale well beyond the $1M run-rate milestone and not even have regular leadership meetings.

Here are a few thoughts on transitioning from free flowing to structured organization:

  • Implement a Simplified One Page Strategic Plan immediately (even while in the free flowing stage)
  • Don’t add too much structure too early, but do take time to ensure everyone is aligned with the organizational goals or OKRs
  • Consider the appropriate meeting rhythm, and if more frequent communication produces better team results, implement daily check-ins for everyone
  • When the team is the size that everyone doesn’t know what everyone else is working on, more structure is needed

9/10 times when I ask someone in a startup what their company values and goals are, they can’t provide a consistent answer. While the free flowing style works at the beginning, over time more organizational structure and process is needed.

What else? What are some more thoughts on transitioning from free flowing to structured organization?

Document the Organizational Process

With the start of Q3 upon us, it’s a great time to reflect on last quarter and go through the exercise of what should we start doing, what should we stop doing, and what should we continue doing (start, stop, continue). As part of this exercise it’s important to have the organizational process documented in something simple like a Google Doc. Similar to how the Simplified One Page Strategic Plan is updated quarterly, this document should be updated on a regular basis as well.

Here are some example items that would be included in an Organizational Process document:

Entrepreneurs need to document the organization process and be intentional about how their organization runs.

What else? What are some more thoughts on the idea of documenting the organizational process?

The Weekend Update Email

One of my favorite management tools that I’ve seen entrepreneurs implement with great success is the weekend update email. Every Sunday night the entrepreneur sends out an update about the past week to all employees, advisors, mentors, and investors. The email has both qualitative and quantitative information and is a quick five minute read by the recipients.

Here’s a simple weekend update email format:

  • Team greeting
  • Summary paragraph of the week and any highlights
  • Company goals for the quarter and current progress towards them
  • Sales, Marketing, Support, Customer Success, Product (individual sections for each of the major departments)
    • Metrics/Goals
    • Highlights
  • Customer stories
  • Culture stories
  • Closing

Entrepreneurs that spend 90 minutes every Sunday night preparing and sending out the weekend update email will see greater focus, accountability, and alignment. While it’s a serious time commitment, the results are impressive.

What else? What are some more thoughts on the weekend update email?