You’re not alone.
As leaders, we all share the excitement of building a great company and creating the future through innovative solutions, but we also share the high-tech leadership challenges that so often sabotage those plans — the challenges that come with growth and can keep you awake in the early hours. I call them the three Cs – Capacity, Capability and Culture.
Fortunately, once you’re aware of them you can take the practical steps necessary to address them. In this blog post, I’ll explain how.
1. Build Leadership Capacity
For an organisation to grow, it needs the right people and the right leadership. A shortage of leaders at every level is the biggest barrier to the organisation continuing to grow, even if it can create client demand.
Consider the scenario of a company where the local market is developing rapidly. Many would consider it to be in a lucky position with clients clamouring for its products and services. But with a lack of leadership capacity comes the risk of not delivering. And in a competitive market, a reputation for poor delivery is almost worse than a lack of demand.
In the words of one of my clients, ‘We have increasingly been able to build our demand, but ensuring we have the right people to deliver on this demand is really tough. There are brilliant potential employees, but understanding what leaders we need and how to get people up and running quickly, effectively and productively is our biggest challenge.’
Do you have enough leaders to support your business? If not, you’re in danger of:
Failing to deliver on the brilliant ideas that keep you up at night
Missing opportunities to expand into new markets
Losing customers due to poor service levels and delivery
To address this challenge, you need to invest time and money in developing leaders. You need to bring young leaders on faster, develop leaders in every project, function and region, and build new leadership pipelines at every level of the company.
2. Develop Leadership Capability
Companies also struggle with leaders lacking the critical skills they need to succeed.
Employees in the technology sector are intelligent, educated and innovative. And they’re used to thinking about the world in digital terms and on a global scale. But rapid growth means they may have had limited exposure to management and leadership positions. And that means they lack skills, experience and confidence in leading themselves, others and the organisation.
They are committed to the people they’re managing and want to do right by them. As one of my clients said, ‘I don’t want to be “just a manager”, I want to be a good manager.’ But they were unsure how. And they are anxious about dealing with the tough stuff and having difficult conversations. As one manager said, ‘It’s easy when everything’s going OK. But what about when things go wrong?’
Do your people have the skills they need to be successful? If not, you’re likely to experience the following:
Managers are unable to have open and honest conversations with employees
Employee engagement and productivity is low
Employee turnover and recruitment costs are high
To address this challenge consider putting potential leaders in positions that stretch them beyond their current skill sets. And provide training, coaching and mentoring support so they build their capabilities rapidly.
3. Create a strong leadership culture
Building leaders requires more than a portfolio of training programmes. It means having a culture of growth that everyone buys into to broaden the opportunity for leaders to develop in new ways.
Fast-growing companies also face the challenge of preserving the positives of their culture as they grow. Company culture is generally formed early on by founding members and key management. These individuals work closely together, making it relatively easy to maintain company culture. But as the company adds new personalities (not to mention extra locations), it can be a real challenge to assimilate all these individuals and preserve the company culture.
One of my clients made a good point. He said, ‘We pride ourselves in having a good culture in the company and we talk about how can we preserve that when we’re growing, but personally I believe that culture is very much a reflection of the people in your organisation. That makes culture a living thing: a living organism that will change over time with the number of people and the teams that you put in place. The culture needs to mature and evolve too.’
Does your company support a culture of innovation and success? If not, you run the risk that:
Your company lacks focus
Your business is failing to thrive
Your employees fail to take ownership and responsibility
To address this challenge, develop a clear picture of what successful leadership will look like in your organisation. then determine what processes and practices you need to reinforce leadership behaviours in the workplace.
Successful companies develop all three Cs. You can too.
Invest time and money in building leadership capacity throughout your organisation. Create pipelines of leaders and bring on the next generation as your company grows and changes.
Develop leadership capability by providing training, coaching and mentoring so leaders develop the skills and confidence to make decisions and take action.
Create a strong leadership culture by clearly defining leadership for your organisation and establishing the necessary processes and practices.
Overcome the challenges of leadership capacity, leadership capability and leadership culture and you will set yourself up for fast, sustainable growth. By developing high-performing leaders you lay the solid foundation for your future success.
Find out more about these challenges and how to overcome them in my book Grow Your Geeks – A Handbook for Developing Leaders in Fast-Growing, High-Tech Companies. If you would like to learn more about developing leaders for fast-growing, high-tech companies you can download a free chapter here.