Leicester city winning the 2016 season English Premier league champions despite a 5000:1 odds when they started the season. The top teams in the English Premier League all have one or two players that make more money than Leicester’s whole team combined. This win demonstrates the synergy between clear roles, priorities and teamwork. (Photo attribution: Wikipedia) (Youtube video link on the story)
People inspired me to found WhirlWind Technologies, including mentors, supervisors, and clients. I wanted to do technology differently by forging long term relationships with clients and customizing technology to their needs, rather than selling them solutions for the sake of increasing revenue. I also wanted to provide a platform for other talented IT professionals, offering them the tools to grow and succeed. My vision was to create an environment where skills, dedication and growth are championed and a safe space where no one would be overlooked or stymied due to bias. So on that auspicious day, January 1st 2009, I founded WhirlWind Technologies, LLC in my old childhood bedroom at my parent’s house.
We have come a long way since then, and reading “The People” section in “Scaling up: How a Few Companies Make it…and the Rest Don’t” was timely for us. Verne poses a couple of questions as a call for reflection:
- Are you happy?
- Would you enthusiastically rehire everyone knowing what you know today?
The People section of the book was broken into three chapters:
- The Leaders: How do you define senior leadership accountabilities, Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), and outcomes?
- The Team: How do you attract and retain A players, and use Topgrading interviews to recruit “strange” people to fit a “strange” culture?
- The Managers: How do you turn managers into coaches who motivate rather than dehassle their teams?
In sharing this book internally as a map, our aim is to give WhirlWind Techies the tools to grow with us as we scale, rather than prescribing what they need to do. Although it is not required reading for everyone, I recommend you check it out to gain insight into our direction.
One definition that popped out was how to recognize leaders in the company. Verne says, once you’ve found people that fit your culture, leaders pass two tests :
- They don’t need to be managed
- They regularly wow the team with their insight and output
I would like to challenge every WhirlWind Techie to apply these two tests to yourself and ask: Am I a leader? And if not, what would it take for me to step up my game?
One point resonated with me personally, is when Verne notes that the CEO’s greatest strength can be the company’s greatest weakness, especially when everyone depends on the CEO for what they bring to the table. In my case, my expertise is in Network Infrastructure, and I have to make sure I am not the achilles heel for the company by recruiting and empowering other Network Infrastructure Techies to serve as Subject Matter Experts.
There’s also a fine distinction between Responsibility, Accountability and Authority. Many people can be responsible for different facets of a project, but only one will be held accountable (usually the team lead or functional area manager). But having accountability for a project (or even a task/process) does not mean you have full authority. The person with with final decision-making power is the one authorized. For instance, a CFO may be accountable for the cash, but the CEO still maintains the authority over the cash.
We discussed Topgrading Interviews at length, since this methodology requires an upfront investment of 3-5 hours for each candidate (on interviewing alone)! Yet, we concluded that our goal is to select the best hire, and in order to do so, we have to put in the time. Beyond that, hiring the wrong person would cost the company a lot more in the long run than the initial time investment to verify the fit.
Verne provides a number of tools for managing and coaching different aspects of People, their KPI’s and Outcomes associated with them. We have already allocated time in our next Strategy Meeting to work through the full details.
Verne has specific advice for managers (or coaches as he prefers to call them). Some of the pointers were more intuitive such as helping people to play to their strengths, setting clear expectations and giving recognition. Others gave us pause, for instance in preventing “dehassling” and “demotivating” he discusses firing a client who may be unreasonable and mistreat your employees. Or another example is not to demotivate “A” players by having them work with “B” and “C” players who suck their energy and slow them down. The best managers, according to Verne, are those who lead, coach, and actively remove obstacles from each of their team member’s path to ensure their success.
So, going back to the questions that Verne posed in the very beginning:
- Am I happy? Unequivocally yes! My business mission is an extension of my own personal purpose which is to master my own mind and body, and furthers my own personal vision to embody personal and professional success to my family and community. I feel aligned in both my professional and personal life.
- Would I enthusiastically rehire everyone knowing what I know today? Yes! We finally have the right people in the right seats. I challenge each of you to get your A-game on for this WhirlWind ride.
Share your thoughts on the People Section. Any insights or comments? We’d like to hear from you.