[MENTAL MODEL] The Essential Element of Winning Digital Teams
Why Segmenting Your Team As ‘Visionaries’ or ‘Implementers’ Will Cost You Big & How To Unlock Your Team’s Potential By Making A Subtle Paradigm Shift
Dear Digital Founder,
If you classify people in your company as either visionaries or implementers then you are not utilizing your team’s maximum potential and quite frankly, you are letting missed opportunities fly past you without even noticing.
In other words, you are leaving money on the table and you’re ok with that. (Clearly, you’re not.)
You see, your preconceived idea of what your team could be is tainted by the fallacy that one can only be either a visionary leader or an implementer.
I am not saying that having a vision for the company is a bad thing. On the contrary, your vision should be so unanimously carried across the team that every one of your team members becomes a visionary.
What I am saying is that in my work having directly served entrepreneurs at the helm, led teams across the globe, and understand what makes an exceptional team vs. a mediocre team, I firmly believe that this binary approach to leadership is limited.
As Zig has classically pointed out, you treat people as you see them.
And if you see your team member as one in either camp, you will treat them as such and you will truly miss out on innovation and can head into a spiral that can put your company in jeopardy.
The Death Spiral of A Visionary Founder
Companies die well before they go out of business. The core of this death is not lack of sales, lack of product innovation, or lack of market fit.
Companies die when they become irrelevant.
This is a unique risk for companies running the visionary/implementer model. The founder visionary can get so caught up in ideation and delegation, they can get out of touch. And if they are not careful, can plummet their entire success to the ground. Some call this “getting caught up in your success”.
Ideas that may seem genius at a 30,000ft level can make no practical sense at ground zero unless you are in touch and relevant with your customers, market trends, and your team.
Make it a regular habit to plug yourself in the key processes of your company. Talk to team leaders, those on the ground level, take a few sales calls or ride alongs - anything you need to do to stay in the loop because when you start getting out of touch, you will either be kicked out of your own company, or your company will falter.
We do not want either of those.
Prejudice Vs. Observation
It’s important to distinguish the difference between having a preconceived notion of someone and an observation.
Prejudice, defined as a preconceived idea, happens prior to meeting or working with a team member.
While an observation occurs after the fact.
The following notes on the essential elements of winning digital teams come from my observations.
These are not laws or principles. However, these are practical and results-oriented.
The Essential Element of Winning Digital Teams
Fast-growing startups and scale-ups can only survive with real, bottom-line, results.
Results are created by one archetype on your team:
Right now in your company, there are drivers who are making the magic happen and getting results.
They are in your finance team, admin team, sales team, marketing team, product team, and engineering team.
Drivers can share with you what’s possible (create a new vision) and take new ideas and put them into practice.
They are also not just your team leaders or managers, they are on the ground level, they are out there talking to customers on support and next to you at the board meetings.
Drivers come in two forms: front facing, public drivers, and behind the scenes wizards.
Public drivers can lean towards being the leaders of your team and enjoy sharing the stage, while wizards like working behind the scenes making incredible things happen.
It’s important to make this distinguishment with your drivers because it will allow you to better empower them with the tools and resources they need to succeed.
NOTE: The antithesis of drivers are stragglers, who just get by. At the speed of digital teams, stragglers create drag and don’t serve the rest of the team.
Unlocking Your Team’s Potential
Driving real growth in your team requires you to shatter your preconceived notions of your team and truly understand each team member and the contribution they can make for the greater good of the company. It will also allow you to see the new ideas your team can bring to the table that can keep you relevant.
Doing so can create a culture of ‘the best idea wins’ and make your team feel cared for, knowing their ideas matter and can make a difference.
This is a subtle yet substantial paradigm shift and I have had founders in shock how something so minuscule can make such a dramatic difference.
It boils down to your team’s experience and where they want to put their energy.
If you create an environment where your team can produce their best work and enjoy working in that environment because of how you treat them (because of how you see them), over time you can truly create a driving force in the marketplace because it no longer remains a job for them but a real contribution towards a shared vision.
Test this out and observe the changes it will create for your team and the business.
It’s an honor to be a small part of your journey.
Do Good Work,
This is refreshing. I have personally seen this play out several times with amazing team success often destroyed by top down casting. Kudos for pointing this out!