Excelling at a small-to-medium sized product company requires zealous learners with an attitude to test, break and move on. Team members need to be in-sync with one another and devote their energies to the greater good.
Here’s a framework that I think would help define that ‘greater good’.
- Put the company first.
- Put the team second.
- Put yourself last.
While this is a classical leadership mindset, you need not necessarily be a leader to apply these in your life.
The pyramid framework for success at work applies to anyone and everyone – who want to become a better version of themselves.
Now how does this work, exactly?
It’s not that at every moment you’ll be thinking about the company. Or how your work can directly impact the company.
When it comes to decision making in unknown territory – that’s precisely when the pyramid can be useful.
Team Before Self
When faced with a tough decision, think about how it would affect the team. Not all decisions would impact you directly. If it does affect you, ask yourself – can you take one for the team?
Consider this example:
Let’s say everyone in your team is busy with a critical-need-it-by-EoD project.
You’re not in that project, and you have a ton of stuff to complete.
A new request from a different department arrives in your inbox or Slack. But the people who are supposed to respond (or even execute the task), are already busy with the critical project.
That’s a decision-making point.
One one hand, you have your own to-do list. Good news is, all of them fall under the self/individual tasks list.
A request from a different team/department supersedes individual tasks, taking higher priority.
Why? Simply because a different team is waiting on your team, automatically putting your team’s reputation at stake.
That’s when the team-before-you moment comes in. That’s when you sacrifice your own tasks, and work on something you’re not supposed to; so that your team can thrive.
In other words, this is an example of you taking one for the team.
You Thought It’d Be That Easy?
Well, no! When I say sacrifice your tasks, I don’t mean you don’t do them. It’s actually harder than you think. You still need to meet the deadlines of your tasks by putting in extra hours, or sacrificing a coffee break, or just putting your phone on airplane mode.
Organization Before Team
Here’s a slightly different example of how the company comes before the team.
As teams grow in size, hierarchies are required to scale efficiency. Hierarchies don’t always mean vertical hierarchies. They also include soft hierarchies – wherein team members don’t directly report to an individual, but the lion’s share of their work, comes from that individual. Think of marketers and designers.
Smaller companies mean smaller teams, which results in individual bandwidth caps being occasionally hit. That’s natural.
But if there’s room for improvement, i.e. a scope to optimize the team’s bandwidth; then it is each team member’s responsibility to do so.
Optimizing a team’s bandwidth improves the team’s productivity, which ultimately benefits the organization.
Here’s What’s Difficult About It
Optimizing your team’s bandwidth involves eliminating bottlenecks and inefficiencies.
It often results in having those uneasy conversations with your own team members – regardless if they fall under a flat or soft hierarchy. Especially if they fall under a soft hierarchy.
“Dude, I think we can totally do this without the designer’s help.”
Or, “Let’s not wait for the agency’s PPT. We can prepare the report by directly pulling the data from the dashboard”.
Difficult conversations might result in a few initial grudges, but are beneficial in the long run.
In Case You Haven’t Noticed
None of these are mapped to your KPIs. You don’t need to do them.
Nobody is going to point a finger at you if you don’t. But deep down, you know that it’s in the best interest of your organization.
Whether you do it or not – it is ultimately your choice. No judgments, I swear! 🙂
I write these posts in an effort to document the thought-provoking conversations with my colleagues.
However, it is quintessentially important to remind you that these posts are my opinion. They are not facts. I implore you to please read this article with skepticism, and apply your perspective in the world around you.
I hope you’ve learned something from this article. Would love to hear your thoughts!
Update: 26 Aug, 2018. Corrected a typo thanks to Gomes.