You've heard of minimum viable products, right? This is where engineers and their counterparts work together to determine the minimum features necessary to launch a product. The thinking being that with today's focus on speed-to-market - that's especially prevalent in IT - you can always iterate and improve upon a minimum viable product post-launch rather than obsess about making the product perfect (with every conceivable feature) before you launch it. This strategy has been adopted by some of the most successful businesses in Silicon Valley including Google, Facebook, Twitter, and several others.
So I was intrigued when speaking with leadership coach, Babette Ten Haken, about the concept of minimum viable team leadership. Taking a cue from agile product development, today's leadership coaches are examining the minimum qualities you must have to be an effective leader -- especially when looking to develop an effective team of leaders within your company. Here's what I learned from talking to Babette Ten Haken.
"The greatest pitfall within start-ups is a lack of synergy between the founding partners", says Babette Ten Haken. "Most companies have a great product idea, but fail because they lack leadership. To address this, you need to start with what you don't know. Then surround yourself with experts that do what you don't do. If you are highly coachable, then you are open to receiving feedback. You are actively looking for ways to leverage your strengths and hire people who can address your weaknesses."
"Adaptability really shows itself when you are building a mindset and culture inside your company and incorporating your culture into your product," explains Babette Ten Haken. "It can't be superficial. You may talk the minimum viable team leadership talk, but can you walk it? You experience adaptability in minimum viable team leadership when you become part of a corporate culture grounded in it. Ultimately, this adaptability and responsiveness to the marketplace is at the core of what your employees and clients are buying into. The opposite of adaptability is a 'Command and Control' mentality whereby you do not listen to your clients and your team, but rather stick to your original vision despite all the evidence telling you that a change in direction is warranted."
"Investors are investing in the leadership team. This team is not just the Founders" says Babette Ten Haken. "Expand the value of your leadership team by hiring diverse and complementary sets of skills and often personalities. That step speaks volumes to investors. It tells them you are building a corporate culture at the same time you are building your product or platform. Building a corporate culture is not about surrounding yourself with your buddies, either. You are going outside your comfort level in making these new hires. Most importantly, with each new hire, you are focusing on hard wiring the benefits of what your corporate culture is all about into everyone involved in making your startup successful."
According to Babette Ten Haken, "We are all leaders in our own way. And most people are reluctant leaders. When a team member is put in a position to lead, are they allowed to admit that they don't know something? Are they met with a blame culture when honest mistakes are made? Or does the company support the needs (both skills and emotional) of young leaders looking to grow? Your corporate culture is defined by how leaders are treated when mistakes are made. In continuously learning cultures, teams learn from their failures and get better over time--usually by conducting some form of a either a pre- or post mortem."
Minimum viable team leadership has many nuances, but at its core it's about the mindset of the founders and senior management leaders. Babette Ten Haken recommends that when you look to grow your company, make sure you have established your minimum viable team leadership strategy. Seek out peer groups and coaches that can help you and your team stay focused on what you do best. Identify others who can do what you are not great at doing or what you avoid doing. Putting these four minimum viable team leadership strategies into continual practice catalyzes your company to grow, expand and scale.