CEOs want to grow their businesses, but are afraid of losing control. How can they achieve scale, while ensuring their business remains directionally correct? Former Frog and Quirky President, Doreen Lorenzo, calls for setting a strong culture, understanding the needs of your people and empowering them to stretch themselves.
1. Scaling up requires powering down control by ceding it to others
2. Great leadership requires understanding the needs of your people
3. Use design thinking to empower people to stretch themselves
At EXOscalr we are building up a coaching clientele of people that are already leaders and want to become extraordinary leaders. Some of these leaders are focused on building up ventures that have progressed to product-market fit stage and as these companies start to scale up, they want to increase their growth velocity.
At its simplest, achieving hyper-growth through scaling up is about adding fuel and subtracting friction. There are a whole range of mechanisms we use to add fuel, such as an infusion of funding or top talent. To remove friction we focus on how companies organize, how they manage their people and ultimately how they motivate and incentivise them.
We are eager to take on board and share insights from others who have walked the path of scaling multiple organisations and have inspiring leadership stories. In this note we spend time with Doreen Lorenzo. She spent 16 years as President of Frog, which she scaled into a global design powerhouse. She then took on the same role at crowdsourced product startup Quirky, which she put through an accelerated scaling program – fondly called “Doreen bootcamp” by Quirky’s CEO, Ben Kaufman.
Scaling up requires powering down control by ceding it to others
Doreen’s view is that scaling in and of itself isn’t hard. What is hard is being prepared to cede control to other people in order to scale a business.
“This is where the big misstep comes, because if you’re going to grow a business you have to put other people in charge of things.”
She sees scaling as being a three-stepped process:
1. Build a replicable culture – you need to have a vision and mission that everybody understands, that everybody sees as your Northstar.
2. Hire fantastic people – bring on board people that understand the vision and mission. Diversity is beneficial and the people you hire don’t have to agree with you 100%.
3. Allow people to do the things that you hired them to do – either empower your people, or remove obstacles that prevent them from executing against your vision and mission.
When she joined Quirky it was a young company in which the vision and mission were already very established. The question she faced was how to put the right people and processes in place to deliver on that mission and vision. She asked what they were trying to accomplish, what needed to happen to get to them to the point that sets the business up for success and then she worked with the team to execute against that.
Great leadership requires understanding the needs of your people
Doreen points out that because of all the technology that we live and work with, there is no divide and we are working all the time. In such a world the most important thing you can do for your people is to understand the 24/7 nature of work and, in this context, to understand their needs.
“It doesn’t mean you need to agree with everything, but you understand their needs and you’re making decisions based on them.”
“Sometimes you’ll make decisions that they’ll agree with, and sometimes you won’t, but they will know that you understand their needs and have taken them into account when you made your decision.”
“It is just a point of data, and not all data comes from spreadsheets, some of it comes from people and you need both to be an effective business leader.”
Use design thinking to empower people to stretch themselves
As leaders it’s your job to make sure that people reach their full satisfaction and when you see them struggling you need to help them grow, ultimately becoming better people.
“Find out where people are at, what their situations are – it’s like doing design research, you are understanding their situation, therefore you understand what problem you have to solve.”
At Frog, Doreen helped many people change their career by giving them an opportunity to stretch themselves and do things that they never thought they could possibly do.
“When you achieve great things, you feel better about yourself.”
As a leader, when you talk to people all the time you get to understand them and you can see who is stuck, who is struggling and you can make a decision to do something to help them.
“If you think they are great people and have possibilities then give them opportunities to stretch and grow. This stuff is not that complicated, you’ve just got to invest yourself to do it.”