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How to manage hypergrowth part 5: stepping up to the challenge

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Photo credit:

Philipp Ledényi

The last of five articles on navigating through the 'hockey stick' by former LinkedIn Europe MD Kevin Eyres.

In 2007, I became MD of LinkedIn Europe and the company’s first employee outside of the US.

For the next four years, I was one of the leaders who crafted and executed the hypergrowth strategy that helped LinkedIn expand into five countries, hire 200+ new team members in Europe, and sustain over 150% YOY growth.

My time at LinkedIn, and my recent work coaching hypergrowth leaders, has given me tremendous insight into the new world of rapid growth. In this article series, I share the key hypergrowth lessons I’ve learned from my own experience, from my team and from 15 hypergrowth CEOs, some of whom I’ve drawn lessons from here.

Throughout this series, I’ve laid down thoughts on hypergrowth from the perspective of someone who’s lived through it.

Let’s recap, before signing off with a few take-aways.

The right perspective

In part 1, we looked at the prevailing view that hypergrowth can propel a company into a state of chaos. You might be a rational, effective leader, but the moment your company hits that steep growth curve, control goes out the window.

I argued that hypergrowth does not have to mean a loss of control.

By using three distinct lenses (operational, leadership and coaching), you can gain perspective on this foreign terrain and step up to the challenge without getting crushed by your own success.

Accepting that things break

In part 2, the topic was how to manage the reality that ‘things break’ when a company is in hypergrowth.

it’s inevitable. Manual processes suddenly don’t cut it, and solutions that sailed you through your business’s $1m mark become boat anchors at $20m.

As you’re responding to these breaks, you will also be dealing with the second type of breaking — the kind you initiate yourself.

Many solutions you put in place months before must be viewed as the “working broken,” ready to be dismantled the moment your organization outgrows them.

This breaking allows your business to grow into something fundamentally different, and greater, than it is now.

Of course, when things break, people without hypergrowth experience have a tendency to panic.

Team members will look for a procedure when one doesn’t yet exist, and will fail to realize that the opportunity to define it is right in front of them.

Your main role is to reassure your team that a constant state of breaking, fixing and replacing is normal. As you redefine “normal,” foster a culture of solutions built upon transparency and accountability.

Hiring and team morale

In part 3, we looked at team and hiring issues.

In hypergrowth, the size of your team will double or even triple in no time. As a leader, you need to spend at least 50% of your time hiring. It’s your number one priority. None of your aspirations or plans can be realized otherwise.

Your hiring objective should always be to bring in talent at the scale your growth demands. Your onboarding process should enable these new hires to make a positive impact quickly.

Attitude is everything. Hire for it and make it your focus when coaching your team.

At LinkedIn, we created a hiring team and chose our best employees to join its ranks. These employees also received extra training, were typically promoted first and were recognized for their significance to the company.

Suddenly, recruiting went from being a burden to an aspiration.

Hypergrowth will seem foreign, even impossible, to most of your team. You must show them that it is possible – and that the present is a stepping stone.

Encourage them to leverage hypergrowth to step up into new roles.

Planning for shifting sands

In part 4, the topic was planning.

Hypergrowth can make day-to-day tasks feel a lot like running in sand. You spend so much effort propelling yourself forward, only to struggle against the shifting ground underfoot.

As a leader, your role is twofold: help your employees step out of the sand and give them a solid foundation.

This new foundation is formed by the important projects, systems and solutions that help your team navigate each stretch of the journey.

So spot the gaps and step up with solutions that fill them. Change your dashboards to reflect new priorities and other changes in your growing business.

Focus on lead indicators that propel the business forward during hypergrowth, not the sand that keeps the business static. Revisit these indicators often.

Stepping up

For many leaders, growth is the ultimate goal. They dream it, they plan for it, and they do anything to achieve it. But once hypergrowth hits, there is no anticipating the amount of changes your organization will experience.

This journey is not for the faint of heart.

Everyone has to step up and execute — especially leaders. Your plans demand a new level of performance, with eyes simultaneously focused on the details and pointed to the horizon.

The operational, leadership and coaching lenses will help you step up to these new challenges.

Once you’ve applied the lenses and shifted your perspective, how can you tell if you’re successfully navigating hypergrowth? Start with the team. If you have lost your team dynamic along the way, it will be difficult to sustain your growth.

The numbers come second. If you’re not meeting your plan with accuracy, then you are not driving growth. But even more important than team and numbers is your evolution as a leader.

When you strip away all the shifting sand and the unforeseen changes, hypergrowth is simply a state of stepping up. Paint a picture of the future that your team can believe in.

Work to break down your self-imposed limitations. Make the conscious choices that hyper-growth demands.

This transformation will usher in a new leadership paradigm for yourself, your team and your organization. Great demands command greatness from you.

It’s time to step up.