Derek Sidebottom

Know Your Stage in the Life Cycle

TBOP2017 ⋅ 6:40 ⋅ Filmed May 11, 2017

You’re a manager or a business owner and you want to hire great people to work with you. Fair enough. Where do you start? With over 20 years’ experience in HR and people management, Derek Sidebottom is known as the “Obi-wan” of building great teams at his company, Squadely. In this clip, he walks viewers through the first of five pieces of wisdom to help leaders make smart hiring decisions — and no, it’s not a new set of interview questions. Using the Adizes Model to illustrate his point, Derek explains how the first step in assembling a great team starts by understanding where your business is at.

Further Reading

The Adizes Model


So it's interesting, every organization I've ever worked with goes through a predictable life cycle. Every company does. Every company I've ever talked to I've been able to sit and talk to them about where are you in your life cycle? What going on? And they'll describe to me their experiences. They'll describe to me their challenges. They'll describe to me all the different things that they are facing at that point in time. And Pied Piper, our fictitious company, is no exception they're very much in the early stage.

[00:37] Your role as a leader, as you think about moving through a life cycle, is your ability to work together and quickly tackle any and all situations or not to, is your ultimate competitive edge.

The Adizes Model

[00:50] This model here, is from Adizes. I highly recommend to anyone who's building any team at all to spend some time looking at it, reviewing it, studying it. The idea is very straightforward. There's a corporate life cycle that starts on the left and if you don't manage it properly it ends as it goes around the cycle. Every company I speak to, when they described to me their problems or challenges, fits somewhere into here (highlighting Courtship & Infancy stages). Pied Piper is at the courtship and infancy stage. Everything on that left side is more your venture capital space, growth mode. Everything here on the other side, started to struggle maybe more private equity. Definitely in need of some fixing and some rejuvenation. But we're in courtship and infancy.

[01:34] The model, actually it's fascinating because it talks about the normal type of challenges you face at each stage and the abnormal ones. I'm going to pull up a couple of different abnormal and normal challenges from this very simplified model. This is where I get to tell entrepreneurs, you're not crazy. I get to tell founders, you’re not nuts. This is normal stuff you're facing in the very early days. You're going to have no procedures, everything is crazy. Everything is management by crisis. Hands on leaders are involved sometimes more than they want to be. Sometimes more than the staff wants them to be. Lack of managerial depth. Fast decision-making. Founder commitment is tested. Again these are normal sorts of challenges in the very early stage infancy companies. Some of these organizations just now will be facing this challenge in the next couple of weeks as they get funding and start pursuing their dream.

[02:35] On the abnormal side though, this is more fascinating. Rush to Market before ready. Excess perfection. Can't attract Talent. Dictatorship style. Out of touch leadership. Non-supportive family. That bottom line is very interesting, founder commitment tested. You have got to want it.

[2:55] We've been talking about purpose for the last couple of presentations that's been a main theme. Knowing that fuel it's coming from within. That you're actually being motivated to do something that you are powered by is the fuel you need a having the network and family around you is absolutely critical. But in the infancy mode, these are the sorts of things that you're going to face and you're going to have to navigate. It's going to happen. The implication on building your team is, can the person you're hiring deal with these challenges? Can the person you're hiring actually help you navigate these challenges. Will they pull you into the abnormal zone? Will they pull you into areas of distraction? If you're unable to get out of the infancy zone, you'll never make to the next space which is much more exciting.

[03:51] Go-go organizations are on fire. They are growing. They have product market fit. Things are moving at exponential speeds. You've got your capital, your product works, you are hiring very quickly. Unfortunately, everything seems like a priority. Has anyone ever worked in these organizations? It's intoxicating and that's part of the problem. Everything's a priority? Really? Does it need to be? How many meetings do we need to ‘align’? Right? We should have cleaned that up. Could meetings be more productive? Leadership gets very frustrated because everything is on fire and running around. There's no consistent HR. Management is sometimes not as strong as you need it to be. There's a house of cards infrastructure. And there's ad hoc budgeting. Again, we're going to come back to the impact on team in just a moment. That's the good stuff. That's the normal stuff. That's going to happen.

[04:51] The stuff you need to avoid, is if you continue to go to the good idea of the week. If you drift off purpose. If you drift off why you're in business or what you're doing, that's abnormal. You'll never make it through ‘go-go’ to the next phase. If you don't put it cost controls, if you're unwilling to hire people better than you, if you've got key people leaving, or if you have leaders avoiding managing just to do things or a reliance on miracles, you've got a problem. And you need to fix that through hiring.

[05:26] The real question is always who do you want on this journey after you've got capital, after you've got product and you start building teams? Where are you on this curve? You have to hire people you like solving problems with. You have to hire people that can help you with the future can navigate the now. I've seen a lot of organizations where they'll go and get very big talent but they really struggle in a much smaller entrepreneurial environment. They’ve got to do both. That's how you fix your proof your organization. You have to screen out people who will pull you into the abnormal problems. When you're interviewing it's really tempting to just talk about the skills. I guarantee this is more important.

[06:10] So tip one, to my poor Pied Piper crew here, is you have to know where you are in the life cycle. You have to bring people in who are going to help you through the problems you were going to face. And that's the Adizes model.

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