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What to do when growth is stuck

Startups frequently stall at the point where they have either 10 or 30 employees. Your management style could be the reason, according to Krister Ungerboeck, writing for Entrepreneur.

If you’re overemphasising the importance of experience when team building, you could be missing out on recruiting and retaining the talent with most potential – and therefore stunting your growth.

Leaders tend to rely on their own knowledge and expertise for instant problem solving when they are launching a new venture, but inviting solutions from the team offers a more satisfying and diverse way to tackle challenges.

This habit, says CEO coach and leadership keynote speaker Ungerboeck, could be the main reason why you hit an employee-growth bottleneck. That’s the time when changing your leadership tactics is vital.


She admits: “For quite a while, I was an expertise leader with a line of people outside the door, hundreds of emails and a ton of stress. A wiser leadership style for a company that’s hit 20 or more team members is leading with curiosity.”

Here are four approaches Ungerboeck has employed to successfully manage her own team:

1) Define the decisions employees can make alone. It’s not always necessary or helpful to micromanage. You may want to retain total control over important decisions and give approval for others, but show trust in your best team members by allowing them some autonomy. Always be very clear where the lines are drawn and sometimes adapt them to individuals.

2) Avoid blame – seek solutions. Quizzing people about why they have made errors is counterproductive. Instead, move the problem forward by asking what they think could be done differently next time, or what impact the episode might have on operating systems in the future.

This will encourage more honest discussion, as well as prompting employees to recognise where they are going wrong and seek steps to remedy that. Ungerboeck cites Apple co-founder Steve Jobs’s habit of asking employees questions like “What is not working here?” and, “Why not?” to root out problems.

3) Hold back on answers. It may be your natural instinct, but offering immediate solutions isn’t the way to get the best out of your team. Instead of setting agendas for meetings, ask a list of questions instead – that way employees will boost their thinking and problem-solving skills.

“As data culled by Digital Synopsis notes, 95% of Google searchers stop at page one. In other words, a lot of people just want to be told what to do,” says Ungerboeck

4) Use team-wide brainstorming for major problems. Invite everyone’s involvement by asking them each to share three solution suggestions and what they would need to make them happen. Play the mentor, rather than the all-knowing boss.

Remain in the thick of the action but don’t put forward your own ideas. Stand back and listen to get a fresh picture of how problems could be resolved, then work towards resolutions with the people presenting the most promising answers.

Giving people a voice and a value will help towards growing the extra numbers you want for your team when things seem static.

Source Article: How To Shatter The 30-Employee Ceiling
Author(s): Krister Ungerboeck
Publisher: Entrepreneur