Kieran Flanagan

Feb 5, 2019

5 min read

How to be a Successful Growth Leader

One of the best ways to always be learning is from speaking with brilliant people. Luckily I get to do this a lot on the GrowthTLDR podcast, where we talk to experts in growth, across the entire product-led funnel.

What makes growth successful in any company are the leaders responsible for it and the teams they build.

We spoke with some of the smartest minds on building successful teams to get their take on how to build high-performance growth teams for your company.

1. The number one job of a leader is to hire and retain talent

When changing from an individual contributor to leading a team, the most significant lesson you’ll have is your success is no longer dependent upon how good you are at growth.

That’s still important, but your success will now largely depend on both hiring and retaining a talented team.

You should be focusing on things like:

a. Always be building your network of talented growth professionals.

Make sure you have multiple people within your network who you’d hire if you had an available role.

And, as you start to grow your team and hire more people, always keep that quality bar high.

Ross Hudgens has grown his agency from 1 person to over 60, and he’s continuously maintained the same focus on hiring top quality people from his first hire to last.

“It’s evolved slightly; we now have a lot more inbound candidates because of our growth. But for the most part, it’s pretty similar, regarding how we qualify candidates, it’s worked pretty well.” — Ross Hudgens @SiegeMedia

b. Invest in a flexible work environment allowing your team to work remotely.

It’s one of the best things you can do to both hire and retain talent.

A study published by Stanford University on remote work showed that “job attrition rates fell by over 50%”, and another study showed that 68% of job seekers who are millennials said the option to work remotely would significantly increase their interest in specific employers.

If your hiring people on your team who are going to be remote there are a couple of characteristics you should look for:

  • Self-starters tend to do best at remote work.

“We want folks who are self-starters, they default to action, and are self-motivated, they get things done. You have to ask a lot of questions to uncover that.

For example, you can ask about the last problem you’ve identified at work and what did they do about it.

If they say, I identified a problem, and then I told my boss about it,” and well, okay, that’s the minimum effort you could’ve done.

But if they say, I identified this problem, I told my boss about it, and then I built this thing that I think could help address that, all right. That’s pretty good.

If it’s, I told my boss, I built this thing, and then I collaborated with these other functions outside of my group to spread this across the entire org, it’s like, wow, this is somebody who not only can get things done, but they can work well with others, they can work across the org chart” — Wade Foster, CEO Zapier

  • Being great at communication helps a lot!

“Are they the type of person that can articulate their thoughts clearly? Can they write them down? Can they talk to different kinds of people well?

That is super important.

Being remote you can’t always be jumping on a call. At a remote company, you need to be able to write.” -Wade Foster, CEO Zapier.

2. Team structure will have more impact on growth than any marketing tactic

If hiring and retaining talent is the number one job of a growth leader, organizing those people into the right structure is just as important.

It’s your team structure that will determine how successful those people are against the goals and metrics you prioritize.

The first thing to realize is no growth team can be successful on their own. Real growth is the result of collaboration among different functions.

“No one team in any organization can single-handedly make a huge impact on your main growth metrics.

You can have some success. You can have a great product. You can figure out how to acquire users, get some viral loops working, but beyond a certain point what drives growth at scale is the cross-section of different teams collaborating to be successful.” — Mayur Gupta, CMO @GetFreshly

When deciding on your team structure, ask yourself:

- Have I chosen a team structure that means each team can fully own their metrics? Are they able to make decisions on things that will improve those metrics without having to pitch to other teams to help them?

- Where they do need help from other teams, do those teams also view those metrics as important and have you set up the correct processes on how they work together?

No matter how good the people you hire are, a team will always fail if they’re dependent on other teams for their success, and those teams are prioritizing an entirely different set of metrics.

3. Teams need a vision beyond metrics

The focus of exceptional growth teams is to impact business metrics. Because of that focus, often the vision for a growth team is focused on numbers, e.g., our growth teams mission is to increase revenue per user by 20%.

However, people want their vision to be for a higher purpose than just growing numbers. It should connect them to the overall mission of the company.

For example, at Patreon their mission is to “fund the creative class” so whenever the growth team set out to move the needle on a business metric:

“It’s important for us to always connect it to how it helps a creator be more successful on the platform.” — @TalRaviv, Growth Patreon

As a growth leader, your words matter, you want to continually reiterate both the vision of the team and how it connects to the overall mission of the company.

Use the above advice from experienced leaders to both create and retain a high-performance growth team in 2019.

To hear more from leaders like this check out the GrowthTLDR Podcast :)