In Building Startup Teams, Growth is Painful but Necessary.

For the past two weeks, there have been exciting conversations happening with my team on personal growth. Conversations have forced us to rethink and redefine the individual development of each team member. As a CEO, one of your core roles is to recruit, retain and accelerate the growth of talents in your team. I constantly attribute our team’s success in recent years based on our ability to outgrow our competitors at the individual and organizational level. To small and medium businesses, including startups, individual growth of talents is critical. However, compared to corporations, one person in a startup can massively impact the business’s overall development. Therefore, we looked at four types of growth.

The Four Types of Growth.

Exponential Growth

Constant exponential growth is what you want in your team, especially when building something in a highly competitive environment. Exponential growth is all that you need before the age of 45. You can’t have flat growth in your 20s and 30s if you dream of growing and becoming a leader of an organization. Exponential growth comes through accepting new challenges and being open to learn and adopt new ways of doing things while measuring your progress.

Flat Growth

It happens when you start to get comfortable where you are. You don’t push yourself to learn new things and protect yourself from new challenges. You see obstacles in every opportunity coming in your direction. You don’t accept feedback and constantly feel threatened by other people’s growth. Flat growth comes when you fail to create new value for your organization or customers — continuing to adopt things that don’t work because you have been doing them the same way in the previous years. A flat Growth colleague is cancer to the team. It isn’t easy to eliminate flat-growth people because they have previous success and carry organizational history. But it is necessary if they can’t grow further.

Zigzag Growth

It happens mostly to young colleagues. Mostly creatives, because there are a lot of opportunities coming to their side and they accept it. All options end up becoming obstacles for growth. They become distracted; hence they don’t focus on anything. It is a classic definition of non-essentialist. They will do everything else except what they are supposed to do. It is tough to realize you are not growing because you see some peaks here and there, but when you reflect generally, you know you are still where you were 6 or 7 years ago. Startups shouldn’t keep people with Zigzag Growth. They are destruction to the team if you can’t contain them.

Declining Growth

This person needs help. Spend time to understand what is happening in their lives and what is pushing them to behave that way. Growth declines when people are no longer motivated to do what they like to do. At a personal level, reflect and assess what is happening in your life that affects your growth. If it can coexist with your growth path and it doesn’t mean that much to you, my humble advice is to get rid of it. It is a destruction that will bury your career alive.

What is Hindering Growth

From our reflection, several issues hinder the growth of individuals and teams. Sometimes, people are committed to growing but are forced to retract and relax because of these situations. The enemy of growth is comfortability, being okay with where you are and what you do. It prevents you from learning new things and being open to disruptions. So what are the issues preventing people from “Exponential Growth”?

Definition of Growth

People struggle to define growth. Some people feel that to grow, you need to work harder on what you do. However, failing to define your growth path might make you focus on the wrong things. It is like trying to win a marathon running in the wrong direction. Therefore, it is always important to define your path to growth and envision who you want to be. It shouldn’t be coincidental. You have to do that purposefully.

Access to Mentors

To grow 10x, you need to spend time with 100x people. It would help if you learned from them to ensure you leapfrog your growth constantly. Engaging with the right people will help you to move from incremental to exponential growth. The idea is to engage with these people strategically. The relationship needs to give and take where they see value in you as you see value in them. . Push to learn from them but do things on your terms to ensure you learn from your own mistakes. It will accelerate your growth and help you avoid repeating silly mistakes.

Go Out and Meet People

You can’t grow if you constantly stay at the office as a nine-to-five person. I don’t have any issues with you staying nine to five, you will make a good employee, but you won’t develop new talents or skills. Leaders generate leads and opportunities for the business. You can’t do that by just sitting on your PC all day long. Challenge yourself to meet new people who will add value to your career. Engage in uncomfortable conversations about your personal growth and be ready to listen about areas you need fixing. Always demand feedback. Negative and positive feedback is all positive feedback.

Set Metrics and Milestones for Growth

To grow is to measure. You can’t know if something has grown or not without straightforward ways to measure progress. Don’t confuse movements with progress. The only way to do that is to set your indicators for growth and frequently revisit them to ensure you are in line with what you have planned to achieve with respect to time. Good milestones are flexible and comprehensive; they give you options to test and explore things. People who excel in one thing make great experts, and those who excel in multiple items make great leaders. There is nothing wrong with being a leader or expert. It would be best to define what you want to be and the path you want to take.

Learn and Reinvent Yourself

You can’t grow if you are not learning new things every day. For you to grow, you need to know something others don’t know. You need to fix problems others can’t. You need to possess knowledge others don’t have. You need to develop relationships others can’t, and you need to build skills others don’t have. You can’t do that if you stop learning. Push yourself to learn and explore new things. Get those rare skill sets that nobody possesses in your team. You need to change constantly.

The bottom line, don’t be comfortable. You have to grow. In the world of uncertainties we live to do, organizations are forced to reshuffle and restructure daily. You want to make sure you are on the right side of the business process re-engineering of your organization. If COVID19 has taught us anything, anybody can be replaced, and the system can soundly continue to operate. So you want to stay relevant by constantly improving and growing.

Thanks to my colleagues at Sahara Ventures; Jocelyn Msigwa, Essa Mohammedali, Vanessa Kisowile and Winfrida Mushi for a fruitful conversation about growth. Let’s keep growing.


Let’s Talk Innovation, Technology, Entrepreneurship and The Future.