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The Burden of Command, Episode 117

Thanks to Earl Breon for hosting me on The Burden of Command Podcast. In addition to being an author and podcast host, Earl is a US Marine Corps veteran, a leadership coach, and the CEO of "The Leadership Phalanx". The Leadership Phalanx educates organizations on the inextricable link between belongingness, inclusivity, leadership, and diversity.

Link to podcast episode here:

Following are a few notes, quotes, and takeaways from our discussion:

  1. HR work has more pressure than ever before - the perfect storm of factors.

  2. The workplace is not "going back to normal". Rather, there is a "great equalization" occurring - related to both social equity issues and employment opportunities across geographies.

  3. As employers reduce geographic constraints and open up remote opportunities, it expands the pool of skilled workers that they can attract - which will increase competition for those workers, and simultaneously make it more challenging for organizations without a big brand name to attract talent.

  4. Our book, Scaling for Success was intended to address the "doughnut hole" in management literature. Most academic research is both dense and dated (often decades-old), and tends to focus on practices at very large organizations. There are also a number of more recent books, which provide anecdotal examples of a successful investor or entrepreneur. But just because Google did it, doesn't mean it will work for your company! We wanted to bridge those two worlds, with real-life, academically-grounded, practical support for high-growth companies.

  5. Be brilliant at the basics. Solidify your management practice foundations (clear goals & objectives, good communications) before pursuing "bright, shiny objects" like popular perks and programs.

  6. Context is more important than content. Best practices depend heavily on the context. Critical thinking is essential to decide whether a best practice will work for your organization, at your size, stage, maturity level, growth rate, gross margin, burn rate, etc.

  7. People management starts to get interesting (more complex) around 25+ workers. That's where a founder won't know what everyone is working on at a given time, personal relationships are harder to maintain with a larger group, and trust is not as strong. Communication, goal-setting, and enabling middle managers becomes more critical after that point.

  8. OKRs (objectives & key results) are often misused in high growth organizations. If it is an overly detailed process, it becomes administratively onerous and ultimately unhelpful. High growth, rapidly changing organizations should build in flexibility, keep the process light, and use their goal-setting processes for team alignment, not for control. Maintain an infinite mindset (incent sustainable, ongoing achievement), rather than creating a finite game. Before focusing on the minutiae, get the broad strokes figured out.

  9. What types of things should high-growth organizations prioritize? It depends! It depends on a lot of things. That said, your biggest priority is usually to prioritize. You can move 30 things an inch, or 3 things a mile. Then, once you pick your 3 things, have a plan and communicate that plan to your team. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Ruthlessly prioritize, use critical thinking to make decisions along the way, and line up resources to deliver against your goals.

  10. You have to understand your context before you can determine the content. Will what got you to the successes of today, take you to where you want to be tomorrow? You have to understand where you are trying to go, before you can decide how you are going to get there.

  11. Know. Willing. Able. Have an awareness of what you're trying to accomplish = Know. Sign up for doing what it take to be successful = Willing. Build the skills and line up the resources = Able. Complete a talent inventory regularly to check whether your team has the right knowledge, skills, abilities, and willingness to get to where you want to be. "Willing" is usually the largest hurdle. People who are most bought in to the status quo, tend to have the strongest resistance to required change.

  12. Most of us don't retire from the first company we work for. Our highest and best use might not be to ride with an organization through all stages of its growth and maturity.

  13. WIIFM (what's in it for me). Check whether there is a match between an organization's best interests and the individual's best interests.

  14. Organizations' willingness to support distributed work will likely drive a "natural selection" of talent. Some subset of workers will prefer geographic flexibility, which will probably force more organizations to provide that flexibility to compete for that talent.

Link to podcast episode here:


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