Blog

October 4, 2012

Powering Through The Dip

Having read Seth Godin’s great little book, The Dip,
I’ve been thinking about how Dips really influence the arc of not just
individual career development but also that of start-up team
development.

When to quit – and when to stick.  A simple concept. But pretty complicated in its impact beyond the decision of the moment.

Quit.  Move on. Cut one’s losses in a difficult situation. Learn from mistakes and start a new arc.

Stick. Work through the problem-solving. Learn from mistakes and prevail.

Every start-up is a shiny new toy.  For founders, employees,
investors, advisors.  Intellectual curiosity accelerated by energy &
excitement.

But then the challenges pile up, the going gets tougher and the
problem-solving gets more complex.  Figuring out how to solve for the
trend line of those challenges is everything.  Are they one-off
problems?  Are they data points in a long line?  Perhaps they’re a
cul-de-sac, which will never get better as much as one tries.

But on the other hand, maybe “that which nearly kills” really does get one (and more than one) stronger.

If problem-solving is a constructive experience, a team can feel that
solutions are not few and far-between.  There’s derivative, repeatable
value to the problem-solving journey.

Individuals understand and believe their role’s contributions to team
success.  They’re drawn to “the beacon” of company vision. They get
closer as a team.

I work closely with a company that successfully deals with their Dips
as a team.  This company is not an overnight success.  They’ve been at
it nearly 10 years. They’ve built a great company, a great business, and
are planning to be a public company.

A few observations:

They’ve got a great CEO leader, but also many other leaders across the team.

Leaders Lead.

But there are different types of “battle leaders” leaders, as Godin outlines:

  •  Quiet leaders who ensure rations & provisions before battle. Behind-the-scenes, consensus-building leaders.
  •  Insiprational leaders who rally the rest of the troops when chips are down. Out-front, vocal leaders
  •  Procedural leaders who organize the battalion as they prepare to reach the crest of the hill. Strategic, thoughtful leaders.

This company has all three.  Most great teams of any type do.

This core of company’s team has been together for over 6 years.  The
company’s culture encourages thinking through Dips, individually and as a
team.

They know how to get through company Dips. They encourage each other in getting through individual Dips.

And they’ve built a great company because of it.

Godin says what really sets superstars apart from everyone else is
the ability to escape dead-ends quickly, while staying focused and
motivated when it really counts.

I agree.

Dave
Barrett
is a General Partner with Polaris Venture
Partners
.  You can find this post, as well as additional content on his blog called I Know You Know
You can also follow Dave on Twitter (@davebarrett4) on Twitter by clicking here.