The Single Most Important Leadership Skill for Scaling

The goal in business isn’t ever to stagnate, or keep hitting the same numbers. Barring another major economic recession, every organization has the united goal of growing and being successful. Scaling is really a business must, and according to Barry Schuler (@BSchuler), who is credited with being one of the pioneers of the modern Internet (how many people can say that?) the most important skill to possess for the leaders of a growth stage company is, knowing how to build a team.


Surprised? We weren’t. The growth stage in any company is going to be full of growing pains. You have to move on from what Schuler calls, your Swiss Army team, those start-up employees who wear all the hats and bounce back and forth between your not yet existing departments. These are usually your friends, family, or in general, the people that you’re closest to – the ones you trust.


Adding to your Swiss Army team, defining individual disciplines and hiring people to run them can be a very scary prospect for any CEO or company leader. The CEO is generally someone who is focused on the product and its development. They aren’t interested in getting involved with money or sales, or any of the logistics outside of building the product, and the beauty is they don’t have to. Well, that is if they can successfully build a team.


Lou Adler (@LouA), founder of the Adler Group, lends some great growth hiring insights in his Inc. piece, “Pinpoint the Best Hire for Each Stage in Your Business Life Cycle”. During the rapid growth phase, Adler suggests hiring what he calls, “Improvers”. At this stage in your company, processes have not been ironed out, almost nothing is defined and organization is probably lacking. Adler defines Improvers as those who upgrade, improve and re-engineer.

“They develop and manage teams, add scalability and structure to inefficient systems, or take over projects that need more direction and control. Improvers are essential for bridging the gap between rapid and sustainable growth. They’re also the people chosen to break bottlenecks and implement needed change in more bureaucratic companies.”

Adler also adds a word of caution when throwing Improvers into your Swiss Army team. If they are brought on board too soon, their “smooth out the kinks” way of working can end up stalling productivity. Be sure to add Improvers to your team only when you’re ready for solid rules and regulations.


A new CareerBuilder survey on the cost of a bad hire, revealed that 69% of employers reported that bad hires lowered their company’s productivityaffected worker morale and even resulted in legal issues. When asked why these hiring fails are made, 21% of respondents said that insufficient talent intelligence contributed to bad hiring decisions.

When we consider Adler’s business life cycle stages, and their required talent needs, one has to wonder, how do I even begin to assess something like that? Your candidates aren’t going to walk into you office with plaques around their necks, reading “Improver”, “Hard Worker” or “Terrible Communicator”. Who truly knows how to successfully make those distinctions anyhow?


Odds are that you don’t have a department that houses your team of industrial psychologists using psychometric science to help you with team building and support. That’s okay, no one does…well maybe Google or something. Lucky for the rest of us, there are now online applications that bring that science to you. These employee surveys that offer analysis of unique work values and personalities, provide leaders with the tools to evaluate and build better teams.

When the father of the Internet as we know it defines the most important skill for organizational growth, you listen! Team building isn’t rocket science, but it is in fact a science. Leaders need to realize that they don’t necessarily have this intrinsic knack for mastering that science.

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