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At our second annual customer summit, we heard from industry leaders on topics like performance, the future of the web, tackling problems with VCL, and leadership. Camille Fournier, former CTO of Rent the Runway, spoke on the key elements of growing teams successfully.
When scaling teams, you want to simultaneously add more people while increasing team productivity and effectiveness. You hire more people and put them all together, but then they’re less effective because communication breaks down. So, the real challenge of scaling is: how can you continue to add people and maintain effectiveness without being crushed under the weight of communication? Camille’s experience as CTO uncovered four key elements of growing teams.
According to a Google study, psychological safety is a fundamental element of successful teams; employees need to be willing to ask questions, make mistakes, and fail in front of one another. The pyramid above represents the five dysfunctions of a team, the base of which is absence of trust. This isn’t “I trust you to do your job” trust, but rather “a more fundamental trust, a trust that you are trying to do the best thing for the company.”
As Camille put it, “Leaders should be willing to apologize briefly and openly whenever they make mistakes.” If you don’t, people will start to perceive that mistakes are “something you should cover up,” and trust will be eroded. Develop teams that trust you and one another so they can take risks, fail and learn openly.
One key takeaway (if nothing else) is that “Empathy is a learnable skill.”
“If we are willing to stand fully in our own shoes and never give up on ourselves, then we will be able to stand in the shoes of others and never give up on them.” — Pema Chödrön
As a leader, Camille had to learn to be comfortable with herself, to admit mistakes, and to come fully engaged to work every day — trying to grow, learn, and do her best — instilling these four key elements to grow and foster happy, successful teams. Because, after all, “What is the point of scaling a company, of scaling a team, if you end up working with people that you hate?”
Watch the full talk below, and stay tuned as we recap more Altitude 2016 talks.
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