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Managing Hyper Growth Successfully

I have been lucky to work in three super successful start-ups that experienced the famous inflexion point we all dream off, followed by HYPER GROWTH. It is absolutely exhilarating and yet very challenging to manage.

Many companies self-destruct after 1–2 years of hyper growth and it shocks everybody. How can companies go from such mega success to full implosion?

To understand this phenomena from a management perspective, it’s important to dissect the addictive nature of hyper growth and its impact on top managers.

 

The addictive nature of hyper growth

Hyper growth and meteoric career progression are all fantastic. For executives, they are the fundamental metrics of success that we and our peers measure ourselves against. They represent achievement, power and money. Success breeds success and we can often achieve more in hyper growth periods than ever before. During those periods, there seems to be no limit to our creativity, our drive and our winning ability.

Hyper growth is addictive. We receive positive news and positive reinforcements from our teams, clients, press and boards on an on-going basis. We become the embodiment of success. We feel invincible, unique, indispensable. It pushes our adrenaline to record high.

But hyper growth phases often come at a high price if we don’t manage them well.

At work, I am a superhero. At home, I am just normal or… inadequate

Typically, a disconnect happens between our work lives and our personal lives during hyper growth periods.

As human beings, we naturally want to spend time where we are most appreciated, where we flourish the most, where we get most rewarded. At a time of hyper growth, the stimuli received at work is often much more compelling than in our other environments.

A romantic night out with your partner seems pretty dull compared to opening up offices across 3 continents and hiring 10 people in a day. The kids’ school play seems unbearably long and irrelevant. The family birthday party seems tedious: you just want to go back on-line and generate more value for the company. Even holidays feel boring compared to the thrill of doubling our P&L in 3 months.

Typically, managers in these high growth periods grow more negligent towards their family, less attentive and more impatient. Your family immediately feel that you are distancing yourself from them (they know you better than anybody). They sense your impatience. They notice that you are constantly on-line, even during important family moments, even before going to bed and they resent you for it.

This can become a vicious spiral.

The more we ignore our families, the more our behaviour is reproached. The more criticism we receive, the more we want to avoid the environment where we feel inadequate or under-appreciated and go back to the one where we get praised. So, we spend more and more time at work and after work, celebrating with our colleagues and further ignoring all other aspects of life.

Other senior managers are usually going through exactly the same thing as you. As a team, you move from individual behaviour to group behaviour, further enhancing the addictive and destructive nature of high growth. The senior management team becomes disconnected from their families, reinforced in their feeling of super stardom and become insulated from the real world.

And that’s a disaster!

 

Insular behaviour leads to arrogance, blindness and self-destruction

Overtime, addictive group effect leads to a single insular view point.

We progressively stop hearing the opinions outside our company that challenge us. We downplay any negative information that threatens our belief in our success.

We become arrogant. We become blind.

We become a very united senior management team of mini dictators believing in their omnipotence and that of their company….

Inevitably, we stop listening to the customer. We start demonstrating predatory power-hungry behaviour. We progressively lose the respect of our peers, our community, our teams and our families. And then we crash and burn and drag our companies down. There are countless examples of this in business news today: from Uber to the Weinstein company. Out of control CEOs and executives burn down companies.

 

How do we surf hyper-growth positively?

I don’t have all the answers to avoid the pitfalls of hyper-growth addiction but over the years, I have learned several vital survival techniques:

1. Be aware of the hyper-growth addictive phenomena

2. Recognise it in yourself and be brutally honest about how it impacts your behaviour

3. Ask a mentor to be your mirror during this period and call you out when you slip

4. Disconnect. Literally turn off your phone, your emails, your whatsapp for an entire weekend! (the world won’t come to an end, I promise)

5. Spend time in nature with your family without any connection to work for 3 days

6. Do something kind and compassionate for your family and your teams every day

7. Do some sports, live your other passions as well as work and family time

8. Watch out for signs of hyper-growth addiction in the rest of the management team

9. Talk about it openly

10. Encourage teams to challenge you even when all the metrics are amazing

11. Ask a senior client to be your mirror

12. Celebrate your successes but don’t take them for granted

13. Remember: nothing matters more than your family, friends and health

Let’s be happy and successful!

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