Image courtesy of flickr user 5chw4r7z

The Uber problems of fast-growth startups

By Jacqueline Purcell Chart.PR

Uber’s CEO just took an indefinite leave of absence after a long string of scandals. When a company is constantly in trouble, look at the leadership. Founder and co-founder companies seem to be especially prone to instability.

Many get it right and become a shining example of innovation muddling through exponential growth without too much fuss or loss of reputation.

Others find the transition to stability a rocky path. Many have no CEO or management training, despite having the great ability to create something new and useful.

Their employees and followers become bewildered by a range of conditions, constant brinksmanship included in the worst cases:

  1. Management by feeling rather than fact.
  2. Paranoia sets in and spy networks are created within the company so that management can receive feedback on ‘what’s really going on’.
  3. Promoting only those who say nice things about the founder or co-founders.
  4. Promoting those who smile and laugh a lot, not the hard grafters.
  5. Establishing key performance targets and when employees reach them, no reward only a higher set of performance targets.
  6. Management by talking a lot and not listening.
  7. Ego driven publicity that never mentions the team effort only the co-founders.
  8. Management by informal and uninformed family members/friends telling co-founders what they think the company should be doing.
  9. Bully tactics within and then bully tactics applied to other stakeholders or partners.
  10. Male dominated groups with women added as decoration only.
  11. Employing only the young and good looking.
  12. No training culture, a ‘just do it’ ethos.

That said, compassion is called for. Many founders/co-founders ‘don’t know what they don’t know’ and being flattered at the inception of a new project makes one feel that they have conquered the world. Parents, care givers or friends will say: ‘I always knew you were a genius. Now your time has come. I am so proud of you.’ Such validation is intoxicating and can also become toxic. As we have all seen in the recent election, hubris is ultimately followed by nemesis.

Employees that leave the founder/co-founder led enterprise could still have been an asset but effectively the experience leaves them so shell shocked that they never pass back that great contact that could boost sales or awareness, they unlike you on social media and many find ways to promote distrust of your achievements. ‘Hey… what is a leader if there are no gung-ho followers only employees faking it so that they continue getting a salary cheque.’

The solution is to get training in leadership. Understand how to lead and the consequences of rash actions and brinkmanship behaviour that create anxiety for the team. Uncertain leadership maybe good for ‘drama at work’ but very quickly becomes draining as employees leave for a stable company where they can achieve and get on with their job without a soap opera every day.

Let Uber do a case study on what they have learned and publish it so that we can see how many of points 1-12 were part of the dramatic exit of so many, including the CEO this week.

Jacqueline Purcell Chart.PR is a Board Member of the IPRA

Image courtesy of flickr user 5chw4r7z

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