When a new leader joins a startup, their impact hinges on their ability to build their teams. Whether you manage a team of engineers, a team of regional sales managers, or the company, your first responsibility is to hire and successfully manage the seven people who will form your leadership team.
Managers who hire those seven people - either from talent inside the company or outside the company - will be more effective. Why?
First, as a company grows, the most important thing is recruiting. If you have a leadership team of seven recruiting on your behalf, you will be way more effective than someone with only two or three managers.
Second, a leadership team will have the capacity to focus on many more important topics than a team of two or three people. The combination of more throughput and greater specialization should lead to better results.
Third, different perspectives on a team drive better decisions. Whether your mental model is Bezos' two-pizza teams or Lew Cirne’s only-the-people-who-fit-around-this-table should be here, there’s truth to the effectiveness of small teams. Small enough to move fast, but broad enough to bring a breadth of perspective.
I picked the number 7 because it’s the most common span of control in management. We’ve also identified empirically verified that this number correlates with better quota attainment at least within sales teams in our GTM survey. But some teams operate with four, five, six, eight or ten.
Irrespective of the actual number, the point is great managers prioritize building that team. I’ve seen this in practice at many of our companies. When a new leader is hired, the difference in their impact hinges on their ability to build their teams.