3 min read

5 leaders for a team of 8?

I recently wrote about what made our EOS implementation successful, and I was pretty adamant that if you don't create a leadership team as part of the process, your efforts will be futile. But a reader understandibly asked "Five leaders for a team of eight?" And my answer is yes, that is correct. And yes, that's weird. For two reasons.

  1. A company of 8 is small for EOS. EOS can be applied to companies up to $100M, therefore not all components of the framework apply to all sizes. Our implementation was relatively quick (six months with a coach involved.) A company of 50 may require a much lengthier implementation.
  2. Should a team of 8 really have 5 leaders? I asked the same question to our coach. And I can tell you from surviving the transition, it's not only possible, but it's required.

I know, I know. It's insane. We're no more special than you are. This company has grown on technical hires, and when we started EOS seven of us were doing technical work, so how were we supposed to just throw out all that capacity? Who was going to do the actual work?

Let me explain how the work doesn't just get done, but done better.

By having 5 leaders 100% focused on every other aspect of the customer journey, the 3 engineers (for now) can be laser focused on technical work, and not managing clients. The work itself is more streamlined for them as well. I'll say that we won't always have this ratio, and we're planning on hiring mostly engineers for the foreseeable future. But you'll see below why we had to start this way.

How it benefits the leaders

As for our leaders, their time isn't splintered between juggling their role PLUS tickets. They can hone their craft as leaders, optimize their work to make an even greater contribution to the company, and prepare the work more effectively for the three engineers. What do I mean?

  1. Our director of business development is now able to take more time with each opportunity to build the right scope. And the handoff to our director of operations is thorough, verbose even. Nothing falling through the cracks. And equipment purchases are seamlessly handed off to our director of finance.
  2. The director of operations is focused on improving procedures, project management, customer service issues, and keeping the engineering team abreast of important daily and weekly needs. Without a dedicated role, everyone is juggling all of that themselves.
  3. Our director of finance can tunnel into our budget, or audit a portion of our product offering without having to also juggle dispatch or other customer facing duties.
  4. And one of the most intangible roles of all (if you're new to this) is our integrator or COO role. He can pour all of his energy into each of the directors' needs to keep their quarterly goals and KPIs healthy. He's also focused on the quarterly profit and loss of the company. One quarter at a time. If he were to jump into our ticketing queue, our beating drum would stop beating.
  5. And where does that leave me? As the visionary or CEO, that leaves me to do the things that drew me into this business to begin with. Understanding the clients' needs, researching new tools, collaborating with other CEOs to exchange best practices. And I'm available to serve my team whenever they need me. I'm leading things that are beyond ninety days out. The integrator is ensuring the current quarter is staying on track.

How it benefits the individual contributors

Don't take all this from me. Our engineers have reported back saying that while the ticket volume is high, it's steady and manageable. There are fewer surprises, and they feel supported when issues arise. There are answers to things! Moreover they feel the company changing: procedures improving, clarity in expectations, and clarity in their work.

At first glance the leadership problem can appear like a chicken and egg problem, but now that I'm on the other side, I can clearly see that it's not. Put the leaders in place first (promoting is probably easier and faster), and the rest will shake out. We were scared too, but we laid out the plan, and were honest with each other that if things went sideways we could always revert back. But we haven't had to yet.

Your reallocation of roles could ebb and flow if the business needs change. But you have to create the structure you want to be, or else it'll never happen.