An Expert’s Guide on Managing Large Teams at Hypergrowth Companies

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10 min
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An Expert’s Guide on Managing Large Teams at Hypergrowth Companies
Table of Contents
  • Introducing Evgeny Sharypin, our large team management expert
  • How to apply “process thinking” when leading a team
    • 1. Lead with context
    • 2. Engage your team when designing processes
  • What to do when stakeholders disagree on the process to be adopted
    • 1. Find out the motivation behind the stakeholders’ preferences
    • 2. Be diplomatic
  • 5 useful tips for managers and tech leaders in hypergrowth companies
    • 1. Diversify your team
    • 2. Properly integrate new employees to the team
    • 3. Avoid being paternalistic
    • 4. Make data-driven decisions
    • 5. Prioritize projects that enable exponential growth
  • How to survive managing large teams as a new manager in a hypergrowth company
    • 1. Understand that you’re back to being a newbie
    • 2. Know that you’re responsible for more than deliverables
    • 3. Seek help
  • Final thoughts on managing large teams at hypergrowth companies

A hypergrowth company is a dream come true for most founders and investors. But as a manager or employee, you may prefer the early days of working with a close-knit team, grabbing lunch with the CEO, and sharing the same office with other departments.

However, scaling the teams within an organization may become inevitable as your company grows. And while working in a large team may not be your strong suit, you may be assigned a new role or set of responsibilities that will require you to manage and interact with many employees.

If you’re wondering what to expect when your company hits the hypergrowth level or you’re trying to figure out how to manage your fast-growing team—you’re in luck. We recently hosted Evgeny Sharypin, Senior Development Manager (Scalability) at Sendcloud, during one of our Tech Leaders Hub series, where he shared great insights on managing large teams in hypergrowth organizations.

Read on to learn Evgeny’s unique strategy for tackling company hypergrowth, what to do when conflicts arise within your team, and tips for managing large teams successfully—even as a newbie manager.

Introducing Evgeny Sharypin, our large team management expert

Evgeny studied telecommunications with a specialization in applied cryptography at the Technical College of Telecommunications and Informatics in Moscow. During his third year, he joined Flexline-N, a small-scale internet services provider in Russia, as a network engineer and transitioned to a software engineer/system administrator role in the company within a short period of time.

Once he graduated from college, he joined Acronis, one of the biggest IT enterprises in Russia, as a software developer/build engineer working on different projects. Notably, he set up a CI/CD pipeline for one of the projects that cut the time to build from 12 hours to 40 minutes!

Shortly after leaving Acronis, Evgeny joined Sendcloud as a senior backend developer and the company’s 73rd employee in 2019. A few months later, the company experienced hypergrowth as a result of the pandemic. The spike in orders forced Sendcloud to quickly grow from 73 employees to over 300 between 2019 and 2021. The backend development team also grew from 20 people to 6 teams by the end of 2020.

Evgeny is currently the Software Development Manager in charge of scalability at Sendcloud, where he manages three teams with the aim to sustain the company’s rapid growth phase. His love for interacting with people and fascination with processes for systems made him interested in becoming a manager. Thanks to adopting the “process thinking” method by applying processes when managing people, Evgeny’s approach to management is quite unique.

This article covers our discussion with Evgeny extensively. However, you can also watch the live session below if you’d rather listen to Evgeny speak on the topic himself.

 

How to apply “process thinking” when leading a team

Just as you adopt processes when building tools, you can adopt “process thinking” when leading a team. However, humans can be fuzzy and you’ll need to refine the processes to make them work for people. This will help your team become more productive and achieve the desired outcomes.

Here are some processes you can adopt when leading a team.

1. Lead with context

As a manager, you may be tempted to give your team members detailed briefs for all projects. While this may speed up execution, your teammates may become overly dependent on you. You’ll have to constantly be in charge, which can be quite tedious and make projects move a lot slower in your absence.

Evgeny advocates for “leading with context instead of leading with control.” Leading with context entails providing just enough details to enable your teammates to figure out the right processes to reach their goals. Training your team to think about the expected outcomes will make them come up with innovative ways to achieve them.

Evgeny recommends creating an atmosphere where employees, managers, adjacent departments, and team members think more about the outcome than the process. He also shared practical examples of leading with context, as opposed to leading with control, which we’ve highlighted below.

  • Leading with context when planning projects

If your team needs to plan for the coming quarter, you may choose to be in control by liaising with several people to come up with the plan, then sharing the plan with other team members. But if you want to lead by context, you’ll focus on sharing a mind map of everything there is to be done by the team and describing the expected outcomes for each task to enable the team to come up with the plan themselves using the mind map and outcomes described.

  • Leading with context for big projects

When working on big projects, you may be tempted to break the goals into smaller pieces and assign the pieces to different team members. But you can lead with context if you help your team understand the context and expected outcomes, then ask each team member what they can do to make the project successful. This way, you’ll be engaging everyone in the process.

2. Engage your team when designing processes

One mistake managers often make is designing processes that team members don’t want to adopt. Employees are more productive if they enjoy working with the processes they receive. As Evgeny puts it, “If you give people a say on how they work, they will enjoy the process and be more engaged.”

Thus, it is advisable to engage your team members in the process selection and design stage. A good way to do this is by telling them the problem and encouraging them to come up with processes for solving it. After the processes have been designed, the team can agree on the one to be adopted.

What to do when stakeholders disagree on the process to be adopted

Considering your team’s input on processes may be challenging. Certain stakeholders may prefer one step to another, making it difficult to consider everyone’s input. If you’re faced with this problem, here are some tips for resolving the conflict.

1. Find out the motivation behind the stakeholders’ preferences

Companies, teams, and people often fail to question their decisions. This can rub off negatively on projects and make execution slower. But you also don’t want to ignore people’s preferences. You need to consider dissenting views to keep everyone engaged.

A good way to do this is by asking the team members for the reasons behind their choices. You may be able to convince them to join the majority if you understand their concerns.

2. Be diplomatic

As a manager, you need to maintain positive relationships with stakeholders. One way to maintain good rapport with your team members and other stakeholders is by being diplomatic.

As a manager or team lead, you may have to reject the stakeholders’ preferences, but this must be done diplomatically to ensure that no team member feels left out and make them willing to proceed with the selected process.

5 useful tips for managers and tech leaders in hypergrowth companies

As a tech leader, the rapid growth stage can be scary and interesting at the same time. There will be a lot to do with less time to execute. You may become overwhelmed if you can’t rely on your team to deliver and support you in this period. Hence, it’s advisable to have a plan for when things become really busy.

Here are some tips for navigating the hypergrowth period as a manager.

1. Diversify your team

When a company enters the hypergrowth stage, its talent needs change, too. You may find out that you need more senior developers or sales executives to drive growth. Therefore, it’s best to start diversifying your team based on the company’s needs.

If you don’t begin to diversify your team, you won’t be able to handle new problems that may come up. Plus, according to Evgeny, “During hypergrowth, new problems appear faster than you can resolve older problems.”

When diversifying your team, look out for candidates with soft skills, such as strong leadership qualities. Also, consider hiring people who have overseen bigger projects in the past.

2. Properly integrate new employees to the team

According to Evgeny, it may take 3–4 months for talented developers to become fully integrated into their roles, while most people need 8 months to a full year. People get up to speed with tasks quite differently and background differences may also make it difficult for people to adjust to a new environment. Thus, within the first half of the year, focus on integrating new employees properly.

During this stage, encourage the employees to figure things out by themselves and progressively assign more responsibilities to them. This will make them less dependent on you and help them become self-leaders.

3. Avoid being paternalistic

People often adopt a parenting approach to managing people. However, this sentiment is wrong because parents are directly responsible for children while children can’t be responsible for themselves until they become adults.

As Evgeny says, “If you treat adults like children, they may become mere executors and feel like they have not been given much responsibility.” Also, they may not fully understand the consequences of some of their actions, which will make it difficult for them to learn from their mistakes.

Avoid shielding your team members from the consequences of their actions and encourage them to admit their failures openly. This will help them become less dependent and grow into self-leaders over time.

4. Make data-driven decisions

Even when you’ve built the right team, it may still be challenging to deliver on projects when you have more tasks on your hands than the team can handle. You may receive several time-bound requests from different clients. In such situations, you’ll need to prioritize which task to attend to urgently.

A good metric for making these decisions is data. For instance, you can prioritize the project from the client bringing in more revenue. This will help you deliver real value to the stakeholders in the end.

5. Prioritize projects that enable exponential growth

As demand for your company’s products or services increases, your team may be unable to carry out all tasks in-house. You should consider outsourcing certain tasks to your business partners.

In deciding what projects to prioritize, Evgeny recommends considering projects that enable exponential growth for the company. For instance, you may decide to build an MVP to reduce time-to-market for certain products.

How to survive managing large teams as a new manager in a hypergrowth company

As a new manager in a hypergrowth company, you’re faced with new responsibilities that need to be executed at the company’s growth rate. This may be difficult to navigate and you may find yourself struggling in the first few months.

If you’re in this situation, Evgeny shared three important tips that can keep you going:

1. Understand that you’re back to being a newbie

In Evgeny’s words, “No matter how many years of experience you had as an engineer, the moment you become a manager, you have zero experience.” You’re back to being a newbie—which is both good and bad. According to Evgeny, it’s bad because you don’t know what you’re doing and good because you’ll need to be a bit easier on yourself when you’re struggling. So don’t beat yourself up when you make mistakes.

2. Know that you’re responsible for more than deliverables

Being a manager is a huge responsibility. It gives you agency over people’s lives and livelihoods. You may be forced to make difficult decisions that affect people’s overall well-being. Hence, it’s advisable to always be firm, considerate, and diplomatic.

3. Seek help

As a new manager, you’ll need all the help you can get to navigate your new role easily. Evgeny recommends finding a good support network of leaders, reading books, or finding a mentor who is ideally a manager that doesn’t belong to your immediate vertical, so that there’s no conflict of interest.

Final thoughts on managing large teams at hypergrowth companies

If we were to summarize what leadership in a hypergrowth company requires, we’d go with Evgeny’s number-one tip for managers: be kind to yourself and others.

Leading a large team during hypergrowth requires a less systematic approach. People are less likely to deliver the expected outcomes if they’re treated in a systematic manner. But with the strategies shared in this article, you should find managing large teams less intimidating.

Thank you for reading our article on company hypergrowth. Before you go, we recommend reading the following resources for managers on our blog:

If you’re looking for a strong support network of managers and tech leaders, check out our Tech Leaders Hub.

And if you need extra hands to execute projects that enable exponential growth, we’re always open to new projects and working with hypergrowth companies.

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