Not a feature but a bug. Why having only superstars in your team can be a disaster.

Read this to learn about well-rounded teams that can effectively collaborate and communicate. As an experienced team leader and builder, contact me to learn more about my services and how I can help you achieve better outcomes.

As a freelancer and a manager, I have worked with many companies and teams. Recently,  I talked to a CEO who built a data science team that consisted of several “wonder kids” who obtained University degrees before graduating high school. The CEO was very proud of them. However, he complained that they don’t deliver as expected. This made me realize that having only superstars is not a feature but a bug.

The fact is that most of us are average, even geniuses are average in most aspects. Richard Feynman, the Nobel laureate physicist, was also a painter, musician, and an excellent teacher, but he is unique. I, for example, tend to think of myself as an excellent generalizer, leader, and communicator. However, I need help with attention to detail and deep domain-specific knowledge. To work well, I need to have pedantic specialists in my team. Why? Because, on average, I’m average.

Most “geniuses” are extremely talented in one field but still need help in others. Many tend to be individual workers, meaning their team communication is often suboptimal. Additionally, the fact that the entire team is very young also means they need more expertise in project management, inter-team communication, business orientation, or even enough real-life experience. The result: a disaster. That company got a team of solo players who don’t communicate within the team, don’t communicate with other teams, and don’t deliver on time.

What do I suggest? They say that “A’s hire A’s”. However, this doesn’t mean that each “A person” must ace the same field. A good team needs an A generalizer, an A specialist, an A communicator, and an A business expert. If you only hire “A++ specialists,” you risk ending up with a group of individuals who are “C-” communicators.

As another CEO I consulted once told me, “genius developers can do 10x job. They also tend to enter rabbit holes, and if unattended, they can do 10x damage.” If you build a team, you cannot afford to have unbalanced expertise sets. 

The bottom line is to ensure your team is diverse in its capabilities. Hiring only superstars may seem like a good idea, but it can result in a lack of collaboration, communication, and the necessary skills to succeed as a team. A diverse team with various skills and expertise is essential for achieving better outcomes.

In conclusion, avoid falling into the trap of thinking that only superstars can make a great team. Instead, focus on creating a diverse team with various skills, and you’ll be surprised at how much your team can achieve.

Book review: Extreme ownership

TL;DR Own your wins, own your failures, stay calm and make decisions. Read it. 5/5

Extreme ownership” is a book about leadership in business written by two ex-SEAL fighters. This book is full of war stories, as in actual stories from a real war. I read this book by the recommendation (an instruction, really) of the serial entrepreneur Danny Lieberman. After three years in the Israeli Border Police and after a cumulative year-and-a-half in active IDF reserve over almost twenty years, I learned to dislike war stories strongly. Had Danny not told me, “you have to read this book,” I would have ditched it after the first couple of pages. The war stories are self-bragging, and the business case studies are oversimplified and always have a happy ending. Moreover, the connection between a war story and a business case is sometimes very artificial.

Nevertheless, I’m glad that I read this book. It has several powerful messages and shows leadership aspects that I haven’t managed to formalize in my head before.

Key points

The best leaders don’t just take responsibility for their job. They take Extreme Ownership of everything that impacts their mission. When subordinates aren’t doing what they should, leaders that exercise Extreme Ownership cannot blame the subordinates. They must first look in the mirror at themselves.

  • It’s not what you preach; it’s what you tolerate
  • “Relax, look around, make a call.” 

This point takes me back to my days as the chief combat medic in an IDF infantry battalion (here we come, more war stories!). One day, an instructor, a very experienced paramedic, told me that the first thing a medic should do when they arrive at a scene is to take a pulse, not the pulse of the victims, but your own pulse, to make sure you’re calm and take the right decisions. 

  • Prioritize your problems and take care of them one at a time, the highest priority first. 
  • Leadership doesn’t just flow down the chain of command, but up as well.

This is a super valuable and insightful message.

The bottom line: Read it 5/5

Book review: The Hard Things About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz

TL;DR War stories and pieces of advice from the high tech industry veteran.

I read this book following recomendations by Reem Sherman, the host of the excellent (!!!) podcast Geekonomy (in Hebrew).

Ben Horowitz is a veteran manager and entrepreneur who found the company Opsware, which Hewlett-Packard acquired in 2007. This book describes Horotwitz’s journey in Opsware from the foundation to the sale. Book’s second part is a collection of advice to working and aspiring CEOs. The last part is, actually, an advertisement for Horowitz’s new project — a VC company.

Things that I liked

The behind the scenes stories are interesting and inspiring.
Ben Horowitz devoted the second part of the book to share his experience as a CEO with other actual or aspiring CEOs. I don’t work as a CEO, nor do I see myself in that position in the future. However, this part is valuable for people like me because it provides insights into how CEOs think. Moreover, “The Hard Things” is a popular book, and many managers learn from it.

Things that I didn’t like.

Ben Horowitz was a manager during the early days of the high-tech industry. As such, parts of his attitude are outdated. The most prominent example for this problem is a story that Horowitz tells, in which he asked the entire company to work 12+ hours a day, seven days a week for several months. He was very proud about this, but IMO, employees will not accept such a request in today’s climate.

The bottom line: 4/5

The difference between statistically meaningful and practically meaningful. An interview with me

Recently, I gave an interview to the Techie Leadership site. Andrei Crudu, the interviewer, made a helpful outline of the conversation. I marked the most important parts in bold.

  • Academic views on leadership;
  • Managing people isn’t for everyone;
  • Lessons from a practical approach;
  • Data Science is predominantly about data cleaning;
  • The difference between statistically meaningful and practically meaningful;
  • How sometimes companies tweak results to match expectations;
  • Bad managers make you appreciate the good managers;
  • Giving credit, being decent and not cheating;
  • All good teamwork starts with effective communication;
  • You don’t know that the stuff that you know is unknown to others;

Overall, I enjoyed chatting with Andrei, and I hope you’ll enjoy listening to the interview. If you have any comments, feel free sharing them here or on the Techie Leadership size