If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.
It’s a popular quote that’s usually misattributed. Business leaders use it to sell speeches and books about teamwork. And it’s usually right: you need a team to build a large, stable business.
But there’s a big difference between a group and a team. And there’s a huge difference between a team and a committee. Why does this matter outside of proper language? Because it’s always time to go fast.
A team is a group of individuals working in the same direction. Their work might overlap a little, but each has responsibility for doing one or two things. If each person does their thing, the whole project moves forward. That means every person is accountable individually.
A group is one unit. It’s a collection of people working on one thing at a time. That means consensus instead of accountability. It means that every opinion has to be weighed equally; it means tying the anchor of politics to your speedboat. People are attracted to groups because there’s no personal accountability: failure is spread across everyone. No one ever gets fired. The company slouches forward, an inch at a time.
A committee is a group without accountability or investment. They’re usually spending someone else’s money, and everyone has an agenda beyond moving the mission forward. The committee pulls the company in several directions at once. The dominant personality usually pulls everyone their way.
If you want to go fast, go alone. At least for a little while.
Entrepreneurs don’t struggle from lack of ideas; they struggle from too many ideas. They don’t always benefit from more opinions.
I’m a huge believer in mentorship, because I hate wasting time. I pay over $100,000 every year for excellent mentorship.
And none of my best mentors ever gave me a single good idea. Not one.
Instead, they helped me narrow my focus, and take the steps necessary to achieve one thing at a time. Then we moved on to the next one.
Of course, we talk through strategies and scenarios. We role-play conversations a lot. Sometimes my mentor plays Devil’s Advocate; sometimes she questions my decisions. But she never says “here’s a brand new business idea for you!” because she knows I already have too many. Good mentors remove paralysis.
Committees do the opposite. They induce paralysis. Everyone on the committee wants to be heard; everyone has their own ax to grind. And they’re usually on the committee because they’re a good person, and their ideas warrant consideration. So ideas are considered. Opinions are heard, because they’re valid. Debates are held because smart people disagree. Everyone wants the best; everyone is trying really hard. But they’re not pulling in the same direction.
Your business is not a democracy.
Before you can go far OR fast, you need a solid team.
That doesn’t mean your team has to share the same projects, or reach consensus, or agree all the time. It doesn’t even a team has to agree with YOU all the time. I love my team. They’re not scared to tell me when I’m wrong. But if I made up a committee for every decision, I wouldn’t be leading; I’d be hiding. I’d be trying to share the blame. So sometimes I sprint ahead a step or two, and then come back to tell the team what lies ahead.
Good leaders know that a good team will take them far; but that sometimes, it’s time to go fast. Sometimes you’re better off alone. Godspeed.