2010 was an exciting year for me: in three months we had to increase our development team from thirty to one hundred and twenty people at my workplace, Ustream. It was here that I became more interested in what is the corporate culture that can make a company successful and that I want to build, as well. This topic has been at the top of my heart ever since.


It is exciting and challenging when the complexity of a company is  increasing rapidly. With more and more complex clients, you have to collaborate with more and more people to succeed. This constant change is a constant chaos we strive to master. But how you do this will have a serious impact on your company’s future.


One way is to dominate, that is, to control the chaos. If there is stress in the system, I will try to eliminate it. This is perhaps a very basic, human reaction, most companies are heading in this direction. I start defining rules, inventing approval processes, planning an annual budget, creating decision groups. At first, it might even seem to work. We’re glad, Vincent.

But there’s a little problem with it: this path is built on self-mislead. Continuous change involves continuous learning. By the time we really understood, he had long gone beyond us. This is because reality will always precede the “reality of control,” the latter will only loiter after what has happened and will understand them less and less. It won’t even work. Never mind, because we have the tools to do this, we need a few extra rules, but if all the threads are broken, even a central decision-making body will certainly help. Meanwhile, bureaucracy and politics are gaining power, so this is how a company -that was still agile at the start- becomes a slow behemoth. And here comes the last knife stab: such an environment begins to outlaw talented people, which makes the situation worse. The vicious circle closes.


But there is another way, as well. I am looking for people who can withstand the tension that comes with growth. Moreover, they embrace it and dance with it. They are able to grow with increasing complexity. The basis of this direction is that I trust people, give room for their growth, empower them to make their own decisions. Here, as a leader, my main job is to provide the right context, set goals, and make it visible if we are moving in the right direction. Then, get out of the way. More specifically, I give a lot of feedback and let people make mistakes, as well. For this I have to give a great deal of freedom, but it is important that this freedom is accompanied by an appropriate degree of responsibility. As a leader, I need to define my vision, values, and principles that determine the quality in which we work together. These will be the compasses that will help in unexpected situations or if we go astray.


This is not a convenient way. My ego gets less in it, I have to be a lot out of my comfort zone, I have to endure a lot of uncertainty in it. And it’s not all fun and laughter. Unfortunately, there will be colleagues who can’t keep up, which gives birth to painful situations.


And there will be times when this whole perception is put to the test because someone is abusing trust or freedom. And suddenly the “control” path becomes attractive. But this is when we need to stay on this path firmly and deal with individual cases separately, not punish collectively.


Because if we learn to dance, the reward is also higher. I have a bigger impact, I can produce a lot more value. I can learn a lot more and I will also come across my shadow side a lot more so I can develop humanly as well. My way of thinking and my image of people and, as a result, my decisions determine which of the above two paths I take. And this does not depend on the size of the company. The choice to scale my processes or my people is always at my disposal.


If you found these topics interesting, you should join us during the next Stretch Conference where experienced leaders will share their learnings about leadership and management. This year, it’ll be an online event between December 7-9, tickets are available.


Gergely Hodicska