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Bursts of Color - Guides and Learners

Bursts of Color - Guides and Learners
By Geoff Donaker • Issue #65 • View online
Molly Graham has seen scale in her time at Google, Facebook and Lambda School. She also has strong social media game and last week wrote this post about guides and learners. Here’s my favorite part:
Having a strong leadership team filled with folks who have seen this rodeo before is literally the single best and most important thing you can do to set your company up to scale well.
I call these leaders — the ones who have scaled something before and can see around the corners that are coming — “guides” as opposed to folks who are doing it for the first time who I call “learners.” 
Let me just be very direct: you cannot scale well with a leadership team made up entirely of learners. Full stop. You absolutely can pick a few learner leaders to invest in, but if you are a learner CEO, then you need a leadership team filled mostly with guides.  

Please bring guides when exploring the wilderness
Please bring guides when exploring the wilderness
Guides + Learners = Magic
What a great metaphor. I think the right combination of guides and learners allows magic to develop in a company. The learners often have bright eyes, bushy tails and creative ideas that aren’t yet dimmed by reality. And the guides bring their functional expertise to help learners avoid some amateur-hour mistakes that can otherwise doom the most promising ventures.
Chief Operating Officer vs Chief of Staff
On a related note, I’ve been interested to notice an increase in the number of founders seeking a Chief of Staff, and a corresponding decrease in those searching for a COO. Sometimes founders talk about these two roles as variations on a theme, but I think of them quite differently. While the COO is usually a guide whose primary job is to help navigate the trail and complement the CEO with her expertise, the Chief of Staff is typically a learner who’s along to help with the heavy lifting. Both positions can be hugely valuable; they’re just different.
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Geoff Donaker

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