The 3 Common Traits of the Most Successful Operators
Sean Lane: Hey, everyone. Welcome to Operations, the show where we look under the hood of companies in hypergrowth. My name is Sean Lane. So the job market right now is absolutely bonkers, and operations teams are no exception. If you're listening to this show and you're a hiring manager, you know how hard it is right now. And if you're listening to this show and you're a candidate looking for a new role, congrats, the odds are very much in your favor. But what should hiring managers be looking for? And what should candidates be looking to show off? On today's episode we're going to answer those questions and identify the three common traits I've seen in the most successful operators. And as with any tough question, I started by asking my team. This, by the way, is an awesome exercise that you can do with your own operations teammates at your companies. Even if you're a small team of only a couple people, ask yourselves, what type of team do we want to be? What are the characteristics that we see in one another? What do we want people to think of when they think of our team? Our team at Drift per usual, came through. They came up with a laundry list of adjectives to describe the type of team that we aspire to be. Here's some of the ones they came up with, collaborative, creative, data driven, influential, resourceful, detail oriented, consistent, strong communicators, curious. That's a pretty good list. If you possess even a few of those traits on your team, or you're a candidate who's looking to bring those skills to the table, you're probably in pretty good shape, but in thinking more about this question and thinking about the guests that we've had on this show and the great operators that I've been lucky enough to work alongside, I think that, that laundry list of traits can be simplified to three core qualities. One, pick a North Star. Two, be adaptively excellent. And three, solve problems. And I want to spend today exploring what each one of those three core traits mean and what they look like in practice. So let's dive in. Number one, pick a North Star. Whether you run an operations team, or you are the most junior member of the team, I've always found that it's really helpful for your team to have this North Star that the team can point to and say, this, this is why we exist. When things get hectic, or you have to make a tough call, that North Star is what your team can use to both rally around and to serve as a touchstone from what's most important. At Drift, we took the time to define our operations team's North Star, our mission statement, and that North Star is this, to build a high achieving, understood and predictable revenue engine, high achieving, understood and predictable revenue engine. Anytime somebody new joins our team or someone new joins the company and wants to know what our team does, my answer is always this. Now let's break that down. High achieving, that's easy, right? You want to build a team and a company that wins and beats its goals. Understood, even if you're crushing your goals in the short term, if you don't know why, guess what? That high you're on is going to come crashing down, and you're probably not going to know why that is either. And predictable. Predictable is the key to any ops team. If you can build a predictable and repeatable engine, that's an incredible asset to your organization. So number one, pick a North Star. Okay, onto number two. Be adaptively excellent. The term adaptive excellence is something that I heard for the first time over 10 years ago, and it's been something that's really stuck with me ever since. Now, I'm completely stealing this from a fellowship program that I did called Venture for America. And basically What being adaptively excellent means is that when you're dropped into any brand new situation, instead of being overwhelmed or frozen by that situation, you're able to look around you, use your previous experiences in the context of that situation to make smart decisions, and to ultimately thrive in that situation. That's really what operators do so well. You don't necessarily have to have the perfect set of resume experience and say, oh, I worked in this B2B SaaS company in this very specific industry from five million in revenue to 20 million in revenue. And therefore, those are the only types of situations in which I can be successful. You definitely learned a lot from those experiences that you can then translate into other operations roles at other companies, in other industries at different stages of maturity. Even when you think that you might be going into something completely cold, you're not, because you have this set of experiences and context clues that you can draw upon. At one point in my career, I was an SDR manager. And so inevitably, and by the way, if anyone listening to this has ever been an SDR manager, you will understand this. Inevitably, I spent a lot of my time interviewing SDRs. And when I would ask candidates about why they thought they might be good at the job, people would, with without fail, always tell me, oh, it's because I'm quick on my feet. Now, to me, if someone says I'm quick on my feet, that just really means I'm good at bullshitting, where if someone says I'm adaptively excellent, that means I know my shit. And that distinction in an operator makes all the difference. So, that's core trait number two, be adaptively excellent. Let's move on to number three, last one, solve problems. Now, sound simple. And it is, but the best operators solve problems. They seek them out, they identify them and they make things better. If you're looking for ways to help build this muscle, there are two ways that I found that work again and again. The first is to practice extreme ownership. If you're not familiar, extreme ownership is a concept that is popularized by former Navy SEAL Jocko Willink. And it's exactly what it sounds like. Take ownership for the problems you see around you. Not all of them might be your fault, but as a leader, as an operator, they are your fault, and they're your problem. They're your responsibility. So go fix them. The second way I've found is that you want to be the person on your team who wants to solve the problem, not the one who passes the buck or waits for somebody else to figure it out. Now, I've been really lucky. I've been lucky to work with a team of people filled with individuals who want to be the one who solves the problem, wants to resolve that sticky solution, wants to collaborate, wants to poke holes with their peers. It can be a massive overgeneralization, but oddly enough, I found that people who like crossword puzzles typically are these types of people. Find people like this, surround yourself with them and be one yourself. Okay. So let's recap. Whether you're a leader looking to build out in our operations team at your company, or you're a candidate looking to show off what will make you a great addition to one of those teams. There are three common traits in the most successful operators. One, pick a North Star. Two, be adaptively excellent. And three, solve problems. If you can build those muscles, practice those skills every day and encourage your teammates to do the same, you're going to be an asset on any team you join. Thank you so much for listening to this week's episode of Operations. I'm sure I missed some of the traits that are important to you. So tell me, reach out to me on LinkedIn, put it in the reviews. I want to know the traits that you think are the most important for operators. And if you took something away from today's show, make sure you're subscribed. Get a new episode in your feed every other Friday and leave us a review. Six stars only. Thanks so much for listening. We'll see you next time.
For our 75th episode, we wanted to focus on you, the Operators. What makes you tick? What are the characteristics we see in each other? What do we aspire to be?
On today’s episode, we’re going to answer those questions, and identify the 3 common traits of the most successful Operators.
Like this episode? Be sure to leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ review and share the pod with your friends! You can connect with Sean on Twitter @Seany_Biz and @DriftPodcasts.