Be A Confident, Focused Startup Leader by Tracking This Key Signal

Travis Newcomb
2 min readJan 28, 2022

Most founders assess their engineering teams by only assessing their short term deliveries (or misses). As a coach I often hear leaders vent about why some changes took so long to ship. This ignores that team performance is far more than hiring good people and telling them what you want.

Newly formed teams:

  • Lack institutional knowledge. The thousands of little learnings that help a team work more efficiently over the long run take time to build.
  • Are people and structure. Structure included relationships, values, process, and organization that help get the work done.

Teams are not static.

They improve and degrade over time depending on the environment you create and the problems they face. So assessing team performance based on anecdotal misses fails to account for the fluidity of teams and the problems they work on.

Ignore anecdotes and focus on trajectory instead.

Trajectory is the rate of improvement over time. You can measure trajectory by measuring fundamental signals such as accuracy of time estimates, the size of PRs, or the time from idea to deployment of changes.

By shifting your focus to trajectory, your team will spend its energy on the foundational improvements that will deliver outsized returns in the long run.

Too many founders and leaders vent about anecdotal misses while ignoring trajectory.

It can be frustrating when your team is slow to deliver. However, focusing on misses undermines the confidence you have in your team and distracts your team from the work that will really make a difference in the long run.

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Travis Newcomb

Thoughts on the personal & leadership challenges faced in rapidly growing organizations. (Apple, Chime, Eventbrite, Cisco, …)