Build great teams by hiring people who support the mission
Three Essential Leadership Strategies From Lyft’s Chief Business Officer
David Baga, Lyft’s outgoing Chief Business Officer, is no stranger to building teams. At both Lyft and Rocket Lawyer—where he served as the Chief Revenue Officer—Baga grew the sales teams from one person (himself) to a team of over 100, high-performing employees.
This is no easy feat. Hiring people who will produce great work, go above and beyond, and consistently help a company thrive requires a great leader. (And Baga’s team certainly does help Lyft thrive—Lyft Business accounts for about 25% of the company’s total revenue.) Baga has these three tips for successfully putting together and leading top-notch teams.
1. Determine your mission, values, and vision right away.
Prior to joining Lyft in 2015, Baga spent five years at Rocket Lawyer. At the beginning of his time there, the company had 22 employees and $2 million in annual revenue. In comparison, Rocket Lawyer’s annual revenue today is around $50 million, and they have a few hundred employees.
Baga also believes it’s imperative to find people who are comfortable with ambiguity. With anything new, there are a lot of constantly moving parts and unknowns. The employees you hire need to be able to walk through doubt and uncertainty.
Once you hire your team, you want to ensure they’re always in line with the values. Baga even structures his performance management around his team’s values.
He believes employees who are invested in company values are most equipped to deal with the fear of the unknown and instability that can come along with working at a startup.They care so much about the end goal that, when something changes or goes wrong, they won’t automatically run for the door.
2. Make a clear link between an employee’s role and company values.
Keeping employees tied to company values isn’t as simple as telling them what they are. Baga constantly provides clarity around the following three questions:
- How does their work connect to the mission? Team members want to know how their individual work and the work of the team is connected to the company’s main goals.
- Where is the team headed? While employees often want to know the long-term, that could mean different things for every company. Since Lyft’s environment is so dynamic, Baga provides a long-term view for the next 18 to 24 months.
- How does their work impact the rest of the organization? How do the decisions they make and the work they produce affect other teams? For instance, how could a product decision change the day-to-day work of a customer service representative?
3. Diversify your knowledge.
Growing up in Canada, Baga dreamed of becoming a professional hockey coach and learned from some of Canada’s best national coaches. Coaching tactics and strategy set the basis for all his communication.
While coaching may be his main leadership style, Baga believes that good leadership is not about one single philosophy. It requires building a cumulative knowledge base to draw upon. Baga is always observing the leaders around him—like Hilarie Koplow-McAdams and David Bonnette, who he worked with at Oracle, and Lyft’s co-founder and President John Zimmer.
He also reads a lot, often juggling two to three books at one time. And when he’s commuting, he listens to a slew of different podcasts (such as the Masters of Scale podcast, hosted by LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman).
When Baga’s team or the organization is facing a particularly challenging situation, he figures out what they need, then deep dives into his knowledge base to figure out how to provide it.
“That might mean I have to rely on my network and make a few phone calls to talk to some of the people who know how to best face [the challenge],” Baga says. “Or it might mean I go into my library of Kindle books or recall a podcast I’ve listened to.”
Building a successful team requires a lot of thought and effort, but it will pay off. The process can be a lot easier if you start with a mission and a set of values that serve as your north star, guiding every decision you make (starting with hiring).
It doesn’t stop there, though. Check in regularly with your team. Revisit their work and how it ties into the end game. In addition, never stop learning. Continuously build a comprehensive knowledge base with diverse content, and take time to observe great leaders around you. This will better equip you to lead and support your team.