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  • Writer's pictureMatthew Lerner

Should I fire my head of growth if they’re not delivering results?

I have this conversation a lot, I'm afraid. It's hard to know if the problem is the employee, or the company. And if it's the company, then switching the growth leader won't solve anything.

In an early-stage startup, Head of Growth is a weird job - they could do amazing work for six months and deliver no revenue increase if you haven’t found product/market fit.

So how do you know if they’re on the right track to figuring it out?

Revenue is a lagging indicator, so what’s a good proxy metric to tell you if revenue is on the horizon? Let’s work backwards:

  • Revenue is caused by engaged users

  • Which are caused by successful growth activities

  • Which are caused by experimentation, analysis and customer interviews, which are all forms of learning.

So the leading indicator is learning: How quickly are they learning?

How do you measure learning? Here are a few questions to consider:

  • Are they experimenting? How often?

  • When things don’t work, is each misstep making them smarter?

  • Are they sharing those lessons to make the whole team smarter?

  • Are they listening to customers regularly, via interviews, user testing or listening to sales or onboarding calls?

  • How often do they surprise you with useful insights or challenge your assumptions with data?

As you assess your growth leader, it’s also important to look in the mirror. Have you set the correct expectations and structured the organization in a way that even allows for growth?Ask yourself:

  • Are you focused on a small number of high-impact opportunities, or wasting time on small stuff? (Remember, the goal is to find your big levers, not just pull the small ones harder.)

  • Are you focused on your rate-limiting step? (Have you identified your rate-limiting step?)

  • Are your teams working together on this, or pulling in different directions? (Marketing tactics alone are never a big lever, not for long. Levers inevitably cut across functions.)

This all starts with learning – if the current strategy isn't working, and you're not learning, it isn’t magically going to start working.

“It’s not you, it’s me”? Or is it?

Growth leaders absolutely must be accountable for growth – but the key is to evaluate their process, rather than their (short-term) results. And before you replace them, you need to make sure that you have the right goals and expectations, and that the whole organization is geared to support them.

Is there a third option?

Sure, you could try out a new head of growth and spend another year and another million (salary, equity and budget). Or you could apply to our 10-week coaching program and we'll work together to find your big growth levers, pull them, and align everyone around the most impactful work, and accelerate the pace of learning. (Your Head of Growth will thank you).

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