Process, the Perfect Team, and Psychological Safety

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In 2013, Sam Hinkie took the helm as the general manager of an ailing Philadelphia 76ers (basketball) team and established what people refer to now as “The Process”. The Process was a calculated and devised plan to, over the course of several years, get the best young talent to the land of brotherly love where they could ball out. But like all good things, the process took time and included several (terrible) losing seasons, backlash from fans, and ridicule by analysts.

Hinkie, despite the controversy surrounding his tactics, was committed to The Process. Every act that he took, every decision his front office made, and every trade that he conjured was centered on his end goal: winning basketball games and building a franchise. Unfortunately, Hinkie supporters ran out of patience, and in 2016, he was forced out just a season away from the process finally (hopefully) yielding its first fruits.

Unlike the 76ers, Daxko has been a solid organization for years. But the similarity they share with the 2013-2016 76ers is the conviction that process is vital to progress. Understanding process increases scope and vision for where and what we want to be. I joined the Customer Success Team during a rebuilding phase; people were changing roles and moving on to other things during a busy time of year. Trusting the process was not easy when the phones wouldn’t stop ringing and cases piled up. The urge to overcompensate with impulsive hirings or knee-jerk reactions to problems were tangible. But with time, our a resilient and committed team weathered the storm. As we rebuilt, we became more tenured and experienced and, through deliberate hirings, we became stronger in number and proficiency. Now, a year and half later, our squad is stacked.

In trusting our process, did we achieve what we aimed to do? I guess it depends. The process of building a good team may not be able to quantify the intangibles that comprise a great one. Google, a company who prides itself on process and vision, recently conducted a study to uncover the characteristics of a perfect team. The study (Project Aristotle), despite pouring over decades of social and psychological group behavior and case studies on Google employees, found it hard to determine exactly what makes a great team. What they came to realize is that the lack of consistent patterns was because great teams took so many different forms. Some teams were balanced across the board which helped equally distribute duties. Other teams’ strengths varied but were able to give teammates tasks that fit their skill set. All in all, they identified two behavior traits that ran through the variations of great teams. One was what researchers call “equality in distribution of conversational turn-taking” which is a fancy way of saying that everyone on the team spoke an equal amount during team meetings. The other was social sensitivity, which is when people are aware of nonverbal cues: tone of voice, body language, group dynamics, facial expression, etc.

These observations comprise parts of what is known as “psychological safety”. The article quotes Amy Edmondson, a professor at Harvard Business School, when she says psychological safety is a ‘‘shared belief held by members of a team that the team is safe for interpersonal risk-taking.’’ Psychological safety is ‘‘a sense of confidence that the team will not embarrass, reject or punish someone for speaking up … it describes a team climate characterized by interpersonal trust and mutual respect in which people are comfortable being themselves.’’

It seems that for teams to succeed, there must be a good process in place to build for scale and growth, bring in all-stars, and craft a crew that can perform. But what may be the crux of impactful work, meaningful careers, and a successful team rests in the truth that to be excellent is to value those around you. Where work becomes excellent out of a sense of joy rather than a sense of fear, resilience replaces timidity, employees are teammates, and culture is a communal commitment to who we are and what we hope to be.


Sam G. is a Customer Success Advocate who enjoys slow mornings, coffee, and homemade waffles with his wife every Saturday.

Perpetually Evolving

By | Building a Company, Culture, Healthy Stuff, Life at Daxko, Rewarding Careers | One Comment

Room to Grow

By | Building a Company, Culture, Employment Brand, Grow Your Career, Professional Development, Rewarding Careers | No Comments

Every full-time team member at Daxko is given a significant stipend each year to use for their own professional development. As the leader of a growing company, it’s very important to me that each of us on the team, myself included, continue to grow personally in a rewarding career.

We don’t put a lot of stipulations on how each team member uses their professional development dollars, and that’s because every person’s career, goals, and definition of a rewarding career is going to differ slightly from the next person’s. Team members have used their professional development budget to travel to conferences, continue their formal education, take specific skill-related classes, join associations, earn further accreditations, and the list goes on. By allowing each team member to mold their own development, we allow them another degree of ownership in their career. Sense of ownership is a core value of ours at Daxko.

I recently attended a workshop in Chicago as part of my own professional development. I’m interested in how other successful companies work, so I took part in “The Basecamp Way to Work” event hosted by Jason Fried (Basecamp co-founder & CEO) and Ryan Singer (Strategy at Basecamp). They have a pretty radical work concept with most of their team being remote. As Daxko grows, it’s important to me that our remote team members have an exceptional experience and rewarding career to the same degree that our in-office team members do. So, for me, this was a valuable learning experience.

What professional development channels would be most constructive for you? No matter your role, none of us have “arrived”. We all have room to grow. I challenge you to consider your career, how you would like to see it grow, and then identify your next steps in professional development.

Daxko Turns 18 and Says Goodbye to an Old-Timer

By | Building a Company, Culture, Employment Brand, Healthy Stuff, Life at Daxko, Talent, Workplace | 2 Comments

Today, Daxko hits a milestone. It’s our 18th birthday! So in a way, we are now “officially” an adult, even though we don’t always act like it.

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We mark our birthday by the start date of our first-ever team member, Wei Jiang on October 14, 1998. Wei remains a key member of our software development team, and he has played a critical role in our success and growth. 

wei-02Wei has seen and done a lot over the past 18 years. Not only was he the creator and keeper of many of our software products, but he’s also experienced the highs and lows of being a part of a growth and change-oriented company. 

One of the inventible changes is the coming and going of team members, and today marks the celebration of one of those departures — a “retirement” if you will.  

Over her 16 years, 8 months and 13 days at Daxko, April Benetollo has led marketing, sales, product management, our People Team, career development, and more “assignments” I’m sure I’m forgetting.

dsc00013april_nationapril02We’ve experienced 14 straight years of double-digit growth, have a dominant position in our market and have built a very strong brand, and April has played an active, key role in all of it. We’re very thankful for her massive contributions and are excited for what lies ahead in her career.

April now joins an impressive alumni group, including Uncle Barry, Britney, JSides, Holly, Jeremy, Keefus, Toby, Susan, Austin, Tony, Anne and so many others. 

But we also have a great group of remaining old-timers such as Wei, Ming, Saranda, Rick, Patrick, Dan Van, Josh, Bryan, Todd, Heather and several Matts to name but a few, as well as newer team members like Moses, Kelly, Emily, Gabby, Colby, Napo, Alex and Mike that are ready and able to keep the momentum going strong and take us into the future. 

As we celebrate these milestones, it acts as a reminder of how the entire team — alumni, old-timers and relative newbies alike — are the reason behind our success. 

Thanks Team Daxko!

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