As a startup grows, one thing that happens most of the time is the development of the founder/ceo’s inner circle.
It’s a small number of folks the founder/ceo relies on for advice, feedback, strategic issues, etc.
To a large extent it’s normal.
But when the inner circle becomes fortified with a moat around it, well, then you got some problems. Employees and managers not in the inner circle know it immediately. They feel they cannot break though. The best ideas will become diluted. Moral sinks and culture suffers.
I’ve seen some great ways to offset the inner circle. Most importantly the founder/ceo needs to spend time with all members of her management team – not just her favorite ones.
The Friday afternoon company meeting can also be a crucial time to make everyone’s voice heard.
I like how Joel values eating together. So important. (I’ve actually seen some VC firms where every partner eats alone at their desk behind closed doors. Yikes!).
But first step is recognizing if your inner circle is causing harm. Get feedback from your team and/or your board. Chances are it is and now you have the opportunity to fix it.
Love to hear in the comments about other ways to deal with this.