Which Is Better? High Stress vs Low Stress (Day 239)

I have seen two opposite approaches in startup companies.

Low stress: minimize meetings, noise, focus on roadmap execution, very polite and respectful (but candid) discussions, and brainstorming.

High stress: a strong sense of urgency, fast-paced environment with changing requirements, may try out several directions at the same time, with a test-in-prod mentality for instant market validation.

Which is better? Here are my thoughts:

From a contributor perspective, definitely, a low-stress environment sounds more serene and clear-minded which leads to better quality work.

From a leadership perspective, a strong sense of urgency trumps everything else. Time is always the essence. Chaotic on the top and heated debates aiming to push the envelope. Once the dust is settled after the discussion, all stakeholders should buy-in to the agreed strategy and execute. Presenting the roadmap to contributors and let them produce in a serene environment, but with an aggressive timeline.

Always take a break to appreciate and celebrate milestones, perform post-mortems, then move on to the next phase.

Since start-ups usually consist of a few people only, in such cases, it's hard to split the line between the leadership vs contributors. While we want to get everybody's opinion, not everybody has the expertise or context for making a viable opinion. I'd suggest doing an "idea-kickoff" meeting where contributors will have the chance to provide inputs, share their experiences with the leadership before they finalize the strategy.

Feel free to chime in on your experiences or thoughts.

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