The key to becoming a successful leader—especially in hyper-growth organizations—is to develop the ability to scale. This isn’t just about managing a growing list of demands. It’s about maintaining the right focus, addressing critical issues, leading through others, and creating processes and structures that don’t rely solely on you.

As Steve Jobs said, focus is about saying no.

People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are.

We worked with a team that tried to solve every problem their startup faced. Despite their discipline and high achievement, burnout became inevitable. They felt like they were failing and constantly letting everyone down.

Upon reflection, it was clear they were just highly effective problem solvers. The company relied on them, so they kept saying “yes” to every challenge. But as the startup grew and the problems multiplied, they couldn’t manage it all.

New creative leaders often struggle with the chaos of a startup and feel the need to prove themselves, taking on too many projects. This isn’t limited to new leaders; experienced ones also encounter growth phases that test their existing systems and balance.

To help this team scale, we developed strategies allowing them to be responsible for outcomes while others delivered the actual solutions. Coaching became their primary tool. They helped team members grow and navigate challenges more independently, reducing the need to personally solve every problem.

Approaches like these helped them extend their influence in a rapidly growing organization while providing their team with growth opportunities.

In a design leadership role, it was once advised, “This role will take everything you can give it.” It was true: it was always hungry for more. Only they could define what they were going to feed it.

These are the techniques we use to help leaders focus on high-impact problems and manage their energy effectively in scaling startups.