The startup game is a high-paced, gruelingly competitive quest of maximizing the value of every minute and dollar to bring a new product or service to market. Therefore, many CEO-Founders with little or no spare time dismiss the topic of executive coaching for startups as absurd. After all, where’s the time or money for an “extravagance” like executive coaching, when we aren’t certain we’ll make it to next month?
While the nature of the startup environment reinforces this kind of survival thinking, let’s open up our perspective for a moment and consider these two questions:
What if your leadership was not actually about you at all… but rather, a fundamental part of your company’s growth and success?
Could it be possible that while you know much about your product or service, and your professional trade… you could learn even more about getting results through people?
Maximizing value is the precise reason why a startup CEO-Founder may stand to gain more than anyone from working with an executive coach. Here are a few of the benefits:
Laying A Cultural Foundation
Uber is our time’s most famous example of a company that did so many things right… but neglected to establish an intentional cultural foundation. The company grew very quickly, and whatever vision, manner of interpersonal relationship, or culture shared by the company’s founding employees and partners, the company changed into something else as the employee roster surged. Some might have called it cold, cynical, and machiavellian – concerned only with the bottom line at the expense of people.
This seriously impacted Uber, and paved the way for the rise of Lyft and other rideshare competitors who led with the claim that they cared about people (unlike the “bad guy” Uber.)
Consider doing something differently with your startup. Instead, invest in you, so you have the leadership skills to empower your people, and facilitate the articulation of a common vision. A vision that everyone in the company devises and supports together.
This common vision, sourced from the hearts and minds of the entire work team, provides a foundation for the growth of a company with an intentional culture. This culture serves as a north star, something to refer back to when things get complex and messy (they will.) It will also empower your people to lean into greater levels of responsibility – not only for their work and their teams, but also for the daily work of embodying the desired company culture in their words, deeds, and relationships.
Companies that take the time to invest in the creation of a common vision, a desired culture, tend to be places where people are more engaged, enjoy working, and which over time will attract the best talent in the industry.
High Performers Have Coaches
CEO-Founders select themselves into one of the most stressful and challenging paths a human being can take – the path of the entrepreneur. The potential rewards of the path, as we know, are also great. It attracts people who strive to be the best they can be, and who wish to compete at the highest level.
It turns out that the highest performers in every field, from sports to business to academia to military, all receive extensive coaching and mentoring. Bring the highest achiever to mind, and in the background is a coach, a mentor, or a teacher.
The intensity of the startup environment has a tendency to favor survival thinking and behavior. It calls the CEO-Founder to lean a great deal on instinct. However, past a certain early stage, or a “sprint,” the survival-instinctive strategy yields diminishing returns.
It is also tempting to use busy-ness as an excuse to keep doing the things you know how to do. The danger of this is that being human, no matter how capable, there is much you do not know. There is even more that you don’t know you don’t know. And a startup’s survival or failure in the initial stages may depend on how you approach this category of information.
Another word for this category of what you don’t know you don’t know, is also known as the Blind Spot.
Consider finding a coach who will call you out, ask the right questions, and bring your awareness to things you may not have thought of yet.
Embrace humility. Be 1% open to the possibility that you don’t know everything, and enter into the company of history’s highest performers. Get a coach. Especially at the beginning of your journey.
A great coaching relationship undertaken at the beginning of a startup quest can be a tremendous resource for a CEO-Founder at every stage of their business journey.
Having A Great Business Idea Is Not Leadership Mastery
A common fallacy we make as human beings, is to assume that a person who excels at an activity, can teach that activity to others just as well.
This is simply not true.
Many CEO-Founders are innovators and hard-working people who have created an excellent product or service. They’ve formulated a solution to someone’s problem.
Then they find themselves at the head of a team of people.
Even with previous experience leading teams, most CEO-Founders’ expertise lies in a particular field or domain related to their startup’s product or service – not leadership.
Leadership is a discipline just like coding or manufacturing or customer relations. Through this discipline, it is possible to create more effective, competitive, innovative companies that retain their best people over time. So consider teaming with a coach to develop this capacity. Not for yourself, but for the people on your team, your company… and every household whose livelihood depends on the continued existence and thriving of your company. And all the customers and clients you serve. Become a leader for them.