Posts

Get out of Autopilot and Slow Down

I'm a fan of automation and streamlining. I also am a strong believer in not taxing our limited mental bandwidth by trying to keep things in my head or by making needless decisions on what to wear. (Those are both their own topics, but if you're curious, reach out and I'll fill you in.)

But habits and autopilot have their downside too, especially when it comes to people and making strategic decisions. 

If a customer or employee has a simple request, there should be a standardized answer. But if that initial response isn't enough to resolve the situation, a human being needs to get involved—and not follow a script. And if a customer or employee are unhappy, I'd recommend a human being get involved right away.

Autopilot can also be dangerous when you're tired and overwhelmed, since you may do things without really thinking them through. A good practise is to "audit" your habits and routines once a month to see if they still add value or are needless or eve…

Look for Learning and Inspiration

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Leadership is hard. Running a company, dealing with all the risks, and still being there for everyone who is joining you on the journey is a constant juggle.

You can definitely help this by hiring and delegating, as discussed before, but you also have to take care of yourself: you are the linchpin. Part of that is recharging (discussed here); the other part is looking for opportunities to learn and get inspired.

For the former, read! Even the books that entertain have positive benefits, but ideally also read nonfiction on leadership, management, business, etc. If you need some good recommendations, contact me and I'm happy to share.

For the latter, there are a multitude of sources. If you have children, spend some time with them; if not, spend it with your family and friends. If you like nature, take a walk without your phone and just take it in. 

There are also apps out there that can help. My favorite is Momentum, which capitalizes on all our browser time by making new tabs a thing …

Time to Heal and Time to Recharge

Small businesses demand a lot. Even if you are good at delegating and lucky enough to have enough resources to delegate to, chances are you work way more than 9 to 5 (which I honestly don't believe exists anymore).

And if you aren't already feeling it, you will reach a point of diminishing returns when everything just takes longer and/or is harder. Or you'll make stupid mistakes that are just not like you at all.

This is your body telling you it's time to rest and recharge. 

You may not need 8 hours of sleep to feel your best, but if you're getting less than whatever your optimal level is—and aren't recharging on the weekends—you're going to hit your limit.

If you're getting sick more often, that limit is around the corner. And until someone figures out how to outsource rest and healing, you have to do it for yourself.

Think of it this way: you can either choose to rest at a time that will have the least negative impact on your business, or push yourself unt…

Perfectionism

I am a recovering perfectionist. It took me years to learn that doing my current best is more than enough, but I still have that tendency and therefore have to remind myself that "perfect is the enemy of good."

As a founder, that tendency becomes harder to ignore, especially if you worry that not being perfect means less customers and revenue. But that's not the case.

The tech startup world believes in MVPs (minimum viable product) for a reason. Basically, you make available the minimal functional product and then continue to build based on customer feedback—not based on what you think they'll want and are probably wrong about. This method saves a lot of time and money by avoiding rework.

Even if you're not a tech startup, you can borrow the MVP concept.

Figure out what your customers need and care about, and get it to them as quickly as possible. When they further confirm and or make requests, you can consider whether it makes sense to modify your product or service…

Delegation Test

Have you ever heard a CEO or founder complain that they're spending too much time in X, and wish they could focus on Y? 

If you're honest enough to admit you've said this yourself, here's a quick test for you: Do you have someone whose job it is to do X? 
If not, then either outsource or hire; or if you can't afford to do this yet, look into how you can automate or streamline it.If yes, then why are you doing their work? If it's because they truly are not able to do it—and this assumes you've given them both feedback and time—then fire them and hire someone better. Otherwise, give them that feedback and time and get out of their way.Yes, I'm oversimplifying matters and it's hard to stay hands off when it's your baby, but your baby will never grow if you don't let it breathe. (See previous post on micromanagement.)
The wonderful thing about being CEO is you are your own boss. Yes, you may have investors and a board to answer to, but you decide t…

Focus and Balance

So much in life—and business—depends on context. 

For example, if you're running a large business and have many direct reports, all who manage a different function, your role is to manage the vision and strategy of the company, only checking-in and course correcting on the rest. However, if you're running a startup or a small company, you have to be willing and able to wear many hats and zoom from bigger picture to day-to-day minutia. 

The flip side is that as your company grows, you have to delegate and let go, which is very hard for many to do.

A good way to look at this is opportunity cost. If you're handling customer support instead of hiring someone else to do so, what is the loss to your business? Or worst yet, if you do hire someone to handle customer support and keep interfering since you want it done your way, then not only is there an opportunity loss—but you've also wasted the money spent on this customer support person. (See previous post on micromanaging for …

Share the Focus

There is a concept in improv (which is my side passion and hobby; more on this some other time) that when there are more than two scenes on stage at the same time, you have to share focus. Basically, you have to take turns speaking and being the center of attention.

Another wonderful concept of improv is that there really are no leaders and followers. It doesn't matter who initiates the scene or comes on second: to make the scene work, you both have to "yes, and" (ie, support each other) and contribute, since the success of the team and show are everyone's goal.

Businesses and leaders could stand to learn from this (and other improv "skills"). Here are some ways this can translate: 
Regardless of who you are, share credit and acknowledge contribution. Give everyone a chance to contribute, regardless of their title or function, since you never know where the next great idea or breakthrough will come from.Encourage everyone to speak up and contribute.Take turns …