One of the biggest challenges founders encounter when scaling a company is the mental shift they have to make as they transition from doers to delegators. Startup founders are gritty, and they love to build things. It’s in their nature. Founders are also typically fascinated by the feeling of being on the verge of success, some even describe it as the greatest feeling on earth.
As startups move beyond the proof-of-concept stage and begin to gain meaningful traction, assembling a trustworthy team is often the next step. This is a critical step especially for early-stage founders as most of their early recruits are individuals who join the company because they believe in the vision and long-term growth, not just because they get paid an enormous salary.
“Founders who build effective teams establish trust when they lead by example.
Provide clear instructions and expectations to team members. Be able and willing to step out of the way to give people the chance to prove themselves. This last step can be difficult for some founders because they believe no one can do the job better than they can. That’s usually because no one has more to lose than the founder if things don’t work right!
Over the course of my career as an investor, and now founder of Serac Ventures, I’ve learned a few things about leadership. These concepts are applicable to any company regardless of sector or industry. As a leader:
- Stop assuming that no one else can do what you do better than you can.
- This is a huge fallacy that may be true within a small organization for a very short period of time. However, as a company grows, it’s imperative for CEOs to find people they believe can do the job/task better (or differently) than they would do it themselves.
2. Set clear expectations for what you want from people.
- Expectations for team members should be so clear that they can easily be explained to a fifth grader. If a fifth-grade student can’t understand what you are telling them, it needs to be explained so it’s clearer. No need to get fancy.
3. Don’t give someone more than they can handle.
- When this happens, the end result/product is usually not great and you waste time making corrections
4. Don’t micromanage people.
- Give people clear instructions and trust them do their jobs.
5. People have different ways of arriving at the same result.
- If the path someone else takes to accomplish something in the same (or less) amount of time, that’s perfectly okay.
6. Don’t sweat the small stuff.
- If your graphic designer wants to place your company logo in the bottom left-hand corner and you prefer it placed in the upper right-hand corner, at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter. As a CEO, you have bigger problems to deal with. Let it go.
7. Progress is better than perfection.
- Sometimes leaders get so caught up in the minutiae that things stagnate, and nothing gets done. By no means does this mean that a company should produce subpar products or provide subpar service. That’s unacceptable. However, leaders should grow to become accustomed or comfortable with iteration and understand that it takes time to arrive at a perfect solution. It’s better to take two steps forward and one step backward versus taking no steps at all.
Lastly, one of the most difficult things for any founder to do is step down from the CEO role and hand over the reins of their company to a different person. I heard one founder say, “Imagine you spend several years of your life feeding, nurturing, and caring for your children, and then one day you have to hand them over to another person, a stranger, to raise them. That’s what it feels like to step down from your company and let another CEO run it. It hurts, but it’s necessary.” This may seem melodramatic, but it is indeed true.
Empowering others to achieve success requires building trust. One of the most effective ways to do that as a CEO is to trust others to do their jobs and hold them accountable when they don’t. This is the art of effective delegation to ensure things get done. It’s a constant work in progress.