What Makes A Great Entrepreneur?
It’s a question that has been tackled by many business thinkers. In fact, there are literally tens of thousands of studies, theories, frameworks, models, and recommended best practices. For a startup founder or serial entrepreneur, it’s important to cut through the barrage of noise focus on what really matters. Our mindset is one of constant distraction. Psychologist Hebert A. Simon writes: “Information consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.”
New research by YouGov, the market research organization, shows that only one in seven entrepreneurs wake up feeling fresh every day of the week and a whopping one in four wake up mentally exhausted on four or more days. The Japanese have a word for this busy state, karoshi, which literally translates as “death from overwork.” This is a fate we must avoid at all costs. No wonder most entrepreneurs are left feeling worse for wear. It feels like you need the brains of a scientist, the karma of a Buddhist, and the execution skills of a Navy Seal to get the job done.
A Founder’s Mindset
On a recent visit to Silicon Valley, it occurred to me that while it’s a place, it should mostly be seen as a founder’s mindset. A mindset is a person’s way of thinking: it’s their beliefs, attitudes, choices and assumptions that affect how you view the world and your work. Silicon Valley borders Cupertino, home of Apple, Inc., the world’s most valuable company, and Mountain View, the home of Google’s Googleplex headquarters. One road is aptly named Innovation Way. What if everyone in your company could tap this powerful mindset?
The founder’s mindset means Vision + (Commitment) x (Execution). Here are three actions to get started.
- Vision. This means what it says! Where is your business heading and why? What’s the vision and how will you get there? Without clarity on these now or never questions, it’s easy for any business to lose its focus. Make sure the vision is aspirational and purposeful. Not only is it necessary for prioritizing effort on your most important goals, it also reduces fear of the unknown and helps the team to stay on track.
- Commitment. Are you walking your why, your founder’s purpose? Are you all in? Is the team engaged (fully motivated) and enabled (skill/ability). Many teams are engaged but not enabled. Do a skills audit of your team’s capabilities and start turning obstacles into opportunities; and remember to look for coachable moments every day.
- Execution. This means turning talk into daily action. Declare what’s important and then get out of the way and let your talent get to work. Is everybody accountable or is there an SEP mindset. This stands for “somebody else’s problem”. It’s endemic in many companies and is the opposite of the founder’ mindset. You know the characters: blame throwers, energy suckers, psychopath bosses, silent assassins, and misery monsters that drag the whole team down. A SEP culture means avoidance: excuses, inertia, and lazy back covering. Like a disease that’s airborne, SEP can contaminate a team, a company, and even you.
To be a better founder, do the following exercise and more importantly live it every day.
- Why do you do what you do?
- Complete the sentence: My leadership purpose is __________.
- Do you live it daily?
- Imagine five years ahead and describe your ultimate vision for yourself and your organization.
- How often do you get to do what you do best every day?
- How do you put your leadership purpose to work more?
- What is vital to you?
- What makes someone a real hero?
- What makes you happy?
- Which leaders do you admire and why?
- What principles do you choose to lead by?
- When you fall or have a setback, how do you pick yourself up?
- What do you like most about the vision?
- Describe the vision in one sentence.
- How can you support the vision?
- How well are you performing against the vision?
- Describe your culture in one word.
- What kind of people are you hiring?
- What talent do you attract?
- What makes someone a role model?
- Which companies do you admire and why?
- What do you like most about your culture?
- How will I sustain all of the above?
What will you do today that your future self will thank you for? I suggest start with a founder’s mindset.
Terence Mauri is the author of a new book, The Leader’s Mindset: How To Win In The Age of Disruption