Founders’ & Directors’ challenges

Over the last three years, I have had the privilege to support, advise and coach several founders: from Non-Profits, Small Businesses and Startups. I noticed common patterns, and some of their main challenges with you in this article, as well as some of the solutions that helped them step into the next level of their leadership.

The results have been unequivocal:

For those who did the work, they had more time, space, better relationships with their executives, their teams at work, but also their spouses and families. They felt more relaxed, and attracted projects and clients they could barely have dreamed of a year before.

Their organization shifted too: some team members left the organization, when they didn’t fit into the culture anymore or were not willing to do the work. That created space to attract more qualified talent for the new missions and challenges ahead – talent that the founders could also only dream of in the past.

It was interesting also to see what happened to the founders who didn’t do the work:

They stayed stuck in the same problems, recycling the same issues from one quarter to another, one year to the next.

Their inability to shift is what is holding them back the most. One of the key skills that they have to develop is to listen.

Below, I’ll share some of the limiting beliefs Founders and Directors shave, and some antidotes to that:

Limiting belief #1: “I have to know it all.”

As experts in their field, they have internalized the idea that they know a lot – and they do ! Their knowledge has brought them to this level of expertise and experience. Yet, to shift to the next level of their leadership, the hardest thing to do is to let go of this belief, and adopt a Beginner’s mind.

A great illustration of this is a scene from the movie Margin Call. This movie depicts the 24 of the fall of a bank similar to the Lehman Brothers in 2008. That night, one of the younger analysts (who had studied rocket science before joining the bank) is presenting some crucial information to one of the top executives of the bank, showing the risks they are facing. In the scene, the analyst is with his manager, as well as the top executive. As the analyst starts to explain, the top executive asks him:

“Please, can you explain this to me as if you were explaining it to a 7 year old?”

That is a high-level leadership attitude.

I observed the same attitude in Bill Gates, in the Netflix documentary Inside Bill’s Brain, when he visits a company that he is partnering with to create solutions for water sanitation in developing countries. He has done his homework, but he asks questions to other engineers, from a place of genuine curiosity, and not from a place of knowing the answers.

Good leaders give the right answers.

Great leaders ask the right questions.

Limiting Belief #2: “I have to do it on my own.”

Two years ago, I started coaching one of the co-directors of a company. We are still coaching today, but I recall the progress she made since we begun this journey together. When we started coaching, she struggled to have time for herself, and assert her boundaries and needs. To this day, she has a great heart, and cares a lot for her teams. Additionally, she always wanted the job to be done perfectly, so she spent a lot of time reading, correcting and editing reports. In some ways, she was micro-managing. She was on the verge of burnout on several occasions, and started questioning her path. She also spent a lot of time complaining to her co-directors, and in our coaching sessions.

One of the big insights for her was to realize she was more powerful than she thought, and, that her team members are highly capable and love to do the work ! In one of our conversations, I noticed that she was doing a lot herself, I told her:

“Your team members are young and hungry. They love to work and they love to learn. What if you were more generous with them by giving them more work and responsibilities?”

That struck her. She tried, and it worked. She ended up having more time for herself, and empowering her teams.

After a year of work together (and me coaching her 2 co-directors in parallel and as a group), she had made a complete turn around:

  • She created much more time for herself and her family
  • She says No on a regular basis (one of the most powerful two-letter words you can use)
  • She accepts that some work done by her team members will be imperfect, but she mentors them to improve, and she knows she can focus on her high-priority projects
  • She stops attending every meeting, and delegates much more to her team members

Good leaders get the job done.

Great leaders get others to get the job done.

Limiting Belief #3: “I need more time for my next project (that I’m really excited about!), but I’m caught up in managing my existing projects and my teams already.”

I also have had the privilege of coaching the Founder of that company, for 3 years now. One of his biggest challenges is to have enough time for what really matters to him.

Yes, his current company does matter a lot to him, and as a Visionary Leader, he knows there is a bigger contribution he wants to make. He wants to write, and he wants to create other projects in the world.

The challenge in being a Founder, is that one is used to doing it all, and keeping an eye on everything (“I have to do it on my own.”).

Yet, it is easy to forget that you are the Creator of your Life, your Time, and your Business.

Right now, there is a way that you are creating this lack of time for writing, strategic projects, rest time (Resting is part of the training) or family time because:

Either you have not prioritized them

Or you have prioritized them but the organization of your time (i.e. your calendar) does not reflect your priorities.

If you want to check:

  1. What are your top 3 priorities right now? (The 3 things that are the most important to accomplish for you)
  2. Look at your calendar for the last 3 months, and look at the time you blocked out to move forward on these priorities.
  3. What are your insights based on what you see?

One tool that really helped my clients (and that I have been using for a while) is the SBOT:

The Small Blocks of Time.

When a client wants to write, I ask them to block out a small block of time every week for writing (can be 30 minutes, or even 10 minutes to start). If every week is too much, they block it out every other week. They keep going month after month. When this time comes, they sit and write. They are allowed to go above the time, but not below.

That works for meditation, working out, time off, time with family, a Strategic Project, anything…

This block of time can be used for Creating The Impossible. (Check out the book here or the program lead by Supercoach Michael Neill here.)

If you want to create more time for yourself, read my article on How to become a Time Master.

If you want to remember who you are, read Creator, by Steve Chandler.

If you are a Founder or Director, and would like to share your challenges and experiences I’d love to hear from you. Feel free to reach out to me directly here.

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