Alone at the top does not mean going it alone

Alone at the top does not mean going it alone

Most likely your company was your idea and you (and maybe one other — your copilot) started the company. You had a blind passion and desire to create the next great something. Others supported you and your idea for a variety of reasons. Your friends and family, who know you and love you, even if they think you are crazy, will always be there. They are not, however, likely to be a part of your internal team or even in the car with you for your current journey.

The initial co-pilot who was willing to go anywhere with you and do anything for you in the beginning has probably run out of gas. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to sustain passion for something when it is not your own.  

Fast forward to today. Look back on who you have left behind at the last roadside rest area and who is now on the bus for the ride forward. It is often said that as a leader you must always ask the question, “Do I have the right people on the bus and are they in the right seat?” I could not agree more with the need to always be evaluating who is along for the ride and who is willing to stay up front with you. It is never fun having to get rid of a team member, but in order to have the people you need to move forward, you need to let go, train, and/or hire up.

You are now the leader of a group of employees because you are the founder and have evolved to be the CEO; however, as harsh as it sounds, this does not mean you are good at it or even know what to do.

First and foremost, you need to surround yourself with others. Not just to have a posse, but because it is never good to go it alone. Without others, there is no diversity of opinions; no perspective; no collective intelligence.

People needed in your support system:

  • Friends and family
  • Managers and team members
  • Business Advisors
  • External experts with superior and unique knowledge that you do not have
  • Peers and competitors; yes, get in bed with your competition; join industry groups
  • Board of Directors
  • Board of Advisors
  • Mentors

The key to this support system is to use them to help you. How do you do that? You need to make the right ask and do so at the right time. Once you make an ask, listen (do more listening than talking), then accept the advice (best if it is in the form of ideas), the support, and the criticism. Ask for clarifying questions, even if it is not your favorite thing to do.

Support comes in a variety of ways:

  • Lend an ear
  • Challenge/question your ideas
  • Provide formal structure/boundaries to what you are trying to do
  • Money and value add
  • Expands your view of the horizon

Keep in mind you have people who believe in you — friends and family, advisors (formal and informal), and customers. You may be the leader, but remember you are never truly alone if you let your team and support system do their job. 

October 1, 2019

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