Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Spring and the Opportunity to Grow

The snow melts away 

Ideas like lilies bloom 
The changing seasons

Spring in the mountains is such an inspiring time of year. The snow slowly melts away and the flowers and grass push through the decay of past seasons. The air is fresh and cool and everything feels new. Showers come and go and life all around truly glistens. 

Spring is a wonderful and inspiring season and one that many companies desperately need. Even in startups, the processes and practices and policies can build up like so much snow and bury the innovation and new growth. Too many brilliant beautiful ideas stay buried in the frozen cold for far too long. 

Spring can inspire. Leaders should take a moment to step outside. Take your team. Take a walk in the mountains. Breath in the fresh clean air and new life. Soak up the energy of the warming sun or pause and celebrate the passing shower. Spring can be an opportunity to melt away the cold frozen practices of the past season and create room for the new growth the beautiful and inspiring ideas. 

Pleasing Everyone

Furry coworkers 
Millennials or Gen X 
Can’t please everyone

Leadership often sucks. The role isn't about being everyone's friend. It's not about being the hero of the story. It's not about pleasing everyone all the time. Leadership is about creating an opportunity for others to do their best work. It's about creating a vision that resonates and inspires and that others will want to work towards. It's about providing the feedback - both positive and constructive - that challenges others to learn and grow and actually do their best work and produce results they didn't believe were possible. It's not always fun. 

Leadership, more often than not, sucks. You can lead with your heart. You can lead with inspiration. You can lead from the front hands on and in the weeds or you can lead from behind with coaching and counseling and encouragement. The hard truth is, the team won't always like you. The weakest performers may hate you. 

Leadership often sucks. The reason to carry on, the reason to maintain faith in the vision, the reason to persist in the face of the grouchy is the opportunity to uncover the greatness of others, to discover through challenge the hidden talent, the rising stars, the future leaders and ultimately to do what others, those that are simply focused on pleasing others, simply can't.  

Sunday, April 28, 2019

What if There are Bears?

Lonely nighttime walks 

Thinking of all we might build 
What if there are bears

A few years ago I wrote a short blog post about the bears that lived near my home in Truckee, CA and overcoming my fear of the dark and unknown. Last year I gave a talk to more than 200 people at a customer event and used the wonderful and funny video "What if there are Bears?" to highlight the important value of lifelong learning in increasingly long careers. I love the wild and unknown that bears can represent. 

Last week, walking the dogs in the early morning near my home in Park City I came across this wonderful bear statue. It wasn't so much scary as inspiring, though the lack of fear may have had more to do with the lighting than the bear itself. It's a great statue of a stern-looking bear. It is also a great reminder that there might be bears. In our careers, in our personal lives, there might be big and scary unknowns that we need to confront. There might be a big and scary unknowns that we are forced to confront. 

This week I have been thinking a lot about startup life and the big ideas that inspire individuals and teams to do great things. Having spent the last 15 years leading in startups I have come to appreciate that there are many unknowns on the startup journey. There are always bears. The best teams I have been a part of are consistently confronting those unknowns, they understand that they are out there and they try to plan for them. They embrace the potential fear and uncertainty and use that to improve. I think that is a part of what makes the startup journey worth taking, confronting the scary and unknown. It's not what if there are bears, it's what if there aren't? 

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Doubts Along the Way

The path was not dry 
Doubts came up along the way 
We just kept going

Despite the rain, the mud, and the rough trail over slippery tree roots Kiya is just happy to be the journey. Maybe the real lesson of startup life is in that. 

Monday, April 1, 2019

Getting Soaked

Soaked from the way here
New growth dripping with the spring 
Timely reminder

Regardless of which role you play, the startup journey can be incredibly difficult. Along the way, you are likely to fail. Failure comes in different forms from big failures like product ideas, go-to-market strategy and market fit to the more common failures like hiring mistakes, leadership decisions and projects or initiatives that don't come together. Startup culture supports and often even celebrates failure but at a personal level, that doesn't make it any easier. 

Hiking on the Oregon coast last week I was reminded of the value of failure to learning and career growth by the spring rain. Kiya, my Alaskan Malamute, and I were absolutely soaked from a long hike in the rain and the several inches of mud on the trail. It was quintessential Oregon and Oregon in the spring where the rain is falling fast. At the moment, being completely soaked wasn't awesome. It was a great reminder though. Because of all of the rain, the flowers were starting to bloom, the trees were bright with new growth and the sprouts of life were starting to poke through the soft forest floor. The challenges of startup life, including outright failure, aren't always fun but they can serve as tremendous learning opportunities that fuel learning and career growth.