Having the privilege to work with Entrepreneurial Leaders as they grow their businesses is inspiring, challenging and always interesting. Whether working one to one with leaders on their own development, supporting the building and development of their team, facilitating and coaching leadership development or developing growth strategies.
In Scotland just now we have a thriving entrepreneurial eco system to support businesses from start-up to growth and then scaling their business, which I am very proud to be part of. I thought it may be helpful to share some of the common challenges I find entrepreneurial leaders face when growing their business and some of the feedback I hear around these from their teams when working in an entrepreneurial business.
Vision and Values
Setting out a clear vision and clearly articulating your values are both critical in ensuring everyone knows what direction you are heading in, what you want to achieve and also the behaviours that are valued and acceptable and provide a strong basis for being able to make good decisions.
It is often the case that these can be clear in the very early days but if not continually communicated and also lived by the founders these can become “muddy” and confused over time. This is especially true if, as with lots of early stage businesses you need to make decisions to support early revenue and cash flow generation, which may not always support your long term Vision or an opportunity presents itself which means that your initial plans evolve and change. If you don’t communicate the reasons behind your decisions this can create confusion within the team if they don’t understand the logic or reasoning behind these and can leave them wondering what direction next?
I recently worked with a group of ambitious early stage entrepreneurs in an intensive 2 day entrepreneurial leadership programme and interestingly when they checked in with their team on the clarity of their vision and values after Day 1- 80% of the participants found that their team were not clear on either their Vision, Values or both and that this was having an impact not only on the culture but also on how the team felt they were able to deliver and make decisions.
Check out with your team:-
- What they understand the Vision to be and what they understand this means?
- How do they fit into it and help to deliver it?
- What do they understand the values of the company to be?
- How do these values drive their decision making and behaviours within the team?
- How comfortable would they be to challenge anyone who wasn’t living these values within the business?
Roles, Clarity and Not Interfering
A common thread in feedback when coaching or working with the senior team in entrepreneurial businesses is that roles are often not very clear at all and that often the founder is not very keen to relinquish control of an area of the business that they have employed a senior team member to do and often continues to do or involve themselves in this role, even when they have employed someone else to do it. This leads to frustration and often to this experienced talented person questioning whether they have made the right decision to join the company.
It is difficult when you have grown the business from its inception and it feels part of you, to trust others, give them autonomy and fully delegate areas of responsibility as you grow your business but without this you will be stifling their ability and potential to contribute to the business and in turn stifling your own and the company’s growth.
Yes when the business is very small or early stage an all hands to the pump approach is often very successful. As you grow the business however it is important that people have clearly defined roles and reporting structures and also understand the level of authority that they have to make decisions and take action.
As you grow your team think about
- What is employing this talent and new role(s) going to allow you to focus on that will enable further growth for the business?
- What does this look like for you and how are you going to spend your time?
- What do you need to know to keep you informed on the performance of this area of the business without having to get involved or do the role?
- How are you going to enable this person to perform well and feel trusted and empowered to bring all of their skills and talent?
- How will you recognise is you are undermining them or interfering?
Overplaying Your Strengths and Understanding Your Impact
The Visionary in Entrepreneurs often leads to great idea generation and also to seeing opportunities where others wouldn’t and is essential to the start-up phase of your business. However coupled with enthusiasm and passion this can lead to sharing ideas with the team too early, leading them to go in lots of different directions, lose focus on what they actually need to deliver and dilution and duplication of effort, which can rarely be afforded. It can also lead to frustration and confusion in the team having spent needless effort and energy on work that is going nowhere.
You will recognise coming into work with great ideas for new opportunities and enthusiastically sharing this with the team. After some thought however you realise that maybe 1 or 2 of these are worth pursuing seriously.
In the meantime the team sensing your enthusiasm and excited about the possibilities have started to research or work on these with fervour, sidelining what they were already working on.
By the time they come to speak to you about these you have moved on – how would you feel in their shoes?
How to avoid this:
- Build a strong peer network and network of trusted people who you can use as a sounding board for ideas before sharing these with your team
- Avoid doing your thinking out loud in the business, it may well help you, but it won’t help your team to focus it will distract them
- Don’t phone in after a good meeting that has got your mind racing to share this with the team, think it through and distil it first
- Find a way to capture ideas and thoughts and work through them later with consideration and reference to your trusted people
Your drive, ambition and passion are critical to getting your business off the ground and for its continued success overuse of this strength however can have a serious impact on your team.
How to recognise if you could be overusing this strength
- Do you expect the same from your team as you expect from yourself, is this in anyway realistic and should it be?
- Do you continually pace set in the business driving for more and better results and burning out your team along the way? No one can work at pace continuously without a big personal cost
- Do you expect new team members to contribute form day 1 or do you give them time to bed in and understand the business and you?
- How realistic are your expectations? Do your team buy into these and feel they can deliver? It is better to mutually agree expectations and ensure the team feel they can deliver or even better exceed them that try to demand what they feel is impossible.
I hope you have found these tips useful and can identify with at least one nugget that will help you in your business.
Kirsty Bathgate is the founder of Gearing for Growth working with growing businesses and leaders to support them to perform at their best, with a clear vision, values led culture, less stress, better returns and more time for the important things in life.
If you would like to speak to Kirsty about building your leadership skills, business and culture, becoming more effective and confident with less stress and a better work balance call Kirsty on 07425 629816 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.