My heart pumped as she hopped onto the court with her purple high tops laced tight. I kept straining my neck so she would see my thumbs up when her eyes met my eyes. Her head turned, her curls followed, and my third grade, basketball playing daughter smiled at me with that knowing grin that she was ok and excited to play. It was her first basketball game.
As a father, there was really nothing I could do for my daughter while she was out on the court. She was on her own relying on the past development, training, and encouragement that her coaches have given her during practices.
I don’t have a basketball gene in my body, so I leaned on the referee’s officiating to understand the rules of 3rd grade basketball. Fouls. Traveling. Double Dribble. They all made their appearance. Crying. Shoving. Screaming. Yep. All that was there too.
What was different to my eyes? The behavior of the referees. They were just wonderful. Here is what I mean.
Accountability With Compassion:
Little Lindsy had never played basketball before this first game. So, when she “traveled,” the referee blew his whistle and stopped to explain to her what that meant. She seemed embarrassed and confused. When she did it again a few minutes later, her face got red and she mouthed the words, “I am so sorry,” to the referee who was a good distance from her.
He ran over, gently placed his hand on her shoulder, told her it was ok, and gave the ball to the other team. He held her accountable for her actions, but was so compassionate about it that Lindsy smiled and joyfully ran across the court to take her position. She never traveled again during the rest of the game.
As a leader, it’s a great skill to have. As a Founding CEO, can you hold your team accountable with compassion, just like these 3rd grade referees?
Procedures With Understanding:
At the beginning of the third quarter, I was on the edge of my seat. We were up by a few points, my daughter and her teammates were ebullient. They were learning so much during their very first basketball game and they were even winning. Their coaches had done a great job rotating the girls in and out of the game. So, when the third quarter came around, we had a new group of girls on the court.
The trouble was, they were confused and forgot about how to set themselves up to begin the new quarter. The taller of the two referees took notice. Instead of annoyance, he jogged over and started helping them move into their correct positions.
There was giggling and laughter as he explained to them why they were supposed to be in these positions and how it got a new quarter off to a fair start. He made sure each of them understood what they were supposed to do. Up went the ball and our team sprung into action with renewed vigor and strengthened confidence.
Doesn’t this happen in our companies? Don’t we have team members who forget and new team members who just aren’t aware? When a company is relatively new, we have to ensure our team members understand the procedures we have adopted. They need and deserve to know why we use Slack, why we haven’t launched our 2.0 product version yet, and why we file our expense reports the way we do.
As a leader, understanding this is critical to scaling our companies. As a Founding CEO, can you help your leadership team use and understand the procedures that help the company grow, just like these 3rd grade referees?
Results With Encouragement:
Amanda was amazing. This little girl could grab the basketball and be down at the other side of the court in a matter of seconds. But, when the clock clicked down to the final minutes of the game and one of the referees called her on a foul, she was devastated.
She was very hard on herself throughout the entire game. She was clearly the best player on my daughter’s team. But, she also held herself to very high standards.
The flood of tears poured down her cheeks.
One of the referees walked up to her, concerned that she was hurt. He dropped to one knee so that he would be equal to her height.
“Are you ok?”
“Yes,” she said choking back tears.
“It’s ok that you fouled. It happens,” he said in a comforting voice.
She seemed to appreciate that and heard him say that there were only two minutes in the game and that she and her team could still win.
As a leader, we have to get results. As a Founding CEO, can you help your team members get results with encouragement even when they make a mistake? Can you do it like these 3rd grade referees?
My daughters team went on to win their first game. I was relieved and they were joyous. But, the actions of the referees really made an impact on me.
The game made me think about our role as Founding CEOs. The referees couldn’t play the game for the little girls, just like you can’t. You have to let go. As your company grows, you have to hold your leadership team accountable. It’s important to support the development of processes and procedures that enable your startup to grow and scale. And, you have to get results.
But, can you do all these things with compassion, understanding, and encouragement? Yes! These are the tools of today’s successful Founding CEO.
When you make the shift from Founder to CEO, you are no longer playing ball on the court. You are helping your team members play ball. It’s a different role from the hustling, do-any-job, solve-any-problem, work 24/7 skills and attitudes that you honed and which got your company off the ground, but won’t help you get it where you want it to go.
You’ll need to develop a new set of leadership skills.
Where are you at on your journey From Founder To CEO?