Have you ever met a Founder who wasn’t predisposed to “action orientation?” The Entrepreneurial Mindset Profile (EMP) developed by Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida defines this as “a tendency to show initiative, make decisions quickly, and feel impatient for results.” Ha! Impatient? I’m a Founder CEO and NOTHING ever happens as fast as I want it to (Can you relate?). In fact, I have now interviewed over 50 Founder & CEOs on the “From Founder To CEO” podcast and in interview after interview they talk about the challenges they face when trying to tear themselves away from their drug of choice – fast and fulfilling tasks.
Don’t believe me? Take a look at some of the “blind spot” answers from my Founder & CEOs on the podcast:
- “…my desire to do almost every task…but, it’s not a scalable way of doing things…” Patrick Ambon, BrandYourself
- “…I’m the type of person that likes to take on as much as possible and I have a hard time saying no to things…” Nick Andrews, ReviTrage
- “…it’s trusting other people to do the job as well as we feel we can do it as a management team…we have to hire people…I’m a very friendly, outgoing nice person…have to prioritize certain things…you can’t do everything… ” Justin Fenchel, BeatBox Beverages
- “You have to stop doing everything yourself…and you have to really let go and let other people do it…lead them to want to do it with the same motivation that you have yourself…” Lynn Elfers, Affordable Language Services
All of the Founding CEOs above are fantastically successful and don’t let their predisposition for “action orientation,” override their good judgment on tasks.
You can’t do it all yourself
Sadly, many other Founding CEOs I have encountered have not been able to escape the “drug of tasks.” It’s almost paradoxical. You, as Founder & CEO, are successful at creating something from nothing because you are very talented and can get so much done. But, as you experience success, the company grows, and the sheer volume of things needing to get done builds. It’s too easy for many struggling Founding CEOs to overdose on “tasks” and they never see it coming.
Great CEOs are self-aware enough to know that their strong desire to strike things “done” on a paper list, or clicking “done” on Wunderlist or another application, is a gateway to filling their day with tasks. Weening off this drug of choice for so many Founders is the difference between a $500,000 company and a $50 million company.
One of the most popular downloads at Harvard Business Review is a classic entitled, “Managing Management Time: Who’s Got the Monkey?” It details the subtle ways that leaders assume the tasks and duties of others. I highly recommend you read it…if you really want to transition to the CEO role.
So, if you want to become the CEO of the company you founded, ask yourself this question, “Am I too attached to some tasks that others are better suited and are better positioned to do? Is my drug of choice allowing me to check off the tasks of daily routine, or am I breaking free to lead my company to greatness?”
So, what should a Startup CEO be doing? I’ll share my thoughts at another time. But, for now, I refer you to Fred Wilson’s wise thoughts.