In my heart of hearts I am a collaborator. I love the interchange of ideas and co-creating something. I love it when people riff off each other, and brilliance and creativity emerge. Not everyone is wired this way. My husband, for example. He is essentially an independent operator and likes to create things on his own. But to his credit, he is open to input — sometimes!
Many entrepreneurs are more like my husband than me. People with independent creative brilliance who have the capacity to create something new in the world and bring it into being. And that’s where things get interesting! Successful businesses grow, usually more people get involved and all of a sudden, that solo-preneur is looking at growth and watching this thing — their baby — growing up and moving out of their sole sphere of influence.
So what happens next? Founders syndrome! I’ve seen it numerous times. Individuals with a brilliant idea who bring something into being and then have to figure out how to grow it. And how to expand their vision to let other people share in the vision.
One of the fatal flaws of the dynamic founder is an inability to recognize that they don’t have to know and do everything; that they actually can’t know and do everything and that they need to find people who fill in their missing strengths so that the business can grow. And that they actually have to expand their vision to bring other people in.
Otto Scharmer of Presencing Institute writes “Contrary to widespread belief, I do not think that a leader’s primary job is to create a vision, goals, and direction. Too often this limited view turns into a liability and prevents organizations from being in touch with what’s really going on while their leaders go about broadcasting what they think the next change program should be about. The primary job of leadership, I have come to believe… is to help people discover the power of seeing and seeing together.”
In so many ways, a business is like a child and as in the famous adage “It takes a village to raise a child” so too, it takes a village to create a successful company or grow an already successful company.
Raising a business needs different perspectives and skills and while the founder or CEO or leader might have final say, if they are a wise leader, they will open their hearts, will and mind to other perspectives. Success of this method depends on having a few key factors in place.
First and foremost, it’s important to have a strong “Why.” Simon Sinek popularized this powerful concept and offers excellent resources for finding your why.
One must have a strong mission and vision, of course, and also core values for both internal and external behavior. Who are we to the outside world and who are we to our employees? Core values also set the stage for the ways that people interact and can include outlining the purpose and value of team meetings, how people move in and share time and space, setting up channels of communication and processes for shared feedback. (One of my personal feedback faves is the “Glows and Grows” that I first learned from the good people of HTI Catalysts. After each session, we gather and offer each other glows and grows: what went well and where was there room for growth. Very supportive and non-threatening.)
Finally, it’s important for a leader to know themself. (If the grammar makes you squawk, know that part of my Why is a commitment to inclusion, and honoring and recognizing the complexity of the human experience as freed from imposed binaries and boundaries.) I truly believe every person, and especially a person in leadership, should do some sort of personality exploration whether its DiSC, StrengthsFinder, Meyers-Briggs, heck, even astrology if you’re getting a complete chart!
Equipped with these basic tools, I encourage every leader to take the risk and invite others into their village, open their hearts and minds to sharing and expanding the vision and let the creativity begin to amplify.