April 1, 2012

Why Don't They Support Me?

It's really great to see so many startups popping up around Central PA, and for me it gives me the chance to do one of my favorite things--help founders by giving advice. If only they could pay... :) 

This is something I'm hearing from a number of them recently.

You're working hard. You have vision and the plans to get there. You're executing on those plans. It's been a month or two, or six, and the people dependent on you don't know the details. They forget.

You've set the goals and strategy to get there. And you're doing the work. Everyone on your team is working hard, and you really have no idea whether this is going to work or not. 

And then your wife or husband questions you. Or a board member. Or a team member. And you can't understand why they don't support you fully, or whatever insecurity that creeps up and makes you feel alone.

Feels a bit unsettling. 

Maybe even feels a little rotten. And you know what? It's your fault. Not theirs. They don't understand because of you. 

There's a great scene in a mediocre movie, "The American President"--watch it before reading on (about 30 seconds). 

There's a vacuum. Your vacuum--you created it and left it unattended. 

So they fill that vacuum with their own insecurities, which leads them to a new set of beliefs and ideas, and they start talking about them, and to each other, and they reinforce their bright new but faulty set of beliefs and idea. 

And since they're the only ones talking, the people around them will drink the sand because they're so thirsty for leadership. 

If you don't lead, someone else will fill the vacuum, and in doing so they'll change the conversation, and in changing the conversation they'll change the business toward that new conversation. Or their relationship with you. And what they tell other people about it. 

It's erosive. 

But they forgot the mission because you allowed them to, and they no longer gave you the benefit of the doubt. 

You have to own the conversation. So how?

Tell them what you're about to tell them. Then tell them what you said you'd tell them. Then summarize what you told them. Do it weekly in email. Bi-weekly by phone. Rinse, repeat.  

Communicate what?
That you are leading, that you have a strategy toward reaching a specific goal, that you have a plan for managing toward success. 

What details?
The goal, strategy to get there, the specific tasks and deliverables, the dates of those deliverables, and the expected results of that work. 

So it takes a bit of work and a lot of repetition, but it's not hard. 

It's a discipline you really need to get into if you are working with other people, have investors, or have relationships dependent on you and your work. And it will prevent your hard work from becoming even harder, and will help strengthen your support as you go. 

And then, of course, you gotta actually deliver. :)