“Pressure comes from within, so must be mastered from within” – Ed Jacoby
Scaling a business is about balancing how far your processes and procedures can stretch as you experiment with new territories and boundaries, but what about your co-workers and your Co-Founders? How far can you stretch them before the pressure causes a weak spot in your scale-up operation?
As a leader scaling a company, once your processes are watertight, your people will be the most unpredictable, moving asset you will be left to deal with. Not excluding yourself here either, under stress, we can act in ways that often surprise ourselves too.
In the early stages when it’s all new, exciting and playful, creating something cool with your mates is all fun and games. But then when investors are involved, things take a turn, producing your monthly investor KPI report becomes the new norm – it gets serious.
As the business matures; we need to grow with it, but what if one of your Co-Founders isn’t handling the extra load as well as you had expected? Or what if this is you?
When things are going well, they just are, and when they aren’t, they’re not. You think you know yourself and others until you don’t. Like a grey cloud slowly making its way over, feelings of frustration and letdown creep in, contaminating relationships and the work that’s being created.
When this happens to the leadership team, noticeable tensions start to rise, cracks in the communication start to appear, and employees get itchy. And if it’s you feeling the pressure, then to add to it, you’re not having a great time either.
When we are in this space, we can sometimes see ourselves as the saviour and other times the saboteur, we flip between blaming other people for what they have or haven’t done, and then blame ourselves for the part we had to play in it.
All this mental Ping-Pong is exhausting – but the work, decision making, management and momentum hasn’t stopped – we know we’re in a bit of funk, but have mastered a good poker face when meeting with the Board or investors – although any good investor worth their salt can see behind the façade.
The good news.
This scenario is not unique to you or your company. It’s part of being human, a key part of learning how the human machine works. While you’re learning in your role, as we all are, just try not to take yourself or the other people too seriously. Like weather (especially the English kind), pressure and relationship issues will pass. One minute it will be sunny and the next hailing, and then lightly spitting. All of us experience weather.
Let me explain further.
By not taking things too seriously, I don’t mean you just need to ignore it or sweep things under the carpet, that would be misleading. The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania state that 65% of the reason why venture-backed companies fail have to do with senior founding team issues. Now that’s huge!
Now assuming you have your ducks in order and you’re all happy with your role and reward agreement, what’s the remaining variable? Your relationship with each other and your relationship with your own thinking in connection with everything around you.
The way we see it, people matters, only manifest into an issue if we don’t understand where our experience comes from, I’m not saying the KPIs and demands from investors will go away, they won’t, but your experience of them will when you begin to recognise that it is all created from within, on the inside. Stay with me here.
We create our experience of other people, work, money, pressure from our thinking about these things. We never actually experience the ‘thing’ itself, we experience our thinking about things. For example, we don’t experience KPIs, we experience our thinking about KPIs, we don’t experience our Co-Founders or coworkers, we experience our thinking about our Co-Founders and coworkers, don’t don’t experience pressure, we experience our thinking about pressure.
So you might be left asking if we’re not experiencing what’s in front of us, what are we experiencing, when our emotions are telling us we are?
The interesting thing is that everyone else is doing the exact same thing, we are all experiencing our thinking in the moment. But to us, it looks like the other way around. Our experience seems real. It looks like the other person or this month’s targets, or the morning rush-hour commute is causing us to feel a certain way. Pure mind trickery!
Now imagine if everyone in the company believes that they are experiencing pressure from things, blaming others or things for the way they feel. Imagine how damaging this would be to team morale, culture and to achieving what you need to. If you think in this way, you are setting yourself up to be a victim of circumstance, and as a result, triggering a state of panic and threat which, 9x out of 10 stifles productivity and performance, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy and a “see I told you so” attitude.
But what if you decided to play with this for a moment, imagine if you realised that it was your thinking in the moment. Imagine if you were able to remove this extra layer of unhelpful thinking – how much mental space and emotional freedom would that create?
Within this new found space, you will have room for fresh-new insights. As a result – it will lead you to take more action from a place of focused energy rather than pressure and stress, increasing your personal productivity.
As a leader, it will give you both the capacity and capability to help others through sticky patches as you see more clearly when your peers are being led astray by their thoughts.
Now imagine if the whole leadership team and company were able to realise this for themselves – can you imagine how much more you would achieve together – now that would be a high-performing team and all totally possible!