7 COREageous Ways to Beat Founder Loneliness

It’s well known that founders are at risk for anxiety and depression. An aspect of entrepreneurship that’s rarely addressed is ‘loneliness.’ The ‘loneliness’ that founders describe is not about living alone or being physically isolated. My clients’ loneliness is more about having to keep doubts and failures secret because they are not living with or surrounded by other self-starter types who “get it.”

A lack of trust, a fear of rocking the boat, losing support or weakening morale combine to create a form of loneliness unique to entrepreneurship.

Here are excerpts from a letter sent by a COREageous subscriber, a founder of a travel design company whose description of ‘founder loneliness’ speaks for many of my clients. He asked for ways to manage the loneliness he experiences much of the time:

The fact is that I really can’t share my frustrations with anyone inside the company. I have to be so careful what I say to someone, even my co-founder, because somehow that information gets distorted and passed to everyone in the company as it only creates an endless cycle of damage control…

 I feel like I lead this double life:  my startup and my marriage. I can’t let the two cross paths, meaning I can’t unload on her (every night).

I’d like to share my concerns with my board, but I’m afraid they might lose faith in me, or second guess the project if I do…

My free time and money is limited. How can I deal with this loneliness and keep moving forward?

Here are 7 ways to help busy and cash-strapped entrepreneurs beat loneliness:

1.Reach out anonymously to other entrepreneurs online. You are not alone.

2. Find camaraderie outside of your startup playing on a team, joining a church group or a teaming up on a community project that lifts you up.

3. Share your thoughts with a non-dependent family member you can trust 100%.

4. Find an entrepreneur coach or a mentor. Just an occasional venting and problem-solving session can do wonders.

5.Watch videos and listen to podcasts of entrepreneurs you aspire to − preferably those who had a lot of hard knocks along the way.

6. Journal your concerns and frustrations. Writing them down gets them out of your head, clarifies your thoughts and leads to creative solutions and next steps.

7. Don’t give up.

Feeling anxious, depressed and lonely as a founder? CoreCoaching may be the outlet you need to share concerns and brainstorm solutions. Contact me at [email protected]

Fear of Feedback

Q: We have a very sensitive engineer who is key to our startup. My partner and I have to be very careful how we phrase anything regarding his work. I’m not even talking about constructive criticism; it may just be something said in passing. We try very hard not to say anything that may be misconstrued, but you just never know what is going to be misinterpreted. How do you suggest dealing with this employee?

For many, fear of feedback (including compliments) is a problem. The most common reason for someone to be this sensitive is that in their past they were severely and frequently criticized, so even the mildest suggestion is painful. They may express this fear of feedback in several self-sabotaging ways: denial, procrastination, rigidity, avoidance, jealousy, brooding etc. It’s extremely self-limiting burden to bear, personally and professionally. Any slight suggestion is interpreted as failure or rejection. An extreme fear of feedback is a condition called Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria (RSD) and improved only with medication.

Your employee’s sensitivity to feedback may require some outside coaching or some clinical help, but here are things you can do:

1) Increase trust. Schedule a short coffee break with him a couple times a week to talk about his interests or how the startup is moving along. Point out general areas of improvement that are needed within your startup (marketing, beta testing, quality control etc.) and share the remedial steps that others had to take.

2) Get his perspective on ways to make the company better, and how to implement those improvements. Let him know you appreciate the perspective sharing. This is a good way to model how positively feedback can be received and put to work.

3) Gradually, I would point out a change that he needs to make in order to make the company better and possibly to incentivize him. Use numbers and benchmarks. Avoid making any direct attacks on his performance; keep it more “big picture.” Break it down the change into do-able steps with opportunities for regular updates.

4) Verbally reinforce any progress made toward change.

If that fails, coaching is a good next step. As a coach, I would help him identify the emotion behind his reaction, and help him re-frame the criticism to loosen the grip of the negative association. Next, I would help him approach the needed change by breaking down the task to small, satisfying and manageable chunks. In my experience, this results in decreasing the fear of feedback, and in most cases, creating a healthier attitude around feedback.

If the fear of feedback prevents you from advancing in your career and in your relationships, let’s have a talk. Contact me at [email protected]

 

Managing Drama in Your Startup

According to a new book, No Ego by business consultant Cy Wakeman, the average worker spends 2.5 hours per day distracted by drama! We’ve all experienced varying degrees of workplace drama in other jobs – personal losses, power struggles, insubordination, office gossip and petty arguments.  Until you start a business of your own, you may not be aware of how significantly drama can hurt your bottom line. How to manage workplace drama is not typically noted in the founder’s play book. If no drama has spiked in your startup thus far, good for you, but unless you’re working with robots, it’s inevitable.

The usual sources of drama in a startup can be traced to hires without proper job descriptions, under-performing or disgruntled employees, changes in procedures, slow periods and accelerated periods where the company has to scale up quickly. Another source of drama is the life of the employee. Just as employees bring the work stress home with them, employees bring their home traumas to work. Let me address some solutions the “trauma to drama” variety.

Most CEOs want to create an open, caring work environment where people look forward to coming to work. The workplace  may be the only safe and inspiriting environment in some people’s lives.  I support mindful listening as a way to understand an employee who is experiencing personal problems outside of work. Listening wholeheartedly to an employee can help you gauge the intensity and duration of the situation so as to come up with solutions that will prevent company losses. It is the responsibility of the employee, not the employer, to ultimately solve his/her personal problems. It must be made clear that work is not a counseling center or a rehab. His or her fellow employees are not being paid to be social workers. Allowances such as a more flexible schedule, an extended lunch hour or such accommodations are appropriate. A business may have to find some temporary coverage, and if possible, the employee may need to train the temp. Your HR department may assist in finding counselors or support groups. But, I suggest that a business set in advance, reasonable limits to these assists. Meet with your staff and talk about what to do if such drama erupts.

More to come on workplace drama in future blogs.

Are you the frequent victim or the instigator of drama at your workplace? Being one or the other could cost you your job or your career. If that’s you, let’s discuss! [email protected]      

If Your Creativity Needs a Kick, Seek Unusual Sources

You may have your new product or service up and running, or you’re in the process of getting your new business off the ground. It’s frustrating to lack new ways to be competitive and for solving day-to-day problems.  We typically rely on our experience, knowledge, self-help books and the wisdom of industry leaders for solutions, but sometimes we have to get out of our closed circle of reference and seek “a refresh” from unexpected sources.

As a coach, it’s up to me to offer fresh eyes and new perspectives for my clients to explore. When I feel even close to getting bored with my usual strategies and tactics, I’m curiously drawn to books like The Men Who Changed the Course of American History, Tripping Over the Truth, Stories From Shakespeare, The Alchemist, or collections of mystery stories. Movies like Midnight in Paris or The Darkest Hour remind me, in contrasting ways, that it’s okay to listen to my gut, change my mind and inspire others to do the same. Any books or movies that have to do with discovery or attempts to solve difficult problems of all sorts should be on your list. Perhaps these books and movies won’t give you any direct answers or solutions, but they will add enlightening bits and pieces to what you already know and re-kindle your creative spark.

Need some fresh eyes to help solve a problem in your company? Get COREageous and contact me at [email protected]        

Pick Up the Pace on Sunday

This morning, as I rode my bike towards the last of three “nasty” hills (in COREageous-speak that translates into “wonderfully steep”), it reminded me of how important it is to build some momentum ahead of a challenge. If I wait to pick up the pace at the base of the hill, the climb is less forgiving. (Actually, “miserable” and “energy-sucking” are better descriptors.) It’s much smarter to get some speed going a quarter mile before the incline.

I use this experience to incite a mental shift from the weekend to the workweek. On Sundays, while most people hang around and dread Monday, with a Sunday ritual you can get ahead of the pack and cruise full speed ahead into the workweek. If you let the Sunday-Monday doldrums attack you, it will take Herculean effort to pump up your mood and meet your milestones for the week. I also share this Sunday ritual lecture with my college clients, the future entrepreneurs.

Even if you’re not a fitness nut, work with me here: Get up early Sunday while the house is quiet, hydrate and do some stretches. Read the news, check your phone, have a strong cup of coffee or tea. Enjoy a healthy breakfast with your family or a friend. Gather your gear, think about your route and air up the tires. Think about what you want to accomplish today. You’re warming up easy on the flats. Look over your plan. See the hill way in the distance? It’s comin’ fast. Listen to a motivational podcast or read an article from your industry. Gradually pick up the pace, 100 yards to go before the incline. With your intellectual energy piqued, your focus strong and your phone turned off – get to work. You’ve got this! Charge up that hill!

Pick up the pace on Sunday. It’ll be easy to keep that positive energy and determination going all week, without even breaking a sweat!

I’m eager to hear how the Sunday ritual is working for you! Please write me at [email protected]

My Favorite Ways to Shift from Vacation to Work Mode

If you took any significant time off for vacation, and if you are having or anticipating a sluggish transition back to work, consider these tips:

  1. Once you’re back, stow away all vacation paraphernalia as soon as possible: suitcases, event t-shirts or souvenirs. Lingering over pictures and vacay stuff is distractible and fortifies your post-vacay malaise.
  2. If your post vacation to-do list gives you a sinking feeling, take several minutes to refresh your intention, the passion and purpose for your work.
  3. Restore your (normalized, I hope!) pre-vacation sleep and exercise routines. Challenge yourself on Monday to add on another five pushups or sit ups to your daily workout.
  4. Round up your team members and refine your goals for the next quarter. Encourage folks to share any ideas for the company that popped up in their minds while on vacation. Plan a couple affordable office events for the fall – apple picking, a picnic lunch, a Sunday brunch staff meeting at your house, etc.
  5. Detox yourself. Drink plenty of water and eat lots of greens. Alcohol, junk food and lavish desserts drag down your energy; the effects of additives, bad fats and sugar can linger in your body for many days.
  6. Think of one situation you encountered during your vacation that inspired you to greater heights in your life. Here are some examples of such moments:

• The golfing partner with the great attitude whose ball landed in every water hole or sand trap along the way, until he scored a hole-in-one at 18

• The waiter who gave you the greatest idea for enhancing customer service

• The fellow at the bar who shared a book that gave answers to a problem you’ve been dealing with for months

• The one-armed surfer and the veteran with the artificial leg who handily conquered 20 foot waves beating the normal-limbed competition “hands down.”

• The 95 year old man who stood in the hot sun at the finish line to cheer on his 85 year old college sweetheart.

Not enough solutions for you? How about a back-to-work-pick-me-up coaching session?

Contact me at [email protected]

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