T.J. from Chicago, Ill. writes: Rebecca, Lately, due to delays and disruptions in our distribution channels, my co-founder has become more vocal about wanting to shift direction and try new ideas. His excitement is causing confusion and anxiety amongst our small team. I believe we have to stay steady on the track we’re on while entertaining options. Big shifts feel premature right now. How can I help him stay grounded?

The turbulence in the economy is a cause for concern among small and large businesses. As creativity has saved many a startup from extinction during troubled times, it can also be a danger to shift direction without careful consideration.

T.J.,  encourage your co-founder to seek out hard data to support his new direction, and to do in private without stressing out the team. His sleuthing may uncover a wealth of information that could justify a change in focus.

In his excitement, however, he may overlook the potential losses of staff, resources, customers and the costs of executing a new strategy. What is the competition up to? How does the new direction match up with the mission and values of the business? Compare that data with the advantages of staying on your present course. Get feedback from trusted mentors seasoned in the industry.

New ideas are welcome as long as all factors and perspectives are taken into account.

Having trouble managing a valued, but impulsive co-worker? I can help. Contact me at [email protected]

Hiring Mission-Driven Employees

You believe in your mission wholeheartedly.  As a founder, you are fired up to work hard every day. And when funds are tight and resources are limited, or when a crisis like COVID erupts, you need employees to do their best work.

Based on the numerous requests I receive for coaching up unmotivated and underproductive team players, it makes sense to identify a candidate’s motivation and commitment at the hiring phase. Here are some interview questions that may give you a window into a candidate’s motivation to work hard and buy in to the mission:

  • How do you relate to our company’s mission?
  • What is the first thing you do when you are assigned a task with little or no direction?
  • Tell me about a time when almost failed to meet a deadline. What happened? What steps did you take?
  • We may have situations where I need ‘all hands on deck.’ What sacrifices are you willing to make in those situations?
  • Have you ever proposed changes or innovations to the betterment of the company? Were they implemented? Give me an example.
  • What motivates you to meet expectations?

Are you still being fooled by candidates who misrepresent their motivation and commitment to hard work? Perhaps we need to probe further. Contact me at [email protected]

Self-help, Coaching or Therapy?

Emotional self-regulation is an essential core skill for a founder. When challenges mount up, vulnerabilities are unveiled that could sabotage your ability to make good decisions, listen mindfully and get back on track.

For the sake of your startup, know the options for  managing your emotions. Here are three routes to consider:

Feeling stressed, tired and aggravated a lot more lately? Is this is a problem you can solve yourself?  Are you taking time to relax and re-center yourself? Are you getting good quality sleep and exercise? Can you identify the root of your distress and make the needed adjustments?

Perhaps your anxiety and low mood are due to weaknesses in your executive functioning, communication or leadership skills?  Coaching can help. However, a good coach knows when a client needs more than coaching and will direct you to more appropriate services.

Emotional problems stemming from chronic depression, mood swings, insomnia, trauma and dysfunctional relationships are best treated with therapy with or without medication. If you neglect self-care or are drawn to addictive behaviors, these are also good reasons to seek a psychologist or mental health professional as soon as possible.

For more information on CoreCoaching, contact me at [email protected]. For a qualified psychotherapist, check out the therapy directory at www.PsychologyToday.com.

Basics for Recruiting Your Team

It takes time to build a great team; some say it is an art. If and when you decide to seek funding for your startup, the quality and synergy of your team will be paramount to investors.

Jonah, the CEO of an off-shore textile startup, considered himself “a good judge of people.”  Jonah based his decisions on resumes, first impressions and less so on the basics.  So certain of his intuition and short on time, Jonah acted quickly often neglecting to check references until after an offer was accepted.

Jonah lamented that about half of his choices of candidates resulted in a wide range of problems including customer complaints, insubordination and theft— time, money and reputation busters for a startup.

Intuition plays a role, but consider a few basics to round out the decision-making process:

  • Qualifications – do they have the right skills and experience? How have they demonstrated competence? Have they previously worked for startups and, if not, are they aware of the unique demands of startups in terms of compensation, flexible work hours, travel, etc.?
  • Check references early in the interview process.( See the mini-chapter called ”The Art of Reference Checking” in The Art of the Start 2.0 by Guy Kawasaki)
  • Do they understand and believe in your mission? Get them to elaborate on that one.
  • Have they good people skills? Are they likeable, collaborative and communicative? What is their track record with customer service?

Have you a valuable new hire who needs coaching in the people skills department? I can help. Contact me at [email protected]  

Creating Your Company’s Culture: A Philosophy to Ponder

A company culture is the vibe of a company. It sets the tone for how you do business internally and externally. It is a philosophy for how you communicate your brand and how you treat people.

As a solopreneur or a founder with a small team, you may think it too early to contemplate your  company’s culture. Not so. Research shows that companies that establish a healthy and positive culture from the start are more successful and sustaining. It is also a well-known fact that fixing a broken culture is a productivity-consuming and expensive overhaul.

As a leader, your team will look to your example as a way to bring mission and value statements to life. So, take a few minutes to envision the ideal culture for your new enterprise:

  • How would you want to be treated if you were a customer or an employee?
  • How do you want employees and customers to feel about your product and service?
  • How can your brand communicate the same intent?
  • When recruiting team players how will you identify those that align with your cultural vision?

Put your answers on paper and abide by them as you build your startup. Be the culture you want to create.

Need more help in defining and building a successful and sustaining company culture? Contact me at [email protected]       

Access Your Personal Resources

If there’s a fire, you grab a fire extinguisher. If the sun is too bright, you put on sunglasses. If you’re out of sugar, you use honey. But, when you wake up in a bad mood, experience a loss or get discouraged, how do you get back on track and not waste the day?

If you fail to call on your psychological, physical or spiritual resources when problems arise, you may find yourself, figuratively, up a creek without a paddle.

In Core Coaching, I ask clients to list their resources. Then I ask them to share the cues or events that trigger fear, wallowing and procrastination. We match a cue with a resource that best serves to reverse the unwanted behavior. (I discourage using a person as a resource because people, unlike our innate resources, are not always available.) Over time our resources may change or become richer. We refresh and review them often so they are at the ready. Here are some of my founders’ favorite and most effective go-to resources:

  • Peter, a recovering alcoholic, accesses the prayers his AA Mentor gave him.
  • Jenny, a single mom, pulls out pictures of her children and thinks about the lifestyle she wants for them.
  • Bruce studies Stoic philosophy and calls up a “perspective of objectivity” to prevent his thinking brain from being hijacked by his emotional brain.
  • Erica gets out of her chair and takes a brisk 5-10 minute walk outside and reflects on her company’s mission.

Today, take a few minutes to list your personal resources so you can access them when the goin’  get tough.

Are you stuck in the startup muck of indecisiveness and failure to execute? Trouble getting focused and following through? Contact me at [email protected]       

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