Leveling Up

by
Steve August
March 23, 2021
5 Rules for Rocket Ships
,
Scaling

The past few weeks have been especially challenging for two of my clients. They were both dealing with situations that resulted in a long-time Co-Founder departing their company.

These kinds of transitions are hugely stressful. It’s times like these that the urgent issue calls that are part of my coaching packages are used quite heavily (I am happy to support, having lived through these myself).

There’s a lot to process and think about:

-Re-creating their relationship with their former Co-Founder
-Figuring out the right path of action
-Navigating how to inform their board and investors
-Framing the story for the team

All the while, they are continuing to lead the day-to-day operations of a company that still needs to hit milestones, ship product, win customers, and support their employees.

It’s mentally and emotionally exhausting.

In my experience, these situations have been building for a long time and have just finally come to a head. Whether a Co-Founder decides to move on or the company is in a tight circumstance and a Co-Founder or key employee is not pulling their weight, it’s usually a culmination of something that’s been known all along.

Founders — especially more empathetic, highly emotional EQ Founders — will often push off these kinds of decisions as long as possible. Visionary Evangelists are especially adept at coming up with with clever solutions that temporarily address a situation, but this only kicks dealing with the root problem down the road.

There comes a point though when there is no other choice but to face the hard thing. To have tough and honest conversations. To recognize that not everyone is going to be made happy and whole. And to do what needs to be done because that’s what needs to be done to serve the company, team, and vision.

The lead up to the final decision and communication of it is filled with anxiety, fear, and doubt.

But inevitably, once the hard thing is done, the sense of relief kicks in. Usually, the team rallies (because they’ve known it all along). The Investors are not happy per se but are glad that the Founder has done what needs to be done and is leading the company. Even the departing Co-Founders may feel relieved because deep down they’ve known it all along.

Ben Horowitz of Andreessen Horowitz said in an interview, “What made me a good CEO was when I saw something that was hard and uncomfortable, I always went right at them instead of away from them.”

I’ve never been prouder of my two clients because facing these hard situations with grace and humanity and doing what needs to be done is where Founders level up.

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