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The Founder's Most Important Job
The upshot of understanding founder's mojo is that you can use it more effectively. Imagine it this way: with one unit of founder's mojo, either you can do the things that yield one unit of return or you can do the things that yield ten units of return. Your limited energy should go to the latter option every time.
I've come to understand that the most important job of founders, leaders, and executives is to create order out of chaos. (Click to tweet this - thanks!)
This executive-level process of creating order out of chaos lies not in organizing books and papers, but rather in organizing people, activity, and resources. The very act of creating a business is an illuminating case of this principle: a successful startup taps into the existing flux of needs, desires, aspirations, challenges, and money and creates solutions that channel those energies to get people what they want and need. Startups that try to create too many of those factors struggle for a long time - they're digging holes rather than filling the ones already there.
"Chaos," for many people, has become an emotive word, as if there needs to be an exclamation or some negative emoticon that rides along with it. My meaning is closer to "disorder" and it's not necessarily negative; we need chaos as much as we need order to have thriving businesses, for chaos generates creative tension that later leads to insight and innovation.
The growth opportunities for most businesses lie in two places: at the core of the business and at its edges. We focus on growth at the core when we grapple with the toughest challenges of the business and work on our business systems. We focus on growth at the edges when we explore new solutions to create, find ways to reframe our current solutions for new markets, or create disruptive ripples that generate positive change and opportunities for our business. Chaos is normally the greatest at the core and edges of a business.
Between those edges, though, is a vast number of things that do not require founder's mojo. A manager's job, for instance, is to maintain and make iterative improvements on the order that someone else has given him. Bookkeeping, though an essential part of business, is not something that requires founder's mojo; evaluating the financial performance of the company and making constructive changes do.
If the founder isn't placing some mojo on those tough challenges and edge-growth opportunities, no one else is. Employees can't, simply because they don't have founder's mojo. When a founder, executive, or leader tries to delegate the responsibility to jump in there, the result is BOPSAT - a Bunch of People Sitting Around Talking. BOPSAT rarely leads to effective change, and, yes, it happens in small businesses just as frequently as it happens in larger organizations. Ultimately, the founder needs to get involved, make a decision, express priorities, and get people moving.
As part of the process, though, the founder needs to be sharing how those decisions are made so that people don't have to make the same kinds of decisions over and over. This sharing is one of those "growth at the core" activities. Many small businesses get stuck in Stage 3 precisely because their founders haven't shared their decision-making process; they've been the founders-managers-doers for so long that they're not seeing the three different hats they're wearing and not seeing that, at some point, other people need to be wearing two of those hats.
In the next post in this mini-series, we'll look at why founders keep all those hats on even though they really don't want to. Look for it next week.