Questions

I'm the CEO of a small but extremely fast-growing startup, and here lately I've noticed something that troubles me: The majority of my employees are fairly thoughtless. I'm not saying they're stupid. I'm not saying they are lazy. Neither is true. If they have a clearly defined process, and they've been trained on how to handle it, they can execute with precision and excellence. They'll also do everything in their power to do a good job. But it's a start up. Almost none of our processes are defined. We are also growing so quickly that I don't have time to train everyone. What I really want is to give someone an objective or a problem, and they take all of the data and complexity and compose an elegant solution. I want them to think, problem solve, and be creative. But that's not happening. Pretty much every employee is coming to me with every problem and asking me to think through it and tell them what to do. I've tried asking questions and providing gentle guidance instead of telling them what to do, but they act like I'm punishing them. They sulk and tinker with the problem halfheartedly until I tell them what to do. Part of the problem is me, I think. I have trained them to let me think for them. Whenever they develop a solution, I also have a tendency to very calmly and nicely rip it apart and rebuild something better in front of them. But I also wonder if I'm hiring the wrong people. This is horribly politically incorrect, but sometimes they remind me of a bunch of kids with down syndrome working together to build a sandcastle. They are happy and motivated and hard-working, and they might even create something at least somewhat resembling a sandcastle, but at the end of the day, nobody is going to care when the waves wash it away. Instead, I feel like I need architects, people with such stunning insight and intelligence they can construct a sandcastle like the world has never seen. People will weep when the waves wash it away. But where do I find those people? And how do I convince them to work for me?

I read your story and I feel your pain, but I have bad news. The problem is not your people, the problem is you.
You have a responsibility that goes way beyond developing great products that wow customers; you have the responsibility of leading!

Leadership is one of those subjects that most people feel they have covered, I thought I had it covered too until I found myself in exactly the same shoes as you are wearing right now, and boy did it pinch. It took a while for me to realize I was the problem but three things clued me in:

1. I found out that I kept firing and hiring new people and it did not make a difference

2. I met a friend who was building a great company with what I would consider average people and he was really getting things done. The difference was that leading people came natural to him while building products came natural to me

3. I finally came to terms with the fact that I enjoyed being the solution point and the center of the product development universe. Clients loved me, me people stood in awe of me and I loved it and hated it at the same time

You need to get into a leadership coaching program. I'm sure you will find some very capable people on clarity but trust me, the sooner you start, the better.

Your organization will not change until you change, and there is no better way to say it. Like I said, I know your pain and you are not alone in this my friend.


Answered 5 years ago

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