Release the Pressure Valve Gradually
Entrepreneurship is a little like pressure building up in the Instapot you bought over the holidays. There is so much energy inside of the vessel that it feels like it’s going to explode. I was reading about Instapot horror stories online where people accidentally (or out of curiosity) flipped the release valve, only to have tonight’s soup spraying on the kitchen ceilings and walls. I have felt like that guy many times over the years. That might be you too.
The beautiful balance of entrepreneurship is wanting so much for the world to experience your vision while acknowledging that the world can only take so much of you at a given moment. The best entrepreneurs understand that discipline and can conserve and manage that energy in a way customers can understand and teams can execute on.
Have you ever had one of the following experiences?
- I send emails to my team when I read a great article or have a great meeting because I want them to be informed.
- I put presentations together that lays out my vision, but I fail to get the reaction I want.
- I leave prospect meetings without clear next steps because I have overwhelmed them with the possibilities.
- I pitch investors on a vision but don’t get a positive response because I haven’t shown a clear path to execution.
- I get anxious when things aren’t going as planned so I try to force a sales conversion.
I suspect most of you have had one or more of these experiences and it’s frustrating. In your core you know that the market needs your solution, but you aren’t controlling your release valve. Here are some tips that may help you harness the energy within, in a way that can endure, not explode.
- Don’t send one off "look what' I'm learning" emails to your team: I know it's so enticing to keep your team up to date on cool articles, good prospect meetings, etc., but don't do it. It's distracting. Your team is executing on a very clear objective. Your one-off emails aren't helpful. Set aside dedicated time to review your market learnings. Keep it to yourself until that time and your team will appreciate you.
- Keep your slides at 5th grade level (maybe 4th): We have so much we want to share but simplify your slides, whether that be to your customers, investors or team. One point per slide. Reduce the amount of text. Keep it basic. Your audience will only retain a fraction of what you are displaying anyways so be intentional about what you want that to be.
- Sure, share your vision but prove you can execute today. It all seems so clear to the entrepreneur but you're the one that's eating, living, sleeping your business. To most others it is pretty confusing. People want to follow visionaries, but you generally win the deal when you show your tactical plan to execute at this phase, today.
- Prioritize your workflow. The pressure mounts when we feel like we need to be fighting fires on all fronts. Prioritize your work by using a system like Kanban (www.kanbanflow.com). This is a really easy and effective way to plan your day by moving those things forward that need to be executed while acknowledging that a queue of work is building that you'll get to in due time.
- Set team objectives. This is so vitally important, and entrepreneurs are notorious for changing objectives mid-plan. I have done it too. In your quest to climb Mt. Everest, there are many little mountains to scale along the way. Let your team get to the top of one of those and then assess the path ahead. When you change course mid-mountain it creates a lot of variability and frustration. Make sure your mountains are scoped appropriately and that it's clear on why you're scaling it and what you hope to learn.
- Have a stop doing list: Oh wow, have you tried this? It is sooooo hard. Make a list of the things that you are going to stop doing so that you can make room for the things that you are going to do. This may be stopping investing in a feature, putting off a hire, firing a customer, eliminating an unproductive internal meeting. Challenge yourself to stop doing 1-2 things per month.
You are totally energized by your opportunity to change the world. I get that. But how you proceed on that march takes a tremendous amount of self-control and discipline. Save yourself the clean-up and release the pressure valve gradually. It's a long journey.