In The Beginning
I have the privilege of working with a couple of business incubators and several start-up company founders. The founders are sometimes surprised when I suggest that they must pay attention to leadership now, not later. They are even more surprised and usually totally unprepared to talk about their fundamental organizing principles.
It “all” starts with fundamental organizing principles (FOPs). Those FOPs determine visible values. I put it this way:
“Fundamental Organizing Principles (FOPs) underpin your Values, which inform your Beliefs, which determine your Actions and Reactions, thus ensuring Results which, when properly recognized and analyzed, determine either Adjustment or Reinforcement of Beliefs or Values.”
Attempt to Balance Life
To build a business where you, the founder, will be able also to have a life, you will need to actively manage the culture in a way that ensures that others can accept delegated responsibility, be held accountable, and enjoy genuine autonomy. What better time than in the beginning? Why not start with the end — a fully realized Intent-Based Leadership (IBL) organization — in mind?
There will need to be more than one decision maker to scale the business. Ideally, we want everyone to think and improve operations. We want people closest to the information to be taking action, not asking permission. To build that kind of operation, people must embrace the same values. As I said, what better time to begin this critical process than in the very beginning? Changing a culture, once it has formed, is exceedingly difficult. Getting it right in the first place is also tricky, but not nearly so difficult as trying to change an entrenched culture.
Great leaders are fully self-aware. They know their FOPs and Values. The problem is they rarely have if ever, put those concepts into words that paint vivid pictures in the minds of other humans. And only very rarely have they thought about interview questions that will elicit the values held by an interviewee. The goal is to see that before I hire even my first employee, we have a meeting of the minds around values. To me, this is far more important than worrying about technical skills. As a friend is fond of saying, “I will hire for attitude and train for aptitude.” Should a prospective team member have both compatible values AND excellent technical skills, then, I’ve hit the jackpot. Superior technical skills will not get you hired if I have to compromise on your values. That is because I will not be able to depend on your decisions, and I’m not interested in micromanaging you.
In her excellent poem (see the image above), It Matters What We Believe, Sophia Lyon Fahs pretty much nails it:
“Some beliefs are rigid, like the body of death, impotent in a changing world. Other beliefs are pliable, like the young sapling, ever growing with the upward trust of life.”
Since FOPs underpin Values, which, in turn, inform Beliefs, our organizations must hire for values and train for skills. Our world is changing too fast for rigid and misaligned values/beliefs.