Lessons In Leadership (or: Asking The Right Questions)
One thing I learned the hard way in my first startup is — when you are the leader, your people will take every word from you as gospel.
It took me quite a while to realize that every time I opened my mouth and spewed out a half-baked idea, my team would take this as the new directive and get to work. Which ended up with countless hours wasted on ideas which weren’t thought through or even helpful. People just assume (rightfully so) that what you say is the direction and that whatever you say has weight.
It’s something which was hard for me to get adjusted to — as I love spitting out ideas in their raw form and then have creative dialog about them. Often (actually: usually) these ideas mount to nothing. I learned the hard way the universal truth that words are powerful. In the end I did all my idea sparring with a select group of people (mostly outside of my company) and made sure I was very deliberate about the impact my words have inside of my startup.
Yesterday I read an interview with Alexa von Tobel (founder of LearnVest.com) who talked about the very same thing. Her advice is much, much smarter than mine though — instead of “shielding” your team from your raw ideas (and thus losing out on their input and thoughts) she suggests a simple framing:
“Here’s my bad ideas. Now make them better.”
It’s brilliant. Try it out when you present your next half-baked idea to your team.