I want to introduce you to a new personal productivity tool, that I am testing with myself, which I think will help you as an entrepreneur. You are welcome to use it even if you are not one, but YMMV.
As a founder there will be many situations when you will disagree with many folks in your organization. With your cofounder, your investors, employees, etc. I have learned the hard way that many of these disagreements result in irreparable damage to relationships, and in some cases permanently. You will become very unhappy in this situations. This tool is to help you avoid many unhappy moments.
Of course, it is very hard, in fact sometimes impossible to be objective about the situation or have a very high level of Emotional Quotient to ensure you are doing the “right thing”.
One of my investors ages ago taught me this lesson early, but I have a blind spot, which I have learned, which is my innate desire to be the “smartest person in the room” and also to be the person that’s “right most of the time”.
This is still in the works, so by no means am I an expert, take this tool with a lot of salt.
When you have a vision as a founder to solve a problem, the first thing I’d advice you to do besides write it down, is to put it in a notepad file or sticky notepad and keep it on your desktop screen all the time. Write down also a list of things you wont compromise on and things you are willing to let go.
Here’s an example: I am making this up on the fly, so bear with me.
Your vision would be, for example, or what happens when you achieve nirvana.
AmazingCo envisions a world where working mom’s are fit and healthy and eliminate their propensity for lifestyle diseases.
Now for your mission statement - or why you exist.
AmazingCo exits to make the best fitness application for working mom’s who have to juggle multiple chores and priorities by making it easier to integrate exercise into her daily routine.
Then the next thing I’d do is to make a list of values - things you and your cofounder believe in firmly – these will define your culture to a large extent: For example:
1. Speed – we value people that move quickly and make decisions fast
2. Open communication – we value honest feedback
3. Collaboration – we believe people should work with one other well, team before self.
These will help you determine who you’d like to hire and how they’d be successful in the company.
You and your cofounder may have disagreements about this as well, and that’s the whole point of this exercise.
As a side note, dont be fixated on having 3, 5, 7 or some odd, but arbitrary number of values – list as many as you care. Of course, larger the number, the harder it gets to communicate them. If you need help, read the list of values and culture of the best leading technology companies.
When you have disagreements with your founder, the first thing to know about your self, is to find what triggers and what emotions overcome your self, when you feel disappointed, angry or despair. This is the MOST critical part. I would say the first step is knowing more about yourself.
What I found was that I lacked the ability to overcome the emotional barrier. I recognized the barrier, but I was unable to not go “ballistic”, when that happened. By ballistic, I mean, getting really upset enough to disagree and try to win the argument so I could prove that I was smarter or that I was right.
So, the best thing to do is to appoint yourself a helpful friend, colleague or significant other as your “personal trigger detector”. This person’s sole job is to remind you when you are getting into the unproductive zone.
When you have finished your mission, vision and values, the next thing you need is your “happiness manifesto”.
This list of things is items you consider sacred to your happiness. They should align closely with your values, BTW, so dont be surprised if you repeat them here.
1. I will be happy when things are clean around my work area
2. I am happy when people acknowledge my points, even if they are not valid.
3. I am happy when I am able to get food on time.
The next part of your happiness manifesto, is what you are willing to compromise. I have found that this compromise list feed off the values / happiness lists.
What are you okay with because you chose to value certain things will be on this list.
1. I am okay with other people having a messy work area.
2. I am okay if we have many bugs in our product because I value speed over perfection
3. I am okay with many difficult questions from employees because we value open communications.
Then I would put this on your communications and keep reminding yourself to pick your battles.
If a situation arises which triggers responses from you that you dont like, remind yourself to look at your compromise list to see if it deserves a response.
Most likely it wont deserve a response. Move on.
Pick your battles wisely as an entrepreneur – use the happiness manifesto and let me know if it works for you.