On June 17th, 2020, a group of extraordinary entrepreneurs joined us for at Unshakeable for a round-table webinar that focused on humility in leadership. Speakers including Greenlight founder Keith Ferrazzi, Square co-founder Jim McKelvey, Foundry Group co-founder Brad Feld, Edward Jones managing partner Penny Peggington, Benson Hill co-founder Matt Crisp, and iSelectFund CEO Carter Williams discussed how to use these next few months to foster opportunities for regeneration and innovation.
McKelvey defined the entrepreneur as someone who does what has never been done before. Companies that try to create things that are fundamentally different sometimes fail, but it is in this pursuit that we innovate. Our entrepreneurial success can best be fostered through strong interpersonal relationships. You’ll need the very best employees and partners to rise above the competition.
Crisp reminded us that while some people can’t adapt to the dynamics of entrepreneurial workplaces, many people feel liberated by them. This is the type of employee we want, one who possesses a growth-focused mindset and a willingness to change. Of course, Crisp did his due diligence looking at their resumes too!
Once we have these employees, we need to define expectations. As an entrepreneur, you and your workers are bound in a social contact that defines the expectations both groups have of themselves and each other. Ferrazzi encouraged all of us to spend the next two months ‘recontracting,’ or renegotiating those expectations. Through recontacting, you can push your employees to look for unexpected growth and engage in collaborative problem solving. Including our teams in discussions can thus cultivate good behaviors.
Through demonstrating our own radical adaptability and agility, we lead by example, leading our teams and organizations to follow our lead. While we won’t gain all that agility overnight, we must use small practices to encourage the right mindset on our own part. As Ferrazzi says, “we don’t think our way into a new way of acting. We act our way into a new way of thinking.”
Ferrazzi encourages us to use “co-elevation,” or using your leadership role to infuse accountability into the team, instead of wasting time on delegating authority. Through peer-to-peer accountability, the team will find ways to lift each other up. We give too much weight to authority and spend too much time figuring out who has it. Instead, through co-elevation, you can encourage humility and co-creation.
Ferrazzi offered some tangible exercises to help make it happen. For example, you can lead your employees in a ‘bulletproofing’ session, where everybody talks about the critical hills they’ve been facing, and then break into small groups to discuss the hard steps they will take to remedy those hills. Crucially, everybody must feel comfortable speaking without repercussion.
You must remember that Inn the best innovation will come from you, not existing big business. Williams encourages you to find investors in ‘your space,’ whatever industry that may be. Don’t expect them to all say yes instinctively, but always keep trying. And remember that empathy is the most important tool to recalibrate our leadership. “We are in the same storm but we’re all in different boats,” as Pennington said.