Are You Someone Who Goes First?
In a startup, you need people who are willing to be first.
I captured this shot many years ago (my son’s not so little anymore — he’s kind of big and smelly and sweaty). We were out walking on a foggy morning on an unmade countryside road. I didn’t know where it led, so I told him to stop and turn around.
He shot this look back at me. As if to say — “are you kidding me, we are definitely going to go down this dark foggy dirt road and figure out where it goes. You coming or not, Dad?”
Of course, he didn’t say that. He was only four and not so articulate. I love the photo because it reminds me to explore, to push into the unknown, seek out ambiguity.
It’s a critical mindset to have in a startup. So many things you do are “firsts.” Paths nobody else has been down. Tracks that aren’t clear.
Yet, at least in business, our natural inclination is not to go first. People often hang back and see how things work out for others before forging forward. Or they suffer the plight of status-quo bias — flirting with the idea of being the first to do something but then settling for the same old same old.
Essentially they chicken out.
Leaders aren’t afraid to go first. They understand that most people are looking for someone to guide them down the unknown paths. Most people want to follow a map. It takes a leader to plot the course and embark on the initial journey. Leaders have the confidence to know people will follow.
In the situations where you head down those paths (and lead others) something good almost always occurs.
Seek out the leaders in your business. Don’t just look to your people managers — find your authentic informal leaders (AILs). To identify AILs, look out for folks who naturally motivate others, consistently role model behaviours you value, are well connected and popular amongst staff and have a strong voice in meetings. Do everything you can to keep them at the front of your business. People will follow. Good things will happen.