Joe Wilson, Kanye West, Serena Williams...what do these three have in common? They have all provided startling examples that we as a society are losing control of our filters. You know, that 3 seconds we take to assess the impact of what we say and make a conscious decision to proceed or not.
I have had personal experiences along these lines that have also left me wondering if we are less patient and just plain mean because of a new generational culture or perhaps the stress of the recession. Twice in the last couple of weeks, people trying to sell something either in person or on the phone have gotten mad at me and been very rude because I didn't want to take advantage of their offer. Wait, I thought I was the customer?
So, you may be wondering, what does this have to do with being a leader in a start up. Simply put, everything. As a leader we are the face of the company. The way we behave both interally and externally affects initial perceptions of what the company is about. People notice whether we honor our commitments, how we treat people, and whether we do the right thing or the easy thing. In the early stage of a start up, the growing reputation of the company and the relationships that are emerging can represent the entire value of the company. Success can easily turn sour if the reputation and relationships, both internal and external, are not attended to.
Some things to think about...
1. How are you treating your team? Is the pace getting things done hindering positive communication?
2. How are you communicating to external partners? Are you hearing their interestes and incorporating them into proposals?
3. Are you honest about what you can deliver and why you might have fallen short?
4. How do you deal with conflict? Do you have mechanisms in place to keep yourself in check when you want to react in a way that is less than productive? More on this one later - it is a big one.
Leaders must pay attention to their interactions and set the tone. I guarentee you that even if I wanted what the two above-referenced sales people were selling, there is no way I would consider buying from them. It is not just what they are selling, but how they are selling it that can close the deal. How does your start up treat the team, partners and consumers? Can you afford to be aggressive and challenging?