Over my last decade of coaching, I’ve worked with various founders whose companies were acquired. And suffice it to say the TechCrunch posts and LinkedIn updates do not tell the whole story. My intention in writing this piece is to help other founders anticipate what might be hard about acquisitions so they can “see around the corner” and feel a bit more prepared.
Here are 7 things that can feel unexpectedly hard about leading your company through an acquisition:
# 1 — When you’ve managed to land your team/product/brand somewhere, but it wasn’t a financially life-changing event for you.
I can’t imagine a more tranquil feeling than floating on your back in calm water. Staring skywards, eyes wide open. Indulging in buoyancy.
But to my toddler-age daughter, back floats in swim class were pure terror.
This is the story of how she overcame that fear, and how I learned a few things about safety vs. comfort in the process.
As a startup leadership coach, I think a lot about psychological safety vs. psychological comfort as it applies to the founders and startup teams with whom I work. …
For the third time in a single week, I coached a founder-CEO whose company is Growing. Scaling. Winning. Breaking. Their teams’ heads are spinning with changes to people, products and strategies. Ambiguity abounds. And yeah, their teams are stressed. Really stressed.
And in all three cases, these founders have turned to me and said some version of this: “I don’t get it. Why am I handling the ambiguity better than everyone else around me?”
Or even this: “I don’t know how to relate to all this stress people are talking about. And to be honest, I don’t feel that compassionate…
In their song “Human,” The Killers ask “Are we human? Or are we dancer?” I’m listening to this song on loop while in the throes of a different musing — Are we human? Or are we leader? How can we be both?
I started these reflections in Role Versus Human where I examined the four psychological forces (transference, autonomy, certainty and unreliable narrator bias) that create the conditions for “Role Versus Human” dynamics to thrive in a startup setting.
“Role Versus Human” is my shorthand for a complex interpersonal dynamic that occurs when individuals see a role/title/position of power in…
This is what it sounds like:
“ I usually just see you as the CEO. It’s so easy to forget you are human, too.”
“You’re our leader! You’re strong, solid and always there for us. We never realized you might need us to be there for you.”
“I didn’t see you as a person. I just saw you as a role.”
As a coach to founders and startup leaders, I often hear my clients share stories of hearing comments like these. …
I once spent two days with a coaching client and a cross-functional group of other leaders and managers at his company. When we were debriefing the experience — my first time seeing him “live in action” among his teammates — I told him: “You have so much power in that group.”
I remember thinking that my observation was potentially quite positive. From my vantage point, power was a resource he had to influence teammates and help to shift norms and steward the culture as the company prepared to double in size over the next year.
And yet, my client only…
Emotions are data. We write these three words on the whiteboard during the group coaching sessions or manager trainings that my coaching partner Michael Terrell and I have run hundreds of times over the last several years. What started as a thought-provoking way to engage startup teams on the topic of emotion regulation has become one of our core philosophies as coaches. We’ve found that when we can convince our startup leader clients to start seeing emotions — their own and those of others — as data, it opens them up to radically new ways of understanding, managing and leading.
Inquiry is a powerful and time-efficient skill to draw on when managing others — so I’m not surprised that startup leaders often ask me how they can “get better at inquiry.”
There are certainly some hacks I can teach you (i.e., ask more questions that start with “What” and “How” and fewer questions that start with “Why”) — but what often holds leaders back from excelling at inquiry is not their lack of technique, but rather their emotional state when trying to engage in inquiry.
The Latin root of inquiry is quaerere (“to ask/seek for”) — -which also happens to…
March 23, 2017
Dear Friends and Fans of Foothold ~
My coaching practice turned five years old back on September 23, 2016 which means I’m exactly six months late in getting this letter out to aspiring coaches and others who’ve been following my coaching journey since my 2015 update or my epic first letter in 2014.
To be honest, I thought about just skipping this year altogether.
But then, I recently found myself thinking about how kids who are as old as my coaching practice usually go out of their way to inform people they are “X and a half!”…
The so-called “negative” emotions are labeled that way because they tend to be physically unpleasant or uncomfortable for humans to experience — but the “negative” label says nothing about their utility or value for understanding yourself or engaging others on your startup team. You might be protesting this already: “Wait, but anger isn’t useful! And what could be valuable about disappointment or guilt or sadness?”
Why do I claim that negative emotions are some of the most useful and valuable emotional data out there? It’s because they are flashing neon road signs that point to some really interesting insights about…
Helping startup leaders feel better and lead better since 2011