When I coach startup founders and CEOs, I spend a lot of time helping them step back and think about what their job is. The job is dynamic, and the CEO has to shift between various roles-- everything from hiring great talent, flying to a large customer to close the deal, and coordinating strategy sessions with the executive team.
Within this changing set of roles, there's something that remains constant. One of the key jobs of a startup CEO is to infuse energy into the company.
The ups and downs of startups take their toll on everyone. The CEO has to help everyone stay positive and handle problems as they come.
But how do you remember to do that every day, especially when you are also dealing with these highs and lows? Here are some ways to create a system for yourself to help you energize your team.
1. Manage your own mood.
As the leader you are under surveillance all the time. Your mood is visible and contagious to your employees, and they are often discussing it among themselves and trying to interpret what it means. If you seem solemn or serious they might think the company is in trouble, and they won't know that your child kept you up all night because she had a bad cold or that you feel off because you missed your morning workout.
So you have to manage your mood for your own good and for the sake of your company. The best way to do this is to create a routine to help center yourself in the morning and the middle of the day.
In the morning: take five to 30 minutes every day to do a nourishing morning routine. One of my clients writes in his gratitude journal; one works out every day at 6 a.m.; and one of my clients watches silly YouTube videos every morning with her kids. It can be anything that centers you and lifts your spirits. The key to the routine is that it sets the right tone for you day and you do it every day. That way it becomes a touchstone for you to set yourself up for success.
Since it's easy to get off track during the day (maybe you lost a big client, or maybe one of your star employees is threatening to quit), find time in the middle of the day to re-center. Take a quick walk around the block; find a quiet space and just breath. Find a practice that helps you regain perspective.
2. Connect in little pockets of time.
Personal connection energizes your people. It's impossible to spend all your time connecting, but when you plan you can increase your leverage.
One of the CEOs I coach realized that he had very little spontaneous interaction with his team, and even less with the company as a whole. He asked his admin to schedule some lunches and drinks one to one with his executive team and in small groups with other employees so he would have more informal time with them. He also asked his executive team to let him know the details about the achievements of their people so he could reach out to them to give them credit.
Then, he created a system for himself: he took 10 minutes daily to send out encouraging or thank you emails to specific employees. Twice per week, he allocated 20 minutes to walk the halls for the simple purpose of chatting with people. When the leader mingles, energy goes up.
3. Share yourself and your vision.
It sounds corny, but it's a cliché for a reason: people want to believe in you and in your vision. When you share it with them, that's energizing. When you don't you miss the chance to actively energize the work ecosystem.
One of the founders I coach had always assumed that "sharing her vision" meant that she always had to hold elaborate meetings talking about lofty topics. Not true-- her employees just wanted her to tell them what she was thinking more often. She traveled a lot to see customers and investors, so she started sending out emails from her travels - quick, informal notes that she called "slice of life from the road."
She gave them a sense of what clients loved about the product and observations she had from her meetings with them. She enjoyed writing down her thoughts and her employees felt more connected to customers and to her-- that was energizing.
Whatever leadership role you have in your company, think about how you can be a force to infuse positive energy into the system. After all, that's your most important job.