Lee Iacocca, the great American Ford automobile executive, has a quote that says, "The speed of the boss is the speed of the team."

I've never heard something so true.

As an entrepreneur, you're signing yourself up for "the road less traveled." Part of your challenge is going to be setting self-imposed goals (something most people can't do), and then working relentlessly to not only achieve those goals--but constantly find new goals, and achieve those as well. 

Since this is the nature of entrepreneurship, the idea of "leading by example" isn't one of those feel-good sayings you throw around. It's actually a necessity to develop a sense of urgency that spills over into your entire company. Because guess what? Nobody is there setting self-imposed goals. You were the one who set those goals, and you hired them to help you achieve it. Which means, they're only going to know how important it is to reach those goals based on how important those goals seem to you.

Unfortunately, most founders learn this the hard way.

This is a really important lesson I speak on at length in my book, All In. Too many founders start strong (everyone is gung-ho at the gates), but within a few months, or maybe after a year or so, they start to kick back. They start procrastinating certain things within the business--the worst of them being profit-enhancing initiatives. They assume, "Well, we're making money, I'm sure it'll continue to go up." And then right as they begin to get comfortable, other people on the team see that and think, "I might as well get comfortable too."

Very quickly, your organization can turn complacent. And unfortunately, it's nobody's fault but your own.

The reason it's so important to instill the right kind of hustle within your company from the jump is because it's tremendously more difficult to instill it later. Once habits are in place, they're hard to break. Once people know that it's okay to procrastinate, they will. I've allowed managers in the past to give my goal deadlines I knew could be done much faster--and it ended up hurting the whole company. Even if it got done, the point isn't to get things completed eventually. The goal is to get them done quickly, effectively, and with enthusiasm.

That's the kind of culture you want to build.

Because the truth is, most of us entrepreneurs didn't, can't, and won't ever invent the next iPhone, Facebook, Amazon, etc. That doesn't mean we can't be successful. It just means we have to work that much harder to execute better and faster than the competition in our space. 

In order to do that, you can't be afraid to push your team--and yourself. If you don't ask for those around you to bring a sense of urgency to their work, you'll never get it. And if you have someone on your team that is really great at getting stuff done, promote them. Give them more responsibility. Show the rest of the team members that their behavior is what you're looking for. Trust me, people will step up.

This type of leadership is not for the faint of heart, but it has paid huge dividends for me and the teams I've built. It's the difference between building clear plans that everyone follows, and showing up to the office every day, running fire drills. As a founder, you don't want to be dealing with the latter.

So ask for excellence from the very beginning.

Published on: Jun 26, 2018