Great Startups Are Where Soul and Technology Meet
Some entrepreneurs forget that they can’t use people the same way they use technology to build a startup. Inventors, for example, are skilled in manipulating technology, but may have little interest or experience engaging people to make an effective team. Unfortunately, startups are not one-man shows, so entrepreneurs need to study leadership as much as they study technology.
In fact, we can all benefit from focusing on the keys to people leadership from time to time. A while back I came across the new edition of “Leading Out Loud: A Guide for Engaging Others in Creating the Future,” by Terry Pearce, who has been is this space for a long time, and I felt it spoke loudly to every entrepreneur looking to improve his leadership communication.
Pearce characterizes good leadership as the place where soul and science meet. I fully espouse his explanation of how and why every entrepreneur needs to hone his skills and document his own personal leadership guide, to be comprised of the following four main parts:
- Establishing competence and building trustworthiness. Startup leaders recognize the need for strong credentials to demonstrate competence to team members, customers, and investors. But they must also display empathy, acknowledge resistance, and share personal motivation to build trustworthiness. These are the hard parts.
- Creating shared context. They also must share a common understanding of the past, and the urgency for creating a new, better future with the products and services on the table. Otherwise, customers and investors will see new initiatives as merely change rather than progress. On the average, change generates more fear than excitement.
- Declaring and describing the future. Entrepreneur leaders must be able to vividly describe a new world that is compelling and exciting to others. Focusing on the technology doesn’t do it. Customers can relate to painful problems today, and can relate to solutions that will make their new world less problematic.
- Committing to action. Personal action speaks far more loudly than any rhetoric. Startup leaders must reveal what they are willing to risk – what personal steps they will take – to enable the new reality to take shape. The team wants to see you in the pit with them. Investors want to see progress and traction. Customers want to see results.
Merely understanding what matters will not assure that you can communicate to inspire. Effective leaders have to be courageous enough to communicate authentically from the basis of their real values, whether they are pitching to investors, closing a customer sale, or conversing informally with the team. Their passion, commitment, and self-knowledge have to come through.
In the business and financial world, the choice and use of evidence in communication is also critical. Passion, excitement, and emotion are usually not enough to get investors and customers lined up. Evidence like the following leads to understanding and receptivity:
- Data specifics encourage engagement. People equate specificity with certainty, so facts are far more powerful than generalities. Specifics allow comparison and judgment, engaging others in a mental process rather than treating them as passive receptors.
- Make data relevant and meaningful. Use examples to make it possible for each constituent to directly and personally experience the relevance of the data you present. Put global data in a local context to make it familiar. This establishes a much closer connection.
- Highlight quotes and support from others. Quoting an expert or customer who agrees with your idea generally adds weight to your evidence. For even more power, use personal relationships, audience members, or people who have actually impacted your own life.
Technology may be the key to building a great product, but people are the key to building a great business. Effective communication and leadership are a tremendous advantage in both cases. A great entrepreneur creates the future by declaring it and describing it in such a compelling way that people go there without fearing the change. Start today.
Written by Martin Zwilling
You might also be interested in
Angel Investors Spotlight: An Inside Look at Hudson Valley Startup Fund’s Investment Process & Advice for Founders
Hudson Valley Startup Fund brings together a network of the region’s successful business and community leaders to give back, supporting the launch of the next Hudson Valley visionaries. We sat down with fund managers Chad Gomes, Johnny LeHane and Paul Hakim as they shared insights into their investment process, what they look for in both group members and startups, and
If you are a new entrepreneur, or entering a new business area, it’s always worth your time to assemble an Advisory Board of two or three executives who have travelled that road before. You need them before you need funding, and if you select the wrong people, or use them incorrectly, no amount of money will likely save your startup.
There are many wonderful ideas, and they are not necessarily easy to come up with. So congratulations on having thought of one!
“Having value” and “Being fundable” are two completely different things. What the more experienced responders here are saying is completely accurate: while a good idea is usually a necessary ingredient for the formation of a good company, it is
No, but there are several sets of courses on angel investing that can provide a good base from which to start. The most comprehensive and best known is the Power of Angel Investing seminar series developed by the Angel Resource Institute (formerly known as the Angel Capital Education Foundation, and prior to that part of the Angel Capital Association). It
The world’s fastest growing tech startup ecosystem A much more tightly knit startup community, compared to the larger but more diffuse West Coast community Access to many, many more world market centers (advertising, finance, fashion, media, food, etc.) A city that from the Mayor on down is devoted to helping the tech startup community expand exponentially The world’s largest Tech Meetup (not