Life in a startup is scary and exhilarating. Adrenaline-pumping. And frustrating. You know those moments of frustration. We all have them. A few months ago, in just such one of those moments, I came up with new rules for survival. I badly needed to draw a circle around myself to protect my sanity. You know . . . set boundaries.
Hint: These work well in life, too.
Survival Rule #1.
No work emails after work hours, read or sent. On the weekends read only friends and family emails. Take a break over the weekend for clarity to deal with situations better. It will also allow more time with for family, pets and all the other personal elements that make up a whole human being.
Survival Rule #2.
Finish tasks and make reports on time. This allows everyone else to do their own work in a timely way. Doing things on time releases more endorphins and makes a better boss, person and a worker. The endorphin hit for ticking a task off the list is nowhere as rich as the hit for checking them off ON TIME.
Hint: Make a reasonable list of deliverables with deadlines, instead of just a never ending long list of things that need doing.
Survival Rule #3.
Wait as calmly as possible for everyone else to come to their senses when things go sideways - and they will - or when people get upset, or seem to profess opinions no thinking person possibly could. Allow them a few hours - or days - to process issues and work out solutions. Frequently when folks come to their senses, they see and understand what everyone else meant.
Survival Rule #4.
Neither react, nor escalate, nor triangulate and wait for direction to act. Resist the sweet temptation to join the shouting, spread the speculation, or discuss someone's misdeeds or twisted logic. Don’t fall for such slippery communication slopes. Reacting without thought is counterproductive. So is escalating to feed everyone else's adrenaline rush. Discipline speech and speak firsthand truth. Waiting for direction before acting leads to a lot fewer stuck wheels spinning, and to moving forward with purpose.
Hint: Not working at night helps to accomplish this, providing time to think, wait things out, and observe points of light before making the next move, with fresh energy. “Sleep on it” is more than just a trope.
Survival Rule #5.
Say “no” when necessary. Protect time. Filter whatever is asked with “Does this move my company forward?” In private time ask “Does this support my purpose?” Whether it’s time with family, friends, or alone, think of saying “no” as the tool needed to do the things that matter most.
Survival Rule #6.
Keep a resignation letter ready. That may seem harsh, or even risky, but there are many good reasons to keep the door – and mind – open to moving on. It is tricky being a founder or investor or CEO. Writing a resignation letter is a good way to release blockage of negative feelings. Knowing when to say quits and giving voice to choices manifests their very existence. Deep inside a maze the first thing rats do is run around trapped. Writing that resignation letter gets above the maze to view of all the paths and figure out whether to stay in or leave.
To recap, here are 6 new rules for survival:
- No work emails after hours or on weekends
- Complete tasks on time
- Wait calmly for everyone else to come to their senses
- Neither react no escalate nor triangulate and wait for direction to act
- Say “No” flat out when necessary
- Keep a resignation letter handy
(PS: That letter remains tucked away in my file drawer)
From a broadcast on CEO Coach Podcast on March 14th, 2016