Avoiding Self-Destructive Tendencies as a Company Founder | Executive Search Firm

      Avoiding Self-Destructive Tendencies as a Company Founder

      Entrepreneurs face many pressures as the owners and leaders of organizations. In times of economic downturn, stress increases as revenues decline and funding dries up. Other problems, like poor product reception or difficulties deciding on the strategic direction of an organization, can also cause issues.

      Instead of giving in to the worst aspects of their personalities, founders can benefit from understanding their detrimental characteristics and taking action to overcome them. 

      Here are three of the most common self-destructive tendencies we see and how founders can conquer them.

      The Disconnect Between Reality & Beliefs

      Entrepreneurs are an optimistic bunch. They see the potential of a new idea and put it into action. They’re always looking for a new way to solve a problem, and they’ll do whatever it takes to make it happen.

      However, CEOs can’t solve all problems with optimism. Instead, the founder must take a more pragmatic approach to understand the issue and develop a solution. 

      It’s common for entrepreneurs to avoid taking action on especially troubling problems. For instance, they may know that sales are down or that the money they need from an investment will likely not come through, but instead of taking action to solve the issue, they turn a blind eye, hoping a solution will arise on its own.

      Other entrepreneurs take a classic redirect approach, seeking to attract attention with their newest idea for a product or a flashy advertising scheme. Redirecting can work for a while, but investors may become less confident in the organization’s leader if the company loses its focus.

      Often, entrepreneurs who can’t address pressing problems are skilled at showmanship but can’t lead an organization’s daily activities. They’re great at attracting crowds and new investors with their ideas, but once the flames of fire appear, they run in the other direction.

      Classic Avoidance Techniques

      Founders with avoidance tendencies are often unavailable when severe issues arise in the organization. They may dodge phone calls, refuse to answer emails, or fail to attend regular meetings. 

      Their absence becomes noticeable, and staff members begin to wonder if they’ll need to make decisions in the absence of their leader. However, significant decisions, such as obtaining a new loan or considering an equity offer, often require the sign-off of the top person in the company.

      Founders who practice avoidance often see their problems grow, not go away. A failure to address issues appropriately can result in eventual downfall.

      If the founder doesn’t know how to handle an issue, they likely have supportive individuals they can turn to, like an executive coach, a mentor, or a helpful investor. However, many founders choose not to lean on their supporters for help — another act of avoidance.

      Sticking with What’s Comfortable

      Many founders began their careers in finance, engineering, marketing, or IT. When they decided to open their own organization, they knew their duties would change. They’re no longer critical financial analysts or software engineers. Instead, the CEO must lead an organization that may have multiple departments.

      When things turn sour in the organization, CEOs with this tendency will return to their roots. If they were once expert engineers, they’ll pay the strictest attention to product development and quality assurance. Those with marketing expertise will drift into the company’s advertising strategies or customer outreach.

      However, CEOs can’t have the luxury of falling into old habits. Their responsibilities remain the same — running the organization and its parts, including departments they don’t have much experience with. When the CEO is focusing on lower-level duties that others can perform, they can quickly set the company adrift.

      CEOs who are concerned that they may be devoting too much attention to their areas of expertise should look at their weekly calendar. Founders should examine their meeting schedule and opt out of discussions that other employees can easily handle on their own. 

      Entrepreneurs should keep the meetings where CEO involvement is paramount but drop those that are low-level and don’t offer strategic value to the organization. For instance, a meeting with potential investors is time well spent, but discussing the finance department’s collection policies is probably not.

      Delegation can be challenging, especially for founders who have nursed their company from inception. Securing employees with the expertise to oversee various business functions can put a CEO’s mind at rest. If the organization has competent employees, the founder can trust them to do their job well.

      Overcoming Negative Behaviors

      Once a CEO recognizes their defeatist characteristics, they can take action to surmount them. 

      Ask Trusted Advisors for Help

      Founders usually have trusted colleagues or mentors they can turn to for help. They can ask their trusted circle what their worst habits are. If the CEO is open to criticism, the answers they receive can be pretty eye-opening. Many people don’t realize their faults until someone else is willing to give them an honest evaluation.

      Get Insights from the Management Team

      Senior and lower-level managers are often some of the best sources for business observations. Regular meetings with the management team can allow them to express their concerns. CEOs can decide which issues are the most pressing and choose the appropriate path to take. 

      More meetings with staff can often increase buy-in for new ideas and strategies, making them easier to implement.

      Reduce Personal Stress

      There are countless articles and books available that offer methods of reducing stress, but three proven ways are typically the most beneficial. Getting eight hours of sleep, sticking to a healthy diet, and regularly exercising are all proven to reduce stress. 

      Instead of taking up unhealthy habits, like drinking alcohol and eating fast food, stick with a healthy lifestyle. Founders will find that this helps them build up resistance to stress and have a more positive outlook on life.

      Accept that Problems Will Happen

      Founders often assume their lives will become less complex once they run a company. After all, they’re in charge and can make the decisions they’ve always wanted to. 

      However, the failure of a CEO to recognize self-destructive tendencies can result in significant pressure on the organization. Company owners should take the necessary steps to understand their worst characteristics and overcome them.

      Cowen Partners Executive Search | National Executive Search Firm

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