Momentum Podcast: 161
Don't Make Your Team Lose
by Alex Charfen
This may seem like the most obvious entrepreneurial advice ever given. However it is one of the most consistent conversations I have with my clients.
As entrepreneurs we aren't afraid of losing, we like to set a target far away and take our best shot. We don't mind coming from behind and missing every once in a while. Often deadlines lose importance to us on our way to the destination.
Changing the direction we are going or the time we allotted to get there doesn't bother us that much. The opposite is true for our teams. If you make your team lose, they will quit. The better the team member, the more losing will affect them.
Unfortunately this was one of the most difficult lessons I've learned as an entrepreneur, and it took me decades. It doesn't have to take you that long.
Full Audio Transcript
I'm Alex Charfan, and this is the Momentum Podcast, made for empire builders, game changers, trailblazers, shot takers, record breakers, world makers and creators of all kinds. Those among us who can't turn it off and don't know why anyone would want to. We challenge complacency, destroy apathy, and we are obsessed with creating momentum so we can roll over bureaucracy and make our greatest contribution. Sure, we pay attention to their rules, but only so that we can bend them, break them, then rewrite them around our own will. We don't accept our destiny. We defied it. We don't understand defeat because you only lose if you stop, and we don't know how.
While the rest of the world strives for average and clings desperately to the status quo, we are the minority, the few who are willing to hallucinate there could be a better future. Instead of just dreaming of what could be, we endure the vulnerability and the exposure it takes to make it real. We are the evolutionary hunters, clearly the most important people in the world because entrepreneurs are the only source of consistent, positive, human evolution and we always will be. Don't make your team lose. The title of this podcast might seem obvious. No entrepreneur should make their team lose.
However, this is a challenge that I've seen throughout my career for entrepreneurs in that so many of us put ourselves in a situation where we are causing our team to lose. Now first, I want to go back to why we start a team in the first place so that we can understand, not understand, remember and live through again, maybe for some of you who haven't built a team maybe listen to the first time what happens. Here's what happens to us. There's this point in time our careers as entrepreneurs where what we want to do, the change we want to make, the outcome we're chasing is so much bigger than ourselves that we run into the need for a team.
The need to be able to get leverage, have people around us doing more than we could do on our own, having a bigger outcome than we could drive on our own, and making that change we want to make. What happens is we get to this place where we have to start building a team. It's one of the most monumental transitions that entrepreneurs make. Most will never make it. Most entrepreneurs try to continue to work on their own. Some, very few, get contract help. Then an even smaller percentage actually hire people and start building the team. The challenge for us as entrepreneurs is that when we build a team, we can cause them to lose.
For most of us, myself included, we have a habit of committing to things and wanting things and putting things in place and telling the teams that we're going to do things and then we let them down. I've done this for most of my career. I have to relearn this lesson all the time. Whenever I start doing a new discipline, I get into this problem. I'll share it with you, and if you've never been down this road, let me foreshadow what we do when we build a team. If have been down this road, relive it with me so that we can talk about how you don't put yourself here. What happens to us as entrepreneurs is we have a team, and we want them to be able to do more.
We more product out the door. We want to accomplish more, achieve more. We create projects, and we create outcomes with our team that aren't realistic, but we want them to happen. The problem with unrealistic outcomes in an entrepreneurial company is the person that we put the most pressure on most of the time without even realizing it is ourselves. Because as you start to build a team, every person on that team most likely needs something from you. As you start to build the team, every person on that team is most likely waiting on some type of outcome from you because just before they were hired, you were doing everything.
Now, they still need whatever it is you do, and it's going to affect each person because what each person has effectively done as you've built your team is they've expanded or increased or multiplied what you could do on your own. Each person needs you to still be there and help them move forward. Here's what happens. As entrepreneurs, we set deadlines, and I know this from managing, not from managing, from coaching entrepreneurs for most of my career, we set deadlines, and they lose importance to us. We want to shift them. We want to change them. If we're not going to hit them, then we're not that upset.
Oftentimes, or we're the opposite. We're completely obsessed with the deadlines. Here's the challenge. It doesn't matter because if we set unrealistic outcomes and we miss the deadline or we try and drive to it and it's not realistic and we damage our team, they will quit because here's what happens. When you have good people on your team, when you have the type of people that want to drive the outcomes and make things happen, the type of people that you can instead of having to tell them what to do, check that it was done, and tell them what to do again, the type of people that you can give them an outcome like, "Make this thing happen," and give it to them clear enough that you can coach their success along the way and get leveraged results, you move into this realm of people who want to win.
You move into this realm of people who are working with you because working in an entrepreneurial company gives them the opportunity to do more, be more, show up in a bigger way than if they're just a cog in a machine somewhere else. You're calling on some of the best people out there to come into your company and help you create your dreams. The problem is if you set unrealistic outcomes and the person who's always behind is you, you will create animosity with your team. Because even though the deadline is something you set and even though you tell them all, "Hey, it's no big deal. We're just going to take another week," what they are all feeling is that they are consistently losing on the game that you all agreed to play because you're not showing up.
When this happens, you will consistently and constantly lose trust on your team because the opportunity to lead people isn't about how much you can pay them. You can try and play it that way, but that's one of the most brutal ways to build a company by like go hiring the most expensive or the next most expensive person in any role because the easy way to build a company is to hire true believers, to bring in people that want your outcomes just as much as you do, to bring in people who care about your outcomes just as much as you do, to bring in people who care about what you're doing in the world just as much as you do.
See here's the double-edged sword of hiring and employing and being a leader to true believers is that they won't let you let down the cause. They won't let you let down the movement. They won't let you let down your clients. They want to win, but not just for you, for every person out there you serve. When you give them outcomes that are either unrealistic or you give them outcomes where they get their stuff done but you don't get yours done or you don't get back to them fast enough or you don't actually budget the time to spend time that you need to do all the things that they need and they consistently have missed deadlines, it doesn't matter if you change the rules.
They will leave, or they'll become intolerant. The challenge with this is is that you want people in your organization who drive obsessively to outcomes. You want people in your organization who get upset when they get something wrong, who are frustrated when you miss a deadline. You want people in your organization who are just as passionate about the outcomes as you are. When you get those people and you set them up to lose in either of the ways I've discussed, they can't deal with it. They don't want to deal with it. They'll get frustrated with you. They'll start to see what you do differently.
I've already told you multiple times, CEOs, the entrepreneurs in charge, COOs, whether you're the visionary or the operator, what you do is seen through a microscope. It's heard through a megaphone and seen through a microscope. People hear what you do louder, and they see what you say, or they see what you do. People hear what you say louder. Sorry, I've got a little bit of a cold. They hear what you say louder, and they see what you do through a microscope. They examine what you do. When you have a team where you're missing deadlines, they will look at everything you're doing and ask, "Why is she missing deadlines? Why is he missing deadlines?"
In all candor, this is something that I've done to my teams throughout my career, and it wasn't probably until the last five to 10 years that I realized when you make a commitment to your team, that's one of the most important commitments you make. When you make a commitment to your team, you just don't miss. When you make a commitment to your team, you show up whether you feel like it's something you really wanted to do or not. When you make a commitment to your team, you make sure you help them win because here's your expectation from them. When they make a commitment to you, they will deliver.
It's absolutely and completely unfair for you not to do the same for them. Because here's what happens, when we build teams and we ascend to leadership, we have to remember we're not just in charge of the team, we're a member of the team. The team dynamic is that you win together and you lose together. You build trust together by showing up and giving your all, by leaving it on the mat, by having each other's back, by making sure that you work together and support each other to achieve what you've committed to together so that you are a part of a winning team where everyone gets to feel better about who they are in the world.
Because when someone works for you, chances are that the majority of their life's focus is on your outcomes because there's not a lot that most people in the world do for more than 30 or 40 or 50 or 60 hours a week, depending on how much the person's working for you or people are working for you. There's not a lot of other things that we focus on with that intensity. You have to understand that the outcomes that you create in your company become the yardstick of how someone feels about their life the majority of the time. If you consistently let them lose, if you consistently put them in a situation to lose, if you build a culture around losing, missing deadlines, not being on time, not getting things done, they feel like they are losing in their lives most of the time.
The way that you back yourself out of this is to start being hyper realistic about what you will do, not what you could do, and to start asking yourself, "What's the likelihood I do this?" Because it better 100% or you're going to let your team down. The way you start doing this is building muscle memory around making targets a lot closer and a lot easier, giving yourself enough time so that maybe every once in a while, your team's finishing stuff ahead of time. You're actually beating the odds. You're doing things faster than you need to because if you build a culture where your team expects that you're going to make them lose, you will have a constant churn of A players.
Your best team members will start to doubt you because you are breaking trust with them. The better the team member is, the more this may impact them. The only way out of it is to put yourself in a situation where you're going to deliver the vast majority of the time, put your team in a situation where they're going to win the vast majority of the time. You will find that you build a culture of winning. You build a culture of mutual support. You build a culture of trust, and you build a culture where deadlines are reality, where commitments are met, and where you grow as a company because you all have each other's back.
This is one of the most difficult lessons I learn and relearn as an entrepreneur 'cause even today, I will miss things on our weekly commitments. Even today, I will miss things on our monthly goals, but they are few and far between because there was a time where I was by far the biggest bottleneck in any company I ever ran and the person who missed the most deadlines and made the most commitments and didn't fulfill them was me. It cost me millions of dollars and a lot of broken relationships and far too much broken trust for one career to learn this lesson. That's why I'm sharing it with you as transparently as I am because I don't want you to have to go through the same waste of human capital and quite frankly, the same human carnage that comes from putting people in a situation where they lose.
If anyone listening to this has ever been on a team where I didn't show up or I put you in a situation where you lost and things were unrealistic or I wasn't present to deliver in a way where the team could win and it held you back, you have my sincere apology because it took me decades of working with people to realize that this is one of the most important lessons there is as an entrepreneur. When you help your team win, you build trust. If you make your team lose, not only will they quit, but you challenge their ability to show up like they want to in the rest of their lives. When you make your team lose, rather than giving them momentum, you take it away.
When you make your team lose, you make them feel like they're losing with the majority focus of their life. When that finally sunk in, I took an entirely new view of my responsibility of how much and how on time I needed to deliver to my teams. I started making commitments in a totally different way so that they are completely realistic, and I can show up for my team, and we do win. If you're an entrepreneur who's been making your team lose, you can turn this around right now and go look at the outcomes you've been creating. If you're under delivering to your team, be transparent with them, and then just stop doing it because you've decided to cross the chasm from working alone to working with a team.
The responsibility of leading a team is the responsibility to grow the people there, not just build your business. That's one sided, and over time, it will wear you out. It just doesn't work. The way you can grow the people on your team is putting them in a position to win and like any coach does, get them there. Thanks for listening, and I appreciate you being a subscriber of the Momentum Podcast. If you haven't yet, why don't you take a minute now, subscribe and do me a favor, if you have a minute, leave a review and a rating. I read every written rating of this podcast, so does my team. In fact, whenever there's a new review, a lot of the times my team will be reading it in our daily huddle. I would really appreciate it if you gave us some reading material and let us know what you think.