Listen to Les McKeown read this blog post:
Most Visionary founders I know want to leave a legacy.
It’s a fairly universal goal – in Walter Isaacson’s hugely popular biography of Steve Jobs, practically the first words Jobs says to his biographer are to the effect that he wants to build a company that will outlive him.
It’s a laudable goal, and even from a purely mercenary perspective, a good one – founders who build organizations bigger than themselves typically have a much greater positive impact on the world around them than those who harbor no such ambition.
The trick, of course, is in getting there. I have no idea as to whether or not you will succeed in building a legacy. There are too many variables – the quality and endurance of your chosen product or service or not-for-profit offering; your own skills; the support group you have around you – but I can tell within a few minutes whether or not a founder has at least started down the road to building a legacy, or if, instead, they’re a bottleneck, preventing the very thing they profess to want.
How can I tell? It lies in the answer to this question:
Do you still put your bear smear on everything?
Here’s what I mean: Folklore has it that if a baby bear is touched by humans, the mother bear will reject the cub because it smells of the enemy. As a result, the cub will be left to fend for itself, and will almost certainly die of neglect.
Now, whether or not this is a myth, it's verifiably true that Visionary founders act in the opposite manner – they have a near-psychotic need to put their ‘bear smear’ on just about everything they see, in order to ‘make it their own’.
Bring a Visionary founder the greatest solution to their biggest problem, and they’ll tell you it’s great – and then add a twist or a change that’s entirely theirs - Bear smear.
Come up with a fantastic idea for a new product or service, and they’ll enthusiastically adopt it – with a vital difference that they came up with themselves - Bear smear.
Emerge from the warehouse with a brilliant new inventory management plan that will save thousands and they’ll eagerly implement it – after moving just a few things around to make it their own - Bear smear.
Spend months developing a cost-effective way to dramatically extend the reach of your not-for-profit work, they'll praise you to the skies - then suggest 'just one tweak' - Bear smear.
If you’re bear smearing from time to time, but relatively rarely, fine – that’s what your entrepreneurial experience is there for. But if you’re bear smearing all the time, on everything (hint: ask your colleagues to read this then give you their opinion), then you’re a barrier to your own organization's growth.
Here’s my simple tip: Allow yourself one bear smear a week. And use it wisely.
What do you think - do you bear smear? Let me know in the comments!