Having a Visionary is an essential part of successfully launching any new venture. But what happens when you have more than one Visionary on your team?
I lay out the (sometimes painful) answer below:
Online Course: How to Get Out of Early Struggle and in to Fun
Glossary: The Visionary
Glossary: The Operator
Glossary: Early Struggle
Quiz: Discover your Predictable Success Leadership Style
Quiz: Identify where you are on the Predictable Success Lifecycle
Click here to read the transcript
Hi there - Les McKeown here, founder and CEO of Predictable Success.
You know, one of the courses that we have on our online course site is all about how to get out of Early Struggle and into Fun. Essentially, how to leave the startup phase and get into the first stage of growth. And one of the things that I emphasize a lot during that course is the need to get the right mix of leadership styles. And that is essentially that you need a Visionary and an Operator, two styles that compensate each other very much and are absolutely vital to take you out of Early Struggle and into Fun. An during Fun - maybe even during Early Struggle, you begin to add more Operators so you get V + O O O.
And that's essentially how you grow your organization during Fun - you add more hard charging, get it done Operators.
So I got a great email from one of the course participants on Friday and she said something that I get asked quite a lot, which is look, my co-partner and I, my co-founder and I were both Visionaries. So is there any way that we can make this work?
And the answer is, bluntly, no. It's not that you and your co-founder can't build and grow a successful organization. You can't do it if you both insist on acting as Visionaries. In essence, what's got to happen for you to succeed is during that startup phase, during Early Struggle, one of you has to play the role of the Visionary and the other must not. It's not a question of this second co-founder dialing down the degree to which they're a Visionary. They've got to not play the role of Visionary at all, and instead step up as an Operator.
The reason for this is very simple. You have one job in Early Struggle, and that is to get out of there. You've got to get into the Fun stage. The mortality rate in Early Struggle is very high. It's about 80%. Four out of five of all new ventures fail in the first three years, and one of the reasons why that happens is when there's a lack of a clear focus on finding a profitable, sustainable market.
That's your goal. Find your market during Early Struggle in order to get into Fun, and if you have got two Visionaries with competing visions, no matter they'e only slightly different, you will drag down your ability to get out of Early Struggle, you'll have tensions. They may be overt, they may not even be discussed. They may be implicit. You may both get on really well, but it's not going to help you get out of Early Struggle during the Early Struggle phase.
Just to repeat myself, if you've got two Visionaries, one of them has got to not act as a Visionary and they've got to show up as an Operator.
Now when you get into Fun (to be very specific, when you get into mid and late Fun i In other words, past the early Fun stage, when you're completely sure you're out of Early Struggle), at that stage, you can let things slide a little bit. You can begin to do a couple of things. You can switch the Visionary role over a period of time. One of you can take it on, another one will drop it off. You can perhaps extend the Visionary role in specific areas.
So for example, I've being through this particular dynamic many times myself and one occasion back in the 1980s (yes folks, that long ago) I was working with a great co-founder, partner, friend, colleague. His name was Will, Will and I were both strong Visionaries. We were starting at that point, a business that was, what would no be called an incubation business. We were helping people launch and grow organizations, both Visionaries.
During the whole of the Early Struggle phase, I acted as his Operator. He was the Visionary and was accepted as such during that time. How did we make that decision about which one of us [would be the Visionary]? At that point, it was a combination of experience and judgment. He was somewhat older than me, had more experience in that field, and I willingly did that. When we got into the Fun stage and beyond, then we began to began to tag team each other a little bit and you know, we would take rests and you know, I'd be the Visionary for a while. Then he'd come back to be the Visionary. I became the permanent Visionary in certain aspects. In the 1990s the Internet was beginning to show up, so I took the Visionary role in that. You can do all of that in Fun, but you must not do it in Early Struggle.
I hope that's helpful. For those of you who have started a new venture, and you've got two Visionaries.