Being a founder, not to mention a CEO, can be a very lonely place, carrying loads of stress and required to constantly be at peak performance. This often makes it hard to find balance between one's professional and personal life. Maintaining strong relationships with the co-founders and investors, is also not an easy task, where clarity and empathy are not always present. As one of my entrepreneurs says: “It’s not the technological challenge we deal with, it’s the mental one”.
"Throughout my +15 years as a professional, I've always been attracted to the intersection of business and psychology through entrepreneurship - What makes people tick? How do people think and act? And what motivates people in business? What drives me is being there for the amazing entrepreneurs, who are under constant pressure, so that they can make our world a better place. That’s what I’m here for, and this is my podcast – The Human Founder."
Episode 37 - Ohad Tzur, Co-Founder & COO, Kahoona.io
Ohad decided to pursue his dream at the age of 28 and go for an MBA at an Ivy League. He didn't have all the answers about his path and where it would lead him, but he believed in himself, and had the grit to pursue it. He understood back then that one shouldn’t fear going outside their comfort zone - that’s where growth happens and where people can really thrive.
Ohad shares his 5-years of experience at Google in Silicon Valley and what he learned about team building. He shares the various initiatives he led that helped him see how much intrapreneurship is vital to a company's growth.
We spoke about key elements in nurturing teams and making them move fast:
That should be a key-value in startups. Leaders should provide their teams with an arch and a goal, and let them figure it out while guiding them. Once you put timelines in place and expected key results - then the checks and balances work well, and as a leader - you have enough opportunities to make sure the team is moving in the right way.
Feedback is a critical part of it, and when giving feedback - it’s better for it to be direct, focused, and conveyed as a question so that your team members will reflect on their work, such as what they learned from it or what was challenging for them.
People are different. Therefore, as leaders, we should personalize how we coach them. We have to identify the level of each team member and address them in a suitable manner. Of course, that in various life cycles of the employee/ the company - those levels of Tailored leadership can vary, and as leaders, we have to keep our hand on the pulse:
- Entry level/ less experienced employees need their leader to direct them. That’s why as managers, we should provide them with guidance.
- More experienced employees - need coaching >> we should be mentoring them through asking them questions that will help them evolve and grow.
- Senior managers need support. As their leaders - we should be there for them when needed.
- Executives need their leaders to delegate things to them and let them lead.
Leaders need to pause often and ask themselves, ‘what do you do to build your credibility & inspire others?’. Credibility is based on value and not necessarily on the things you’ve done in the past.
Ohad left Google to be an executive in a startup. The question is - WHY? We have two pillars guiding us in life - the emotional axis and the logical one. While the mental axis reflected that he was too much in his comfort zone, the logical one made him do an in-depth risk assessment for where the new startup will be in the next few years.
By gaining information over several months, he helped himself bridge the gap between the emotional and logical axis and make the move. We spoke about how it feels being an executive employee in a startup - which involves accepting the truth that it’s not yours. This led him to a new startup, after which he built one of his own.
Holacracy is a managerial method that moves the hierarchy and power, and empowers the employees. It is a much more flexible method that puts the employees in the center, as it’s built-in circles, and the employees can have a few roles within the organization. The employees need to reflect and embrace that they need some assistance/mentoring in various fields, which leads to a governance where everyone has a voice. This method does not fit all kinds of CEOs and usually applies to slightly more mature startups - once they have +100 employees. On the employees’ side - it requires them to be super proactive about what will enable their growth.
We spoke about the new venture Ohad is pursuing and how to choose the right co-founder for you - which means that first of all, one should do a clear assessment of their skills. Then comes trust, then the “working day” - you should work together for a few days and see how it feels; after which, ask for referrals. At last - try to find a ‘Founders-Market Fit’ - and check, if you are as co-founders, can really differentiate yourself in the specific market, and if the idea will change (which it probably will) - you will survive and evolve.