How to Determine an Effective Cofounder Match

Last month, I wrote about how to find a technical cofounder. Here is a follow-up.

Let’s say you have found a potential cofounder. Life is great, you got your cake!

But wait. Are you sure this is the right person?

Having a cofounder is like having a spouse. You both will be undertaking one of the most difficult activities a pair can do. So it is very important that you have the right partner.

How can you tell if this cofounder is the right one for you? It ultimately depends on your compatibility with each other, though here are a few personality traits to consider. Without these, your cofounder (or you, for that matter) may not survive the early stages of your startup.

Sometimes the exhilaration of finding a cofounder is so great that people don’t consider whether or not this person is compatible with you and will make an effective business partner.

Here are some questions you can ask to determine an effective cofounder:

Passion & personal interest
“Are you interested? Do you genuinely care about this market, these customers, and this solution? Will you still care about it in 2-5 years or more?”
Mental stamina
“Do you know the risks involved in starting a company from scratch? Have you done this before? How comfortable are you with risk? How comfortable are you working with no or little salary for the foreseeable future?”
“How comfortable are you with frequent change? Would you be willing to change the entire business model if we discover our current idea will not work?”
Communication, interpersonal & conflict resolution skills
“What is your communication style? Can you communicate effectively with a wide range of people? How do you resolve conflicts? How self-aware are you? Do you have leadership skills?”
Personal integrity
“Can I trust you? Do you trust me? How do we really know we can trust each other? Do you keep your word? Are you reliable? Are you a self-starter? Will you follow through on your responsibilities?”
Complementary talents & skills
“What talents and skills do you have that I don’t? Are your skills competent enough to help prove this business model and create a minimal viable product? Are your skills competent enough to hire great people?”
Complementary personalities
“Do we get along? Does your personality and communication style mesh with mine? Could we travel together on a 6-hour flight, then a week-long hotel stay, without strangling each other? How about working almost 24/7 for several years together?”

It is typically better to have worked together with this person before, so you have an idea of this person’s working style and temperament. It’s easy for someone to say, “Yes, I am comfortable with startup risk,” but much harder to demonstrate it if you haven’t seen it before.

Some of these traits, such as complementary personalities, are even harder to assess. Determining such a fit takes time. Social activities is one good method of doing so. Go get a meal together and chat about non-work topics. Then try to find an environment that may be stressful, like working on a paid contract or pet project together.

It’s hard enough to find someone willing to be a cofounder. Finding one that is a good match for you significantly narrows the pool. However, the wrong choice can be catastrophic. This is not a decision to be taken lightly, nor in desperation.

Finally, be aware that your first choice may be wrong. If so, and you truly believe your cofounder is not a good fit, it is my belief that you should part ways as quickly, yet respectfully, as possible. There is no room for the wrong people in a startup.

Steve Jobs’ Keynote Speeches

Steve Jobs has the art of the keynote down. Part Silicon Valley, part Hollywood, he’s able to enthrall audiences not just with desirable products, but with the right market timing, anticipation building, mood setting, even the stage lighting. Impressive stuff.

Here’s a collection of his product launch keynotes, in case you ever need some inspiration.

1984: The Macintosh

1998: The iMac

1999: The iBook

2001: The iPod

2004: The iPod Mini

2006: The MacBook

2007: The iPhone

2007: The iPod Nano

2008: The MacBook Air

2010: The iPad

The full keynote is broken up into 10 parts. It’s a bit much to embed all 10 parts here, but if you want to view them, you can see them on YouTube: part4, part5, part6, part7, part8, part9, & part10.

2011: The iPad 2

How to Find a Technical Cofounder

I have a technical background and get about an offer a month to join some engineering team or be a technical cofounder. Active software engineers probably get two or more offers a month.

If you are a non-technical entrepreneur, it can be very, very difficult to find a technical cofounder. But it is not hopeless. Here are some ways to find a technical partner for your venture.

Work for a company that is known to have great engineers
Be a great product manager, marketer, or whatever your role is, and foster deep connections there. Find like-minded people and fostering genuine friendships. Or, at least, solid & respectful working relationships. Also, do a kick-ass job in your role. If you are known as a sharp individual, others will more likely want to follow you.

I was lucky enough to have worked for Yahoo! (YHOO) in its second act. The dot-com bubble had just popped and amazing talent was all over the market. I was able to hire phenomenal software engineers and grow a strong team culture. Many of us have said we’d love to work with one another again. This means we all have access to a large pool of talent. With all the funded startups that are unable to hire, that’s a huge ace up our sleeves.

This is a relatively slow method, however, depending on how quickly you can connect with someone. But such a connection can be long-lasting and meaningful.

Learn to write code yourself
Go to hackathons and developer meetups. Or even contribute to an open source project. The development community is a friendly one (for the most part) and you will often find many people eager to help you out. You can earn the trust of other developers if they see you willing to do this. Also, you will be able to speak their language.

This can be a difficult journey for some. You may have little interest or patience to learn how to program. That lack of motivation can make this method fairly time-consuming. But if you are able to hack it (no pun intended), there are a ton of free resources out there for you. From Codecademy and Try Ruby, to free programming books and free online courses. If those don’t work, pay for a programming course at a local college or workshop. Sometimes having a human being who can answer your questions can help.

Be an inspirational champion for your cause
This works if your passion and business idea serves the community and the world in a greater way. Get yourself involved in various organizations & volunteer groups and be a recognized leader. Build up your personal brand both offline and online. Become someone that others want to follow.

I know of one charismatic individual who has done this via Quora, Twitter, guest blog posts, and various speaking events. He doesn’t have a technical background, but his charisma just radiates.

The common denominator of all these tactics is building meaningful relationships with others through proof of your abilities and talents. I will trust you more if I have worked along side you, seen you try to write a web app yourself, or know you to be an inspirational leader in your field.

What do you think?

Improvised Entrepreneurship

As a business leader, you often have to make snap decisions while walking and chewing bubble gum. It’s not always easy, but it’s part of the job. Also, it’s a skill you can improve.

How? Take an improv class!

Yea, I know. You’re thinking, “I don’t want to be a comedian. Why should I take improv?”

Because improv isn’t just about comedy. It’s about being in the moment, trusting your gut, accepting mistakes, and moving forward. Sounds a lot like what you do, right?

Here are 10 principles of improv and how they map to entrepreneurship:

Principle 1: Be prepared & warm up
Before doing improv, participants train their minds to sharpen their awareness, enhance their listening skills, and be ready for anything. In business, it’s impossible to know exactly what will happen next. So the best thing you can do is to sharpen your awareness, enhance your listening skills, and be ready for, well, anything.
Principle 2: Willingness
Improv participants have to be willing to mess up big time, look foolish, and move on. Whether you like it or not, you will mess up big time and look foolish too. Perhaps more often than not. You may have maxed out all your credit cards and spent months locked in your room, only to emerge with a load of debt and obscene body odor. The key is to be willing to accept this and move on. And to take a shower.
Principle 3: Stay in the moment
Improv is all about what is happening now, because that’s where life is happening. As an entrepreneur, you should still plan for the future, but be mindful of the present as well. Keep an eye on today’s finances, metrics, market, and customers, and trends. It is important to balance the future and the present, long-term strategy with short-term tactics.
Principle 4: Shut up and listen
Good improv participants are good listeners. They don’t think about what they’re going to say next. They listen to what has been said, then build off of it. The next time you talk to your customers, make sure you listen. Put your problem solving urges aside so you can process what they are saying.
Principle 5: Action beats inaction
“Don’t talk about doing it, do it.” Be a shark. Keep on moving. If you suddenly find yourself going the wrong way, turn. Move quickly and course correct quickly. If you’re debating between doing more data analysis and taking action, I can help end that debate: take action.
Principle 6: Be honest
Doing improv means learning not to censor or judge your own thoughts. Improv participants express themselves sincerely and genuinely. And authentically. Leaders who act this way tend to inspire others to follow them as well.
Principle 7: Let go of (your need to) control
Perhaps you’ve heard of the Serenity Prayer: “God, grant me the courage to change that which I can, the serenity to accept that which I cannot, and the wisdom to know the difference.” It’s a powerful principle, one that I use in business and in life. The serenity to accept that which you cannot control is the key here. If you cannot control sometime, like the economy, there is no benefit in worrying about it.
Principle 8: There are no mistakes
Beyond being willing to make mistakes is the belief that there are no mistakes – only actions that lead to positive results, or lessons to be learned (which in itself is a positive result). When you are creating a new company, every step you take will be teaching you a valuable lesson.
Principle 9: Trust
Improv is a team-based activity where trust for others is a requirement. Same goes for a business too. Trust yourself, your instinct, your impulses, and your choices. Trust your team, for they are helping you achieve the vision of your business.
Principle 10: Teamwork (row, row, row)
Speaking of teams, improv participants don’t just trust their teammates, they rely on them. This interdependence is what makes improv work. And yes, a business is no different. If you don’t depend on others, you’ll never be able to grow your business. Take the time to build a solid, dependable team, then trust them to help move the business forward.
Bonus Principle: “Yes, and…”
Ah yes, a bonus principle. This is a pervasive idea that weaves through all of the others. It “implies acceptance, but not acquiescence.” It is the opposite of “No, but…” To be a successful business leader, you will need a similar attitude. They are not problems in your way, but challenges to overcome. They are not mistakes that hurt, but lessons to learn.

Want to know more about improv? Keith Johnstone’s book Impro: Improvisation and the Theatre is a classic. Start there.

If you would prefer hands-on training, sign up for a local improv class. It is not about being funny. It is about being comfortable enough with yourself to think on the spot. And that is a skill any entrepreneur needs.

Props to: Harry Max

Why Entrepreneurs Make Good Product Managers

What makes a good product manager? I once asked this question to a number of product executives. Several of them gave me an answer like this:

A good product manager thinks like a CEO.

What does this mean?

It means you know all aspects of the product – its market, its customers, its operations, its team of talent, etc. You know your product’s and your team’s strengths & weaknesses. You know the market’s current state, potential trends, major players, economic factors, regulatory issues, etc. You know your customers and how they currently solve the problem you are trying to solve.

It means you care about the product deeply. It’s not just a job. It’s a calling, a passion. You have a strong, compelling vision and are willing to work hard to make it happen. And you know how to inspire others with your vision as well.

It means you are pragmatic because this is your livelihood. You are constantly gathering & analyzing data to make your decisions. And when you don’t have enough information – which you rarely will – you are willing to make an informed, yet bold decision.

It means you find people smarter than you and spend a lot of time rallying them. They are the lifeblood of your product and the means to bring flesh to the vision, and you know it. Roadblocks in their path are demolished feverishly & quickly.

It means you are flexible. The world is constantly changing. Your product and your team will need to change with it. Mistakes are embraced and learnings and shared enthusiastically. You’d rather move quickly and course-correct often with your eyes open, than to pick a single direction and go forward blindly.

Product manager, CEO, entrepreneur, business owner – in the end, they all share the same basic mindset. They are trying to build a product that people will love, use, and tell their friends about.

Photo by: Joi

Why Apple Will Not Always Build Great Products

When I look at an Apple (AAPL) product, I just want to say, “How you doin’? That’s because Apple makes some damn fine-looking products.

Last week, I stated my theory as to why this is: Apple prioritizes product design over all else. When compromises in features or manufacturing cost need to be made, they uphold the beauty of the design first and foremost.

However, I don’t think this will last.

Their paramount emphasis on design comes from having an influential and high-ranking design champion: Steve Jobs. If a product VP dares suggest a design alteration to lower the cost for consumers, Jobs would probably lash back. He’s already known to be a critical micro-manager, so I don’t think this is a stretch.

What this means is the DNA of Jobs is closely interwoven into Apple’s products. So close that building an Apple product without him might be impossible. When Jobs departs, I don’t think Apple will continue creating such elegant and visionary products anymore. And no, I don’t think any of his possible successors can do the job.

For better or worse, Jobs is a product visionary, not an organization builder. As Jim Collins concluded in his book Built to Last:

If you’re involved in building and managing a company… think less in terms of being a brilliant product visionary or seeking the personality characteristics of charismatic leadership, and to think more in terms of being an organizational visionary and building the characteristics of a visionary company.

I could be wrong, but I don’t think this has been Jobs’ focus. Apple’s product design process is intrinsically tied to Jobs. Without him relentlessly prioritizing design above all else, the company won’t be the same.

Reading True North: Knowing Your Authentic Self Exercise

How well do you know yourself? The fourth chapter of True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership strives to help develop self-awareness by assessing your leadership strengths, shortcomings, and development needs.

The True North exercises:

Basic Self-Awareness Assessment:

The following questions compare how others view me with my own perception. I asked several friends & colleagues to rate me. Below, my self-rating is provided, followed by the averaged score from the others. A 10 is a “very,” 5 is a “moderately,” and 1 is a “barely.”

Question Self-Rating Feedback Rating
How self-confident are you? 8 8.5
How aware are you of your moods and emotions? 9 9
How effective are you in regulating your moods to minimize their impact on other people? 8 9
When confronted with situations that are displeasing to you, how well do you take the time to think clearly about them before responding or reacting? 8 8.25
When you receive critical feedback from others, how well are you able to take in the feedback and respond in a constructive manner without acting defensively? 7 9.25
How well do you understand the emotional makeup of others and their needs? 9 9.25
How sensitive are you in relating to others’ needs and helping them? 8 9.25
How skillful are you in building lasting relationships? 7 9.5
How well do you network with others and create networks of people with common interests? 8 9
How effective are you in leading teams? 8 8.75
Do others follow your lead voluntarily? 9 9
How persuasive are you in convincing others of your mutual interests? 8 8.5

After reviewing the feedback, to what extent do you see yourself as others see you? How strong is your basic self-awareness right now?

I honestly thought I was being a little cocky with my self-assessment. Instead, it seems I am a little hard on myself. Just a little. To be cocky again, I would say my self-awareness is pretty darn good right now.

Strengths and Development Areas

What are your strongest capabilities or talents?

One of my strongest capabilities lies in an empathic nature that enables me to connect with others.

Way back in fifth grade, my teacher told me, “Never judge a person until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes.” That maxim stuck with me, permeating my everyday thoughts and interpersonal encounters. Every time I engage in a discussion or debate, I put myself into the other person’s shoes to understand his/her point of view.

Oddly enough, this happens so much that I sometimes find it difficult to be righteously indignant with people if I can understand why they’re being insulting or arrogant, even if I feel like I should be righteously indignant with them. Go figure.

Other capabilities and talents I consider as strengths are an analytical temperament, the ability to think critically, the comfort of making mistakes and learning from them, and the desire to constantly set and strive for long-term goals.

What are your strongest attributes as a leader?

As a leader, my empathic nature allows me to build strong relationships and inspire others. I know I’m not an expert in every field I want to be an expert in, so I’m thankful for the brillant friends I’ve made.

There’s this anecdote about Henry Ford that I like. During an interview, he told a reporter to ask him any question he wanted about his business’ operations. So the reporter asked for an obscure detail, like how many nuts and bolts go into a Model T. Ford then picked up his phone, called one of his lead engineers, and and gave the reporter the answer.

Ford’s effectiveness as a leader was not that he knew everything there was to know about his business’ operations. It was the relationships he made, the people who worked with him, and his social network. I aspire for the same kind of effectiveness.

What are your greatest needs for development as a leader?

There are situations where I am nervous and out of my element. Public speaking, approaching investors, talking to the media, and similar situations can be nerve-wracking. I’m sure I’m not alone in these. But as a leader, these are necessary skills to learn.

Toastmasters was one solution I used to use. Once my schedule clears up, I plan on finding a local chapter and continuing. The best way to approach investors, in my opinion, is to not need them, bootstrap, and build a great business. Then they’ll come to us. As for speaking to the media, well, perhaps I’ll attend a media training workshop when the time comes.


Do you need structure in your job? To what extent are you comfortable with ambiguity and change?

I love ambiguity & change, personally. Too much structure & routine bore me. My attention span at any particular role is about one year. After that, I tend to need drastic change. Before joining Yahoo! (YHOO), I stayed at companies for approximately one year. While at Yahoo, I was lucky enough to change roles & responsibilities significantly enough to keep myself engaged. My career there progressed this way: web developer -> technical manager of a small team -> technical manager of first-line managers and a larger team -> senior product manager. Each role was on a new property with a new team; each was different enough that I was always challenged. That’s the way I like it.

What level of financial security will allow you to feel comfortable?

I know how to live within my means. It is a cross between bare necessities and a handful of luxuries. To be honest, I’m fairly comfortable right now, though I will be getting married and starting a family soon, so my financial needs will be increasing.

To what extent do you need to be leading a team?

That’s a good question. I never thought about it as a need. But I sure enjoy being a leader in some way. If I won the lottery and never needed to work again, I would still start a business or non-profit venture. So perhaps I do have a need to lead.

How much time do you need with your family or loved ones each week?

Family comes first, always. I need as much time as they need me. Way back in college, I planned on entering this industry because of the ability to work from home. That meant being able to take my kids to softball games & guitar lessons, spend time with my wife, and take care of my parents if & when they need me to.

How much personal time do you need each week to recharge?

Perhaps a few hours a day. I’m not a morning person, so the first couple of hours in the morning are generally spent slowly charging up and getting ready for the day. Then at night, I like to unwind with my family or a good book. Writing also serves as a way to recharge.

Your Authentic Self

What are your vulnerabilities, blind spots, and shadow sides?

I certainly have some pet peeves. I’m impatient with impatience. I’m close-minded about close-minded people. And people who speak in absolutes absolutely bug me.

I know, I just wrote that I’m empathic and can walk in other peoples’ shoes. But I have my limits, especially if someone’s ignorance, arrogance, or obnoxiousness is directed toward someone I care about. If it is aimed at me, that’s fine. I can take it. I can even take criticism; I’m far from perfect and I know it. But leave my loved ones alone.

Admittedly, my memory isn’t as sharp anymore. To compensate, I’ve gotten into the habit of relying on digital solutions to extend my memory. This means using Google Calendar (GOOG) to manage my schedule, Gmail to manage my tasks, and my Apple iPhone (AAPL) to give me access to those tools wherever I am. It’s an efficient system, though I really need to do some brain teasers & memory games so I’m not a total moron when I’m a grandfather.

To what extent do you use defensive armor as a shield to protect yourself from exposing your vulnerabilities with others?

Everyone has defense mechanisms to protect their vulnerabilities to some extent, that’s only natural. I am a fiercely private person, if you can believe it. There are aspects of my life I will never share online, especially if they pertain to my family. But everything else is filtered appropriately. Even my online presence is part of my privacy strategy – if I can control what appears online (my personal brand, so to speak), then I can control what is seen and what is hidden. The genericness of my name also helps with the hidden part.

Back to vulnerabilities. This could be the New Yorker in me, but I’m laced with what I consider a healthy level of trust (or lack thereof) for complete strangers. I don’t share my vulnerabilities with a stranger, nor do I believe they are out to screw me over. As I get to know someone, my trust & comfort level with them increases; inversely, my defensive armor decreases. But to a point. To see any more of my vulnerabilities means you need to get into my inner circle of family, friends, and colleagues.

At the same time, I believe most people strive to be good and not overtly malicious, though we are all born selfish. I give most people the benefit of the doubt. So I share my thoughts, lessons learned, and whatever advice I’ve picked up with complete strangers. It’s my small effort in perhaps helping one other person in this huge world of ours. To the extent where I can share a vulnerability and connect with that person safely and without consequence to me or my family, I will do it.

How can you become more comfortable in sharing your vulnerabilities with others?

I am comfortable with my vulnerability sharing levels at the moment. I don’t think it serves any good to pour my heart out to a prospective client, for example. Nor should I hold all of my frustrations in. Everyone needs an outlet. I have mine, which include my inner circle. My circle of trust, where I keep nothing from you, you keep nothing from me, and round and round we go.

How comfortable are you with who you are right now?

I am very comfortable with who I am. I am an idealistic realist; I am content with my life, but not satisfied. This means I’m unsatisfied enough to strive for more. At the same time, I’m content, happy, and very grateful for the life I have and the decisions I’ve made. And I look forward to the future eagerly.

How would you answer these questions?

The True North exercises:

Reading True North: Your Greatest Crucible Exercise

What is your greatest crucible? The third chapter of True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership explores the experiences that involved the greatest pressure, stress, and adversity in one’s life. Here is the exercise that follows that chapter.

The True North exercises:

  • Introduction Exercise
  • Chapter 1: Your Story Exercise
  • Chapter 2: Losing Your Way Exercise
  • Chapter 3: Your Greatest Crucible Exercise
  • Chapter 4: Knowing Your Authentic Self Exercise
  • Chapter 5: Practicing Your Values and Principles Exercise
  • Chapter 6: Your Motivations and Motivated Capabilities Exercise
  • Chapter 7: Building Your Support Team Exercise
  • Chapter 8: The Integrated Leader Exercise
  • Chapter 9: The Purpose of My Leadership Exercise
  • Chapter 10: Empowering Other Leaders Exercise
  • Chapter 11: Honing Your Leadership Effectiveness Exercise

Write freely about your greatest crucible and describe it in the following ways:

  • How did you feel at the time?
  • What resources did you call upon?
  • How did you resolve the issues, if you have?
  • How did it shape you and your views about the world?

It’s tough to choose just one experience as my greatest crucible. There have been many difficult experiences that altered my life. Here is one that comes to mind.

Back at Yahoo! (YHOO), I was given the honor of managing a large group of talented web developers. However, the team grew quite large, larger than my experience could handle at that time.

In one incident, a few members of my team helped launch a redesign of a major Yahoo! property. Unfortunately, this redesign was plagued with some troublesome bugs, a few of which were my team’s responsibility. Those few, unfortunately, were high-profile showstoppers and took a long time to fix. Too long. Soon, the bugs caught the attention of a VP, who sat me down to talk.

I still remember sitting there with a huge knot in my throat, trying to explain how the errors occurred. Fortunately, my team finally fixed them. But the VP did not see this as a sufficient solution. He saw a break in communications and our organizational structure that exacerbated the problem more than it should have been.

I also remember saying the words, “This is ultimately my responsibility and I take the blame. I will continue working with our teams to come up with a better solution.” And I think I might have even uttered the words, “I fucked up” in there too.

My face was red and hot. I thought that was the end of my career at Yahoo!. I imagined getting a call from HR and being shown the door. Part of the problem was that I didn’t catch this issue sooner, and I didn’t do that because I was overwhelmed by a large team. I knew that, and so did the VP.

Eventually, a long-term solution was implemented. There was a reorganization of my department. The incident wasn’t solely in my team, it was endemic to my department and the nature of our relationship to other teams at the company. While the reorg was a bummer to many, and resulted in a smaller, more focused team for me, it made sense from an organizational standpoint.

The VP didn’t blacklist me or have me fired. The incident taught me to be cognizant of my strengths and weaknesses, to balance my stretch goals with my abilities, and to think holistically from an organizational standpoint. As a crucible, it was damn tough – it was one I will never forget.

Describe any relationships, such as those with mentors, that had a transformative effect on you and your leadership. What did you learn from that relationship and how did it shape who you are?

I’ve never had a formal mentor, though I’ve always wanted one. In lieu of that, I’ve always looked at people that inspired me and emulated their effective traits.

Throughout my career, I’ve been lucky to have lots of great managers. Each excelled in some way. One is a technical genius with fantastic foresight into the high-tech industry, another is relentlessly customer-focused and data-driven, and another knew how to play the game of office politics well (I wish this knowledge wasn’t necessary or useful, but in large corporations, it sadly is).

Each has enhanced my world view and repetiore of skills. I can’t say I replicate them as well as these managers do, but I strive to. Each also challenged me, both directly and indirectly, to stretch past my comfort zones and evolve my skills. For that, I am eternally indebted to these inspiring individuals.

Describe any other experiences that triggered significant leadership development.

I’m guessing this question is seeking more crucible-like experiences, so let me this other incident:

While serving as the president of a cultural community service club in college, I was responsible for a street carnival. Unfortunately, I overslept that day. Since I’ve already written about it, I won’t go over all of the details. But it was definitely a harsh learning opportunity.

All in all, I would say I’ve had a lucky life. Now that I’ve formally started a profitable business of my own, I expect to face more crucibles. And I look forward to them.

In looking back on those experiences, what did you learn from them?

The debacle in college taught me to delegate properly, have faith in my delegates, and to make sure I get a good night’s rest before a big event.

In what ways have they helped you to grow?

They’ve all stretched me and taught me management skills. Be aware of the whole situation. Understand our dependencies and consequences. And like the Boy Scouts, Be Prepared.

How can you use these experiences to reframe your life story and to understand yourself and your life more fully? Are there ways in which these experiences are holding you back today?

One pattern I’ve noticed in my life is the constant push outside my comfort zones. I am and have always been an ambitious and demanding person. I always strive for personal success and demand a lot out of myself. Because of this, I frequently push myself outside my comfort – and ability – zones.

So when I fall far outside of my abilities, the consequences can have quite an impact.

Don’t get me wrong. Mistakes are good. Mistakes are fantastic learning opportunities. I celebrate a culture that allows experimentation, self-improvement, and forgiveness of mistakes.

However, there’s a practical limit to how disastrous a mistake can be. If it kills your organization, lands you in a lawsuit, and ends your marriage, that’s not a good kind of mistake. So as I continue to push myself, I will need to be mindful of my abilities’ limits.

Transformation from “I” to “We.”

Are you on “the hero’s journey”? Do you ever see yourself as the hero of your own journey?

I’ve always felt myself on a journey. The destination is surprisingly clear too, though I know I have to work hard for it – to be a good father and husband, to be an entrepreneur and business owner, to enact some kind of long-lasting beneficial change to my society and environment, and to leave a legacy.

However, I wouldn’t use the label “hero” for myself. That’s a little much. I see myself more as a catalyst that enables others to help make the vision a reality.

Though, I’d sure love to be a hero to my kids one day.

Have you made the transformation from “I” to “We”? If so, what triggered this transformation for you?

I like to think I have. In Stephen Covey’s book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People“, he describes three sequential phases of growth:

  1. Dependence – We all start life being dependent on someone else, like our parents. Some remain at this level their whole lives.
  2. Independence – Many strive for this level. For some, this means self-reliance. For others, it means being a loner.
  3. Interdependence – Few reach this level. This is when you realize and behave as if the sum of two or more people (such as a spouse, teammates, etc) is greater than the parts.

While being a manager, I learned the power of interdependence. That may seem odd, since one view of a manager is as an autocratic entity working alone to control others. But that’s not always so. My management philosophy means working closely with my team and, in many ways, letting them lead the way with me in a supporting role – a catalyst for their ideas.

If you have not yet made this transformation, what would have to happen in your life and leadership for a transformation like this to occur?

I would say I’ve made that transformation already.

How would you answer these questions?

The True North exercises:

  • Introduction Exercise
  • Chapter 1: Your Story Exercise
  • Chapter 2: Losing Your Way Exercise
  • Chapter 3: Your Greatest Crucible Exercise
  • Chapter 4: Knowing Your Authentic Self Exercise
  • Chapter 5: Practicing Your Values and Principles Exercise
  • Chapter 6: Your Motivations and Motivated Capabilities Exercise
  • Chapter 7: Building Your Support Team Exercise
  • Chapter 8: The Integrated Leader Exercise
  • Chapter 9: The Purpose of My Leadership Exercise
  • Chapter 10: Empowering Other Leaders Exercise
  • Chapter 11: Honing Your Leadership Effectiveness Exercise