Rob and I are 50 minutes into our 1-hour coaching call when things go delightfully wrong. Up until that point, the lights were green. It’s a rare moment where, as founder and CEO of a fast-growing 15-person startup, he doesn’t have any burning fires. The company is expanding at a steady clip, the team is performing well, and there’s even some vacation on the horizon.
Meanwhile the clock inexorably ticks down the remaining minutes of our time together. Finally I find the right question.
“What’s unsettled?” I ask.
A long minute of silence echoes on the other end of the line.
“Well my co-founder recently asked for some feedback. It didn’t go well.” From there the words come tumbling out. It’s a gold mine of viscous muck.
“He wants to start yet another new plan, but I know it’s going to fail. He’s great with creativity, but he isn’t able to take a project from start to finish. I just know this thing’s going to end up on a long list of unfinished jobs. I tried to talk about it with him, but he got defensive and angry. I’m hearing similar things from other people on the team and I don’t know what to do about it.”
Now we’ve got something to talk about! Everything that’s wrong with the co-founder relationship is a wonderfully right opportunity for Rob to evolve his company and grow as a leader. We ran out of time without getting to any clear resolution, but the conversation was a huge win. This very real issue that was lying just outside the center of his consciousness now had a name.
Rob’s initial complacency at the outset of our call was understandable. Every entrepreneur needs a chance to catch their breath.sometime. The chaos and constant change of entrepreneurship is unrelenting. It’s a delightful relief when our business calms down enough for us to feel like things are under control.
The “everything’s okay” mindset, however, is barren ground when it comes to growing as a leader and entrepreneur. That soil gets fertilized by the fragrant challenges that are constantly present in our businesses, our relationships, and our mindsets. There may be moments where we don’t attend to them, but they are constantly present just below the surface.
Finding these opportunities for growth takes grit and courage. It means leaning into uncomfortable emotions that include anxiety, incompletion, shame, and confusion. Our natural tendency is to steer away from these emotions. If we can accept them, however, they will show us the way to where our problems live. And every one of those problems is a brilliantly disguised opportunity for transformation and impact.
Rob and I didn’t solve his co-founder issue on that call, but we cracked the code by putting our finger on it. Now that the issue is fully distinguished, progress is inevitable.
As you reflect this month on what issue to bring to your group, lean into hard emotions. It’s not comfortable, but it’s where the gold lives. Consider that this capacity for staying present to discomfort and seeking challenge may be an essential quality of being not just a successful entrepreneur, but fully realized human being.
Here are some questions to spark your inquiry:
- What’s unsettled?
- How are your 2021 goals going? What’s incomplete?
- What hard problems have you filed away to deal with later?
PS We’ll have time to celebrate wins and explore what’s unsettled at our 2022 Annual Retreat. Click here to learn more.