Startup founders are expected to create something new and original in this world that often requires a new way of thinking, sometimes a complete human paradigm shift. They are funded to think differently. To be different.
The irony is that the second these founders raise the money they find themselves under pressure to lead their companies the “right way”. Their team, friends from the industry, MBAs, board members, playbooks, best practices, consultants, the press… Everyone seems to know what they should do. Who they should become. After all, there is a “right way” to lead a company. There is a “right way” to create a product.
In this process, a lot of founders lose touch with their true selves. They gradually distance themselves from the same unique qualities that made them who they are. They lose their superpower in their effort to become who they “should be”.
I find that a lot of my work with founders is focused on reconnecting with that version of themselves that is so pure and powerful. Finding their path back and “allowing” themselves to listen to their inner voice. Allowing themselves to be themselves.
Hey Care Bear 🌈
Yesterday I had one of these sessions. It was so special that I asked the permission of that person to share it in the hopes that more founders would find inspiration and courage to listen and trust their inner voice.
Just for context, we’re talking about a person who leads an organization of around 100 people. At that specific session, we were discussing company values, when he paused and I felt he was embarrassed… I waited patiently until he finally said “Let me open YouTube and I’ll show you EXACTLY who I want us to be like”
Before he even pressed the play button he told me “There is no way I can show that to my team!” And then he gathered the courage and shared his screen on Zoom, and right there, beaming from the screen was a clip of the Care Bears ❤️ using their “superpower” and projecting their famous rainbow to the world.
The Care Bear values
What happened next was astonishing for me as a coach. Usually “extracting” values takes time but when I asked him “What is so special about these bears for you?” Everything he values came out of him in just 60 seconds…
This is what he told me:
They fix the world by doing good.
In times of challenge they find their beam of light inside them in order to cope.
They project their light so everyone can see it and be affected by it.
They are stronger when they are together.
When they hold hands no bear is stronger than the other.
There is no “my beam of light is stronger than yours”.
They are different and diverse but together they create a single rainbow.
The only way they can gain more power is join their hands and aim their beams to the same direction.
Just like that. In 60 seconds the core values of the organization he wants to be part of flowed out of him. (just like a Care Bear beam of light 😊)
Becoming a Care Bear
The thing is (and it so obvious now in hindsight) that this amazing person is the human version of a Care Bear. He is a spreader of light and kindness. He is a believer and a dreamer.
But being someone is different than announcing it to the world. It’s different than owning it and showing up in the world each day as that person.
When I asked him if he’s going to share that clip with his team I saw all his defense mechanisms trigger. So we had a “discussion” with those voices… I asked him to complete the following sentence “I want to show the Care Bare clip to my team but…”
- “Not everyone is a dreamer”
- “Not everyone has imagination”
- “Some people are skeptic and cynical”
- “Some people are looking for other people’s weaknesses”
- “Some people are looking to put other people down”
He summed it up and told me “All this is why I can’t allow myself to show something so ‘Dreamy’ to all the team!!!”
I asked him… “Would you like to work with the type of people you described?”
“Of course not” he answered.
Values are magnets
“Values are like magnets,” I told him “They have two sides. One attracts and the other repels. When you share with people what you truly believe deep down in your heart it will attract the people who believe what you believe and would repel the rest.” (One of the most important lessons I learned from Simon Sinek)
“And, what about those skeptical, cynical people who will choose to stay?” he wondered “Well,” I told him “this is exactly what we have Care Bears for. To help those people change using their beams of light :-)”
It’s a process
I’m not sure if and when he will ever share this clip with the team. I’m not sure he will claim his place as a Care Bear in this world, but I do know that in those precious moments when I saw and felt him speak of those bears I got a chance to see his true and brightest self. And I have no doubt it is that exact person that people would want to follow.