Entrepreneurs are sometimes held to a standard that isn’t realistic. Some people think of them as superhuman and hard-charging, with everything figured out. This is only partly true! Most are hard-charging, but they experience the same emotions as everyone. And they definitely don’t have everything figured out—figuring it out as they go is par for the course.
Like everyone, entrepreneurs have to do things they aren’t good at doing. Unfortunately, when you’re building a company your weaknesses are exposed early and how you mitigate them can be very public. For example, if you’re not great at communicating, that will be quickly apparent to your team. They’ll see firsthand your evolution—the ups and the downs—as you become a better communicator.
I myself spent many years unaware of (or ignoring) my weaknesses at CCAW. I thought founders had to be strong and show no cracks. I was trying to live up to an image that was ridiculous. And I wasn’t alone. Other founders (in my opinion) were doing the same. Over time this charade wore on me mentally. I was failing in key areas and trying unsuccessfully to figure out why. It felt like I was drowning.
When I joined accountability groups with other entrepreneurs and listened to them describe challenges and acknowledge weaknesses, my perspective changed. As time passed, I began to open up and share my own weaknesses. I got feedback and learned from their experiences. Being more self-aware helped improve my decision-making and leadership. I no longer expected perfection because I accepted that I’m far from perfect myself.
I’m sharing this because I want to help early founders avoid this kind of self-inflicted pain. From the other side of the table, where I am now, it’s great when a founder is self-aware and willing to articulate what kind of help they need. We know they have weaknesses because everyone does (we’re not shocked or disappointed!) and we appreciate not having to guess what they are. Often, we can help by making an intro, sharing a resource, or describing a similar experience—but only if we know what would be useful.