Leading teams – 101

Cutting to the chase, I have led teams in big companies, in volatile emotional environments and  in stressful conditions at sea. And I thought that was leadership.

Later I realised that Leadership is not when people are paid to follow you but when they quit well paying jobs to come follow you. But here is the  kicker, as I understood the hard way, when they start following you is when the work has really begun.

About two years ago, the very first team I put together failed. Broke up within a year.

But part of running a startup as a 25 year old, is you develop two very rare traits – robustness and resilience.

I understood a few key things from the episode that is a constant reminder as to how I will put together teams in the future.

  • People will always and inevitably have their own agenda.**

  • Recruiting for a single world-class strength than a ‘well balanced team mate’#

  • When no real challenge faces us, lethargy sets in. Always be uncomfortable , set unrealistic targets, push people in good spirit, hold them accountable at all and any cost;  but most importantly, make sure they grow.

  • Personalise the dream. Eyeball to Eyeball.##

  • The brilliance of the startup life is that no amount of eloquence or talk can explain away a failure in the market. Walk the talk. Promise the team milestones as the leader and deliver on those.

These are some hard learnt lessons that I did on the field. Although I am not saying I have mastered all these aspects, I am pretty sure I have recognised the aspects I have to master and as they say, I am confident that recognition is half the battle.


footnotes:

**No matter how highly aligned and motivated they are by the vision. It is only a minor percentage of their true motivation. Every individual ( including the founders) have their own personal agendas as to what they want from the startup. YOU NEED TO APPEAL TO THOSE AGENDA TOO.

#Weaknesses can be overcome by other team mates. World class strengths cannot be replicated or groomed.

## Dreams have to connect emotionally. If you find some one in the team can’t or is not emotionally connected to your dream. Cull. Be decisive , swift and move forward on this.

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A new leaf

“And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.”

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Successful or legendary

There is usually a difference between those two adjectives.
Do you want to be a great entrepreneur or ‘the greatest entrepreneur who ever walked the face of this planet?’ .

Do you want to be Tippu Sultan or Alexander the Great?

When you become great, you reach a point of diminishing returns, where the effort required to get to the next level is legendary but the returns only marginally so ( until they start compounding to make you the greatest ever )

The intangible delta between ‘great’ and ‘the greatest ever’ is OBSESSION.

If you don’t believe that for a fact, if you can’t look yourself in the mirror , in the eyes and say to yourself that – ‘ I am going to be greatest entrepreneur who ever walked the face of the earth’, then how good can you really be?

You should not be saying that because you think you are better than anybody else but you should be saying that because you are willing to put in the effort and sacrifice things that no other person is willing to sacrifice to get to where you want to.

 

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Common mistakes post funding that an entrepreneur will make

Very much is written about what startups do right and very less is written about what they do wrong , immediately post funding. Here is a crack at it from my own experience, post our initial funding round :

1. Thinking you have achieved product – market fit from your pre-angel customer feedback

2. Hiring a VP, Marketing post angel funding ( This one ensures you are Fucked, if you don’t course correct!)

3. Signing a simple timeline based vesting agreement and not a milestone based agreement with one and all in the company

4. hiring a VP, Sales post-angel funding thinking I would focus on ONLY FUND RAISING FROM NOW ON  ( rookie mistake!)

5. Thinking and hoping that intangibles like Office space, Cubicles and the good looks of the former dont play any part in hiring or retention

6.Seriously confusing  action and progress, in everyday jobs.

7. focussing on the 80% of work that don’t move us anywhere at all vs the 20% of work that actually moves the company forward

8. Thinking that non-senior early employees ( admin, helpers, etc. ) don’t affect the early culture of the company

There are a few minor ones as well but not as dangerous as the above.

Fortunately, we ( as have I )  have learnt a TON from the above and are pressing on confidently forward towards new milestones quarter after quarter.

Maybe I will elaborate on what I learnt from each of these and how we are moving forward from these lessons, in one of the future posts.

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A Giga-watt a year company

Too long have I spent without expounding on what it means for SolarTown to succeed.

If you see the world around you, especially in India, no one dares to move a thing. No one dares to change a thing. You have a lot of people saying this cant be done and that cant be done.

Think about it , can a structured finance product called a ‘non-recourse loan’ ever have been achieved without an entrepreneur lending to a non-credit worthy buyer and still make a return on that lending? I doubt it. That was unsecured loan created a brand new financial instrument in the world.

But still people want to play in the sandbox created by others. Unquestioningly. They have one lame excuse. BUT THE ECOSYSTEM DOES NOT SUPPORT ME.

If you are an entrepreneur who wants to bring about change in a massive scale, this means you have a lot of value / industries set up for disruption and so obviously the scale is tilted in your failure.

But we shouldn’t let that stop us. If you dont have an ecosystem to support your offering, create it. Start small but start creating. Start adjacent but start.

In India, there is no consumer product for a 20 year or a 25 year loan, that can help an individual home owner buy a solar power plant and pay lesser for electricity over the life of the plant, than what he is paying for his electricty needs. So what do we do? Do we just keep waiting for one such financial product to magically appear or do we get down, dirty and make things happen.

I choose the latter. My ultimate vision is to make SolarTown power most of the worlds residential rooftops with Clean energy, albeit far more powerful and efficient ones than you have today and a small but significant milestone is to forge this company to become ‘a GW a year ‘ company by 2020.

Surpassing that milestone will what mean for us to have truly come into our own , all this at the retail solar level , bringing clean distributed energy access to the common man.

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Smile and Nod

Arguing is such a waste of time. Just plain ignoring is so much more efficient.

I set a goal and talk to people who are supposed to advice me.

The question I ask in the face of unsolicited advice is , ” IS this person someone I want to be in the future sometime or has she coached someone who I would want to be in the future sometime?

If the answer is NO. Smile and Nod. He / She and all her so-called “experience” has nothing to offer you. Nothing.

Move on to seek people who have actually done somethings.

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In search of meaning

In times of desperation we all search for meaning. More importantly, we all search for a purpose in life , hoping that it would give us meaning. But over time, I have come to learn to turn much of my thought process into rational thinking. Pure rationality and critical reasoning always prevail, especially considering that humans ( even the most rational ones ) are 95% irrational.

Not just plain thinking. But rationality and reasoning. There is a difference, but that’s a topic for another post.

But lets talk about meaning. Much and I Say, much of what man assumes to be his “true north” , ” his purpose” and ” his destiny” is just a method by which we maintain our sanity , in the face of the apparent meaninglessness of it all. ( After all, if nothing is permanent then why bother with anything, right? ) . But still we do it. Maybe if we dissolve all our belief systems and reason back from the First Principles, we may get our true purpose. Maybe.

Now, I am not saying I have all the answers. I am but a fellow traveller. I have come to see the futility of trying to respect established rules and prejudices over the last two years. But I am sharing two books what has given me a good perspective on life , meaning, finity of time and purpose. And not for the reasons you had expect but purely for the diverse perspectives that these books will instill in you on the above specifics, you should indulge in these books.

Man’s Search for Meaning – Victor Frankl
The Ending of time – Jiddu Krishnamoorthy and David Bohm

If you, dear reader, know of any better, indulge me too.

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Broken and fixing

Life does kick you in the guts at critical moments.

Thats alright.

Recoup for a while.

Take you meds.

Tie your shoe laces.

Get back to the racing line.

Get pissed off.

Get determined to make it better this time around.

Give it your best.

Again.

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The marathon

Somewhere along the way, I have realised that life and it’s myriad departments are a marathon more than a sprint.

You got to embrace the slip ups , the knee dislocations, get back up , dust yourself and keep chugging along. Isn’t that what you would do in a a marathon . It’s about completing the marathon in a more honourable way than about “winning ” the sprint according to a definition set by society.

From that perspective, you will be a lot more sociable, happy and paced to win at life than being a self absorbed , obsessed and miserable sprinter who seems to be gasping for every breath of air , which in his case , is Time.

Every sphere of life and by definition life itself is spaced out over a long haul. It is a far more pleasant experience if we pay attention to the scenery while running by, at the same time keeping our eyes on the prize and the finish line which maybe hundreds of miles away.

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Solar module manufacturers and system integrators in India

Lately, there is a heavy influx of module manufacturers getting in to system integration to ward off competitons and increase margins. These are people with a hammer who are going looking for a nail.

The role of the system integrator is to actually be manufacturer neutral and to select the best on a case by case basis. Lets see what happens in the future in the Indian rooftop solar market.

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