Leadership Methods for Startup CEOs with Russell Benaroya
INTRODUCTION: Welcome to the Daily Bolster. Each day, we welcome transformational executives to share their real world experiences and practical advice about scaling yourself, your team, and your business.
Matt Blumberg: Welcome to the Daily Bolster. I'm Matt Blumberg, co- founder and CEO of Bolster, and I am here today with Russell Benaroya. Russell is a startup founder himself and a serial entrepreneur. He is now also a coach. He is an author. He wrote an amazing book called One Life to Lead, which I have never far from me because there's some fantastic things in it. I think the subtitle is Business Success Through Better Life Design, which is a subtitle. The subtitle on its own is very thoughtful and thought- provoking. So Russell, thank you for being with me today.
Russell Benaroya: Oh, Matt, thank you so much. So fun to be here and thanks for doing the Nook Flash. That was awesome.
Matt Blumberg: Yeah, so look, you talk a lot in your book and in your speaking about leadership. It's something I'm certainly obsessed with. Any founder and CEO is going to be obsessed with. So what are your top three leadership techniques for every startup CEO?
Russell Benaroya: Great question. The journey of startup CEO is so full of rollercoaster ups and downs and mind benders. I want to share three techniques primarily around self- management of those ups and downs. So the first one is that you choose your belief bubbles. You choose your belief bubbles. What I mean by that is when we ground our stories, the stories that we manifest in our head with facts, we can realize that there are so many different stories associated with a fairly finite set of information that doesn't have meaning until we apply meaning to it. So for example, if you lost that deal, you hired that wrong employee, you nailed that deal, or you launched a new product that didn't quite get the traction you were looking for, we tend to spin up a story in our head about what that means about us, the business, our future, and they're usually stories that aren't in service to us. So imagine you close your eyes and you see all these bubbles around you of potential stories around those set of facts. They're equally positive stories that you could choose and that's your choice. Choose your belief bubbles.
Matt Blumberg: I love it. I love it. I remember, I think you and I both know Rand Fishkin in common. And Rand has been on on the podcast a couple times. He wrote a very powerful blog post years ago called something about the narratives we tell ourselves. It's very much in line with that. So I love that as your first leadership technique, be mindful of the bubbles. What's number two?
Russell Benaroya: Number two is realize that it's a get to. Realize that it's a get to. So 11 years ago or so, I was in the Techstars program and I was sitting in our managing director's office and I had a situation happen to me that was very scary for me and very unfavorable from a business standpoint. And I'm lamenting and I remember I'm getting emotional with my managing director and he looks at me and he says, " Russell's a get to." I said, " What do you mean it's a get to you?" You get to do this, you get to go through this. You get to experience this pain. You will not die as a result of this. Very few people get to go through this circumstance. So you have a choice. You can either look at it as a, oh, I get to do this, or you can cower in fear and reminding myself of the power of a get to was so effective in traversing what otherwise often feels like a tremendous number of obstacles for startup entrepreneurs. And when we transcend that message to our teammates, then we can really build a culture that is all about embracing those sucky moments and appreciating the get to before us.
Matt Blumberg: I love that, like the difference between a have to and a get to is huge.
Russell Benaroya: Totally.
Matt Blumberg: All right, and what's number three?
Russell Benaroya: Okay, the last one is a little less around mind trick activity. So first two were definitely mind management for leadership, which I think is critical. The third is a little bit more tactical or practical, and that is build your company on a foundation of principles. On a foundation of principles and reduce the emotion. What I mean by that is it's not enough to just have some values that we put on a wall. Principles embed the behavior of you and your teammates into the culture of the organization for not only how you interact with each other, but also how you interact in the marketplace. Let me give you some examples. If you believe or live a principle that is we make and honor commitments and we document what that means and how we execute, that becomes a pretty powerful mantra. If you have a principle that is it's okay to make mistakes, it's unacceptable not to learn from them, and you embed that into the culture of the organization, then when mistakes are made, you spend less time on the mistake and more time root causing the why in affecting systemic change. And it's not an emotional thing. Or if you're trying to build a repeatable service that can scale, you might have a principle that is relentlessly pursue the creation of an impossibly perfect machine. And then your whole culture is built around the concept of machine building. So the power of principles is the most effective way to create a connected bond around a set of guidelines or behaviors that everybody can rally around.
Matt Blumberg: I love that last one. I think it's the ad I would have or the build I would have is it's also about the articulation or the visualization of it, which maybe puts it back into the realm of the mind a little bit.
Russell Benaroya: Yeah.
Matt Blumberg: Anyway, fantastic. Three great leadership techniques for CEOs. Russell Benaroya, thank you so much for being here.
Russell Benaroya: Thanks, Matt. Have a great day. Thanks everybody.
Ready to level up your leadership game? Today on The Daily Bolster, Russell Benaroya shares three leadership techniques that can help CEOs embrace challenges and shape their internal narratives.
Russell is a startup founder, serial entrepreneur, coach, and author of the book One Life to Lead. Tune in to this episode for practical wisdom that'll transform your leadership style.