- How concerned am I with my professional title and why?
- How concerned am I with the professional titles of others in my organization and why?
- How can I find people to work in my organization (even with those titles) that might be overlooked and underutilized by others?
In the remainder of this article, we will systematically examine these three questions in order to better understand our own motivations, avoid potential mistakes, and learn better business tactics in general.
The significance of titles
Naming who will be the CEO of a business often involves ample amounts of stress and tension between members of the founding team. For this reason, some founders decide to postpone the decision as long as possible while opting for a egalitarian approach to decision making. Without the final authority of a CEO, however, making decisions can be arduously slow which in turn can lead to missed business opportunities and growth. Ultimately, a discussion that was avoided because it was convenient may come back later in a much worse way.
I think it is important to note that much of the stress and tension involved in naming people to the C-class of the business could be avoided if we examined how we discuss difficult topics like this. In The Founder’s Dilemmas, Noam Wasserman points out that there are two types of conflicts that can be had – one bad, the other beneficial. When discussions involve personal friction, these are called “affective conflict” and can signal a “lack of trust”, claims Wasserman. On the other hand, discussions involving conflict about ideas or tasks can actually help a team grow. This second type of conflict is called “cognitive conflict” and in the words of Wasserman can “improve the team’s decision making, intensify and enhance the relationships, and increase satisfaction.”
When the time comes for assigning titles to people in our business, we should strive to maintain cognitive conflict over affective conflict. But doing so requires us to put away any selfishness we have for our desire of a C-class title. Instead of simply feeling like “we deserve it,” we need to identify actual reasons that make us either a good or bad fit for the role of CEO, or any other title for that matter. Factors like experience, passion, capital commitment, and knowledge of the industry are all constructive pointers that will lead to better decisions. By examining these and other traits in ourselves and every founder on the team, we’ll be able to avoid resentment and distrust while acting in the best interest of the company – not ourselves.
Finding and appreciating talent
Much of the dissension that occurs during the founding of a business can be caused by incompatible founders and employees. If one founder sees the trajectory of the business heading in a completely different direction than the other, the business may not survive for very long – let alone grow or thrive. But even below the set of founders, the choice we make for anyone we hire can massively impact the life of our company. Accordingly, keeping a constant lookout for the best talent should be incorporated into our everyday life. As Eric Herrenkohl says in his book How to Hire A-Players, “every visit you make to every business establishment is a recruiting trip.” He goes on to explain how building rapport with the people you meet at these businesses is a phenomenal way to find talent. From waitresses to managers and everything in between – observing talent in action is a way of pre-screening potential employees since you’re able to see them on the job in action.
Finally, learning how to reward and appreciate the talent that you recruit is vital. In fact, a lack of appreciation might be the very reason that your employee left their last job. Maybe they were constantly giving 100%, but instead of being promoted, appreciated, and liberated to benefit the company even more, they were held back and unrecognized by poor management. By striving to provide the opposite experience for these employees, a business will retain the talent it recruits while allowing for it to flourish and grow the company. Gratitude is vital at any level of the business, and “can have such a powerful impact on your life because it engages your brain in a virtuous cycle,” says Dr. Alex Korb in his Psychology Today article, The Grateful Brain.
It’s all tied together
From how we find employees to the ones we choose, and how we decide to assign titles to them and ourselves – it’s all tied together and can either form a firm or weak foundation for a new business. The way people act and respond in different situations will have a profound effect on what they expect from your business. So perhaps we should ask ourselves more questions like the three we began with. Because by doing so, we’ll not only know the kinds of people to include in our business, we’ll begin to more clearly see how we ourselves fit into the picture – and the reasoning and logic will be far greater than mere feelings.
Herrenkohl, Eric (2010). How to Hire A-Players. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Korb, Alex (2016). The Grateful Brain: The Neuroscience of giving thanks. PsychologyToday.com. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/prefrontal-nudity/201211/the-grateful-brain
Wasserman, Noam (2012). The Founder’s Dilemmas. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press