As CEOs and product owners, we are effectively outsourced team members, contract force accelerators. Yet more often than not, we act like clueless employees, sleepwalking through the day, hoping that our actions align with our employer’s goals or, at worst, praying we don’t fuck up enough to be noticed.
Here’s a simple rule to follow: If an airline pilot wouldn’t do it the night before a long-haul flight, don’t do it as a founder. No getting drunk, no staying up until 3 am, no crappy midnight snacks. As a favorite children’s book once put it, just go the fuck to sleep.
CEOs often forget that their company exists solely to solve the problems of their customers. And while “focus on customers,” isn’t a step only to be taken during an apocalypse, it has outsized importance when everything around us is changing.
This is the time to surround yourself with a support network. You need people to act as sounding boards, to answer questions, and to solve problems. You need people to connect with and keep you grounded.
This step is straight-up not about whether to communicate. It is about what to communicate. Stress is uncertainty about and the inability to affect the future, so telling stakeholders how bad the future might be without giving them something to do won’t make them feel any better.
The first step in surviving the apocalypse (startup or BigCo) can be boiled down to a phrase Joseph’s father used to tell him — “when you recognize you are digging yourself in a hole, stop digging.”