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Entrepreneurial Expectations & Superhero Status

Posted by Seth Elliott On September - 9 - 2010

“Seth,” a coaching client said to me recently, “I love being an entrepreneur. I was prepared for pressure – but I never realized how much of the pressure would come from expectations.”

It’s one of the dirty little secrets of entrepreneurship. Part of the reason why many people start new ventures is that you are the final arbiter – you no longer answer to someone else. However, the flip side of that coin is that everyone else looks to you. Usually, entrepreneurs find this energizing. But for many, there comes a point where the pressures of living up to expectations – their own, as well as everyone else’s – becomes overwhelming.

Entrepreneurs aren’t superheroes – but in many cases it feels like society expects that of you.

As with many issues of this type, one helpful bit of advice is to break the problem down into manageable pieces. A first piece of the solution? Identify traits, characteristics and activities that help to showcase the behavior that identifies you as a role model. Here are some suggestions for how to maintain your superhero status:

Serenity Now. In the world of fast-paced startups, a calm, positive presence is an anchor. Maintain and project self-confidence and respond calmly to all circumstances. Naturally, temper these traits with a dose of realism and an ongoing desire to address new challenges.

Humble Pie. At the same time, remember that the world knows nobody’s perfect. Foster the impression of responsibility. When you make a bad choices (which we all do), own up to your mistake and articulate how you intend to address the issue. Accepting accountability is a big component of leading by example – the essence of a role model.

Ask. In a related fashion, don’t be afraid to ask for help or advice. Most startups are staffed by knowledgeable people who enjoy challenges. Take advantage of the skill sets – solicit opinions and ask for volunteers. Then be sure to provide support and acknowledge success.

Interact.. The best leaders stay on message. They explain where they are going (and why) and enroll audiences in their vision. However, this is not accomplished simply by isolated repetition of their message. Instead, listen, evaluate and respond to everyone in a manner that ties them into your core vision and message.

Sincerity. You can’t be all things to all people. Be proud of the path that you’ve chosen. Above all, today’s superheroes are genuine and authentic. Do not adjust who you are and what you stand for merely for the sake of momentary expediency.

Treat Your Waiters Well. Successful, ambitious and intelligent doesn’t make you a superhero. How you treat others, particularly those people who you have some degree of power or authority over, speaks volumes. If you take people for granted or ignore others’ feelings, people will notice. Recognize that each person you encounter is an individual with hopes and dreams and treat them with respect and civility.

More than Your Business. As important as your business is, there’s a wide world out there. Find the time to identify a cause that matters to you and help out. Commitment to a good cause implies a strong commitment to the business. It shows that you are not single-minded and showcases your ability to do well in more than one aspect of your life – a real sign of a superhero.

If you’ve been having difficulties living up to expectations, following these (and other similar) guidelines should hopefully ease some of that pressure. And even if you’ve not felt that stress, applying these development strategies can only be good for you – both personally and professionally.

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About the Author

I have spent the last 15 years advising entrepreneurs on starting and growing their businesses, as well as assisting in financing those growth efforts. I have also been an entrepreneur on several occasions myself. By writing this blog, I hope to provide actionable advice on how to achieve your goals and become more successful.