The Founder’s Paradox: How Do You Give 100 Percent to Every Teammate and Still Let Go?

founders paradox letting go

We are all capable of achieving greatness. But big achievement rarely happens in isolation. You need support from those who have done it before you — as well as knowledge, skills, and resources. You need to give everything you have to be successful. And you also need to give 100 percent to the people who are excited enough to join you for the adventure.

Leading people is a fundamental part of a company founder’s role — it is also the hardest and most rewarding work you will do.

Finding and hiring qualified folks is just the beginning. You need to provide a clear vision, so that the team has something to work towards together. You need to eliminate drama, provide the necessary resources, and be available when folks need help. This makes healthy space for people to be creative and do their best. It is also a huge investment — time, training, energy, support. You must give it all.

As I have written many times before, it truly is rewarding when individuals and the team succeed. As people learn new skills and learn to effectively work together, growth happens. Integrity-based achievement leads to joy, which leads to the desire to accomplish even more. But success is never a sure thing.

You can give people everything that they need to succeed and sometimes it does not work out.

And sometimes you can try even harder after poor performance to get it right and it still does not work out. You give more time, you put together detailed plans, you try out new roles — still no. Satisfying achievement is not realized. When this happens, you feel frustrated and sad. And so does the person you are trying to help most of the time if they are really trying to be their best. And you will invariably ask yourself, “What did I do wrong?”

It is good to ask that. It is good to beat yourself up because exceptional performance does not come easy. Great leaders are driven to reflect on the role they play in each person’s growth and performance. Leaders have a real responsibility to the team and business. You should continually take a deep look at yourself and others you work closely with. And if you conclude that you have truly given everything you can and an individual is still not giving max effort or getting their work right, then I think it is important to gracefully let go.

There are a few reasons why this is the right choice. It could have been a hiring mistake from the get-go. Maybe the person really was not interested in the core work the position required or did not have the right skills. Sometimes it is a matter of effort. I have realized that you cannot motivate other people for long periods of time. True motivation comes from within. 

When the work is just not right, the person will likely be happier in a different role at a different company. Here is where it gets really difficult. You likely care about the person. You appreciate what they have been able to contribute, but you know it is not enough. And even after multiple conversations, they and others might not see the same path forward that you do. 

It is easy to feel disillusioned. The person, you, and the organization have all invested a ton of energy in the relationship. That might make you wary, skeptical, and even guarded of investing as much in new folks who join the company. It might even feel too risky to put yourself in that position again. Coaching, trusting, and caring deeply for people requires vulnerability.

You must give everything to people who join your team — it is the best way to guarantee success.

Keep looking up. When a transition takes place, be kind with the person and yourself. Not everyone in the company will understand why a change was needed and you should not expect people to. Force yourself and the relevant team leaders to take notice of others who are doing exceptionally well for themselves and the business — feel gratitude for the team and goodness you have. 

Remember that it is possible to give everything you have and let go with kindness when it does not work. Just make sure to ask yourself the questions that no one else will. Your ability to be an optimistic realist is what attracts people to work with you and to make your vision their own. And the only way you and the team can keep growing is to keep giving unconditionally.

Read more of The Founder’s Paradox.

About Brian and Aha!

Brian seeks business and wilderness adventure. He is the co-founder and CEO of Aha! — the world’s #1 roadmap software — and the author of the bestseller Lovability. Brian writes and speaks about product and company growth and the adventure of living a meaningful life.

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