Tuesday, August 11, 2015

So You Wanna Start a Corp (Part V)


Fast forward a month or three or five.  Let's say that you've founded a corp, had a successful kickoff, and you've got a roster of players off being productive.  Good job, my friend.

Things should be great, right?  Then why aren't they?  Why all the drama?  (Or worse ... lack of any activity at all?)

Quite possibly, it's you.  Here are three things you can keep in mind to help you stay ahead of the drama curve.

NOTE:  Before the jump to the full article, I gotta add a disclaimer.  This post is just friggin' chock full of generalizations and strong opinions on how to be a CEO.  They might not work for you.  They might not work in all situations.  The point here, though, is to make you think - to be cognizant of the role you are signing up for as the CEO, and to maybe not take the mantle of Leadership as lightly as some seem to do.

A) Listening and Visibility

The first thing to remember is, in any human organization of size, there's an invisible but tangible boundary between the leadership and the masses.  It's human nature, and it's unavoidable.

First things first, to some extent, you need this.  You need to speak with the voice of authority.  You need to cultivate (and earn) the credibility that a consistent and responsible CEO needs to bring to the table.  Your opinions need to matter, and carry more weight.  Your decisions need to be accepted and adopted.  You need the others around you to see you as THE Leader and not just one of the guys.

Herein lies the problem.

If you've successfully established yourself as THE Leader, then you, my friend, are also living in a bubble.  There are things that you would hear if you were one of the "normal guys," but you are isolated from them.  People will be afraid to “bother” you with vital information because they assume you already know.  (Or worse, some folks will give crap for not knowing things you "should" know).  Some people are maybe intimidated by your title and are hesitant to approach you; players recruited several weeks after the kickoff are generally more susceptible to this - they only know you as "the CEO."  And more likely, you're up to your neck in daily corp life and snippets of conversation are flowing past you without really noticing.

So, you may be the most friendly, approachable, good intentioned leader, but … You. Are. Not. Hearing. Everything.

But you can hear more.

First, don't feed the monster.  Be an active and visible Leader during corp ops, and don't play favorites.  It's easy for the masses to see you interacting only with the other officers and assume that they're not welcome in that social circle or that you're unapproachable.

Second, don't hide in private chat windows.  To be honest, this is a sin I was guilty of as [PUKE] CEO.  A sub-group of the corp chatted away every night in an Ops channel and left the Alliance and Corp channel to rot.  Not good, and we paid for it.

Another anecdote:  when we merged PUKE with another corp, I quickly noticed that the Officers of the corp we folded into - who I really got along well with - were nearly never active in the Corp window.  All their time was spent facing outward, dealing with other corporations and Alliance shenanigans.  Now that I was a Corp member, it was like they vanished and I was dealing with an all new crew.

Thirdly, talk to everyone.  It takes time you sometimes don't have, but it's part of the job.  Open a convo window and ask them how things are going.  If your last 1 on 1 conversation with a corp member was when you recruited them, how are they supposed to know you?

B) Play Like You've Got a Pair

Next, you need to look at your roster like a garden.  Gardens require maintenance.  Sometimes things sprout that look like vegetables that later turn out to be weeds.

You no doubt have rules of conduct that your  players agree to live by, but there will always be that guy that pushes the boundaries.  He will not overtly break any rule.  He won't give you a concrete reason to punt him.  Instead, he's the guy that generates a low level of tension every time he logs in.  Either he's too full of spastic enthusiasm, or he's surrounded by a cloud of drama, or he whines incessantly about not having anything to do, or he's the crusty cynic that craps on any useful conversation he can.

At this point of your CEO career, you need to cultivate a culture.  Let's face it - your corp's Culture (note the big 'C') is your primary product as a Corporation.  It's the one thing that sets you apart from others and makes people proud to wear your corp ticker.  It's intangible, and tough to define, but ultimately it's bits and pieces of each member that make up your corp's identity.

If you let your culture cultivate itself, you'll just end up with a flower pot full of weeds.  It's distasteful, not easy to do, but it's necessary, but the culture needs to be maintained.  You have to identify the weeds and yank them out.  It doesn't have to be personal; handle it professionally, and do it quickly.

In over two decades of doing this stuff, I can't think of anyone that I regret giving the boot.  But I can think of a half dozen names of players that I left in the garden too long.

And that doesn't mean you need to go on witch hunts looking for someone to prune.  There is no mysterious "pruning quota" you must hit to have a healthy organization.  Just trust your instincts and be ready to have a conversation with your officers when things don't feel right.

C) Delegate and Expect it to Go Poorly

I see this one a lot at the office.  Being a Leader means being able to delegate.  Being able to delegate means being accepting whatever the outcome is (even if unfavorable) and dealing with it.  

Being able to accept whatever the outcome is means understanding that (warning: sweeping generalizations ahead) there are only 5 possible outcomes of a delegation.
  1. Things will get fucked up.
  2. The person won't do anything at all and you'll eat a delay.
  3. You'll get a mediocre result, maybe not quite what you wanted but close.
  4. Things will meet your expectations.
  5. Things will exceed your expectations.
Three of those 5 things are a net gain, and required little or no effort on your part.  One (the delay) requires a re-delegation or a restart and maybe no net loss.  Only one of those 5 results require you to actively fix something.

There's not much that someone can screw up that I can't unfuck with only a little effort, and what the heck - maybe we'll both learn something along the way.

Some guys don't get this math and can't delegate.  Or they look a the list of possible outcomes and say "well, 4 of the 5 don't exceed my own expectations, so I'm better off doing it myself."  

What they don't take into account is that in the list of 20 things they need to do, only a few need their personal finesse.  The rest could be done by anyone, and the "bonus" of exceeding expectations on one or two tasks while not getting 3 or 4 others done is a net LOSS for the day.

Phew, here's the end of Part V.  I have one more mostly written and ready to go, and maybe a wrap up after that.

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