Letting entrepreneurs off leash

I recently got a dog – a very, very high energy and smart dog – a breed that is often a working dog.  When we met with her foster parents ahead of adopting her – they said “she pulls a lot, barks at other dogs and is tough to walk on leash, but she is GREAT off leash.”  

Off leash, she really behaves differently.  She is in control.   She comes when called.  She is much friendlier to other dogs – playing or ignoring.  She gets more exercise (my main goal).  She stays out of trouble.  She even comes back every few minutes to say hi.   She still knows that she needs me for food, shelter, affection, etc.

However, when I put her on a longer or retractable leash, she often behaves worse than on a normal leash.  Imagine running 30 feet thinking that you’re free only to be rudely awoken by a taut leash!  Or, even worse, not knowing when the leash is going to become taut!

If I’m jogging or going somewhere really interesting (like up a mountain), she’s ok on the leash.  She feels like we’re trying to do the same thing and she’s happy to come along.  And, I’m less likely to lose her on my adventure.

I was thinking about this as I was having a great conversation this morning about innovation and entrepreneurship with Doug Williams (@DougWilliamsMHD).

Executives are wired to keep general managers on short leashes:

  • monthly, quarterly, annual metrics based on prior and comparative performance
  • tightly managed budgets done the year before
  • standard hierarchies (command and control)

Good general managers are successful when there aren’t any surprises and when they hit the upper bounds of their expected metrics.  They are paid to reduce, mitigate and eliminate risk.  They take direction well.  They probably like the security and consistency of being on a leash.

This approach doesn’t work with entrepreneurs.  Their wiring is different (as it needs to be) – sometimes quirky even.  There are too many unknowns.  It is tough to define long-term goals.  Much of the investment pays for learning from mistakes.  Entrepreneurs are paid to take smart risks.  They need to adapt as they learn.  Statistically, they’ll fail 2 or 3 times before they succeed (if they’re good!).  They’ll need the strength and support when they do to get back up again.  Mutual trust takes the place of their leash.

Are you prepared to let your entrepreneurs off leash?  Will they behave, get things done and come when you call them?  Make sure you reward them when they do!

Oh, and dog parks are a great stepping stone!


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