Good Grounds

A set of basic principles for leaders, managers & entrepreneurs

Every single entrepreneur is at a different stage, with a set of particular conditions that apply to their singular persona. It’s impossible to provide a one-size-fits-all approach to address the specificities of their journey. Same goes for a leader or a manager.

However, I have observed that some of the best entrepreneurs we back, those who maximise their odds of success regardless the challenges ahead of their ventures, share a set of common deductive principles.

  1. Mastering with discipline

  2. Lasting with consistency

  3. Learning clear thinking & writing

  4. Writing to structure, convey & discuss

  5. Getting people to join with honesty

  6. Surrounding ourselves with the best persons

  7. Killing regressions

  8. Shortening the feedback loops

  9. Running is the new walking

  10. Non linear reading

1) Mastering with discipline

First things first, discipline. One definition is the quality of being able to behave and work in a controlled way which involves obeying particular rules or standards. The benefits are tremendous:

  • Better control over the perimeter of our agenda & organisation;

  • Higher efficiency as we focus on certain tasks;

Control: Discipline is the art of setting the what, when & where of everything we do. From there, we know exactly the perimeter of our actions. It allows us to control whether we are inside or outside our zone of optimal organisation.

Efficiency: Discipline is also our ability to setting why and how we do things. That’s how we can focus on one thing at a time and maximise their efficiency by explicitly cracking how to greatly achieve them.

In that regards, you might like reading this post: How to build tailor-made habits.

2) Lasting with consistency

Discipline without consistency is useless. One of my favourite quote is from Bill Gates: We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten.

Remember that movie Karate Kid ? It’s such a great reminder that consistency is the invisible force of our most remarkable abilities. The more we train ourselves through a repeat set of thoughts, decisions and actions, the greater we become at mastering our talents and skills.

For instance, Kima Ventures is a fabulous opportunity to go through hundreds of startups in our dealflow each week, as well as to follow a thousand more in our portfolio. People underestimate how efficient and accurate we become at addressing most of the questions that our portfolio founders have.

3) Learning clear thinking & writing

Albert Einstein is the master of clear thinking and his quotes are a perfect legacy of its benefits: “It is certainly true that principles cannot be more securely founded than on experience and consciously clear thinking.” / “Convictions can best be supported with experience and clear thinking.”. I found the latter being a superb definition of what makes a great investor.

However, clear thinking comes from our ability to find moments of reflections through solitude, as Thomas Edison clearly said it: “To do much clear thinking a person must arrange for regular periods of solitude when they can concentrate and indulge the imagination without distraction.

Finally, clear thinking is the prior condition and the original vectoring source of clear writing. As Tim Ferriss said it: “Short, sweet, and to the point. Clear writing, and therefore clear commands, comes from clear thinking. Think simple.

Clear thinking is the foundation of great principles. it comes from finding time for solitude and reflection. As it’s transposed into clear writing, it allows us to score great achievements.

However, how to learn the art of clear thinking. One way is to go backwards by learning clear writing first. In everything we do, we shall practice logic. Barbara Minto has published a great book that every one of us should read: The Pyramid Principle.

4) Writing to structure, convey & discuss

Why do we write? why do we prepare pitch decks? why do we send updates? We observe that many times, our materials aren’t entirely read, they are quickly forgotten, so that we struggle to understand the benefits of having put so much effort into those writings.

We shall not give up. We shouldn’t mind the audience, but rather why we’re doing this.

Every time we write, we are being disciplined. And the more we do it, the better we become at writing clearly and thoroughly, on top of stacking up the long lasting effects of this consistent habit that will reveal our ability to think & write clearly.

Whenever we write, we are in a process of structuring our thinking, our message, even more importantly our explanations.

Subsequently, we are able to convey a message, how we perceive certain things, in a way that is perceived as intelligible, understandable and sometimes even convincing by the people who read us.

The final objective is to trigger a discussion among the participants, our initial material acting as a ground for a fruitful conversation.

5) Getting people to join with honesty

At the beginning of any venture, we must deploy significant efforts into convincing people to believe, back, follow, or join our journey. As we’re structuring our thinking and writing into maximising the output of the messages we’re delivering, we develop our ability to persuade people.

The more we progress towards achieving milestones, whether they are means (fundraising, branding…) or actual progress (product release, sales…), the more people listen to us as we are able to craft a story around clear thinking and writing.

The issue with this spike of attention as the first milestones become tangible, is that it tends to create a distortion. At things progress, people gets credited for what they are saying even before they appear to have demonstrated whether it was true or whether they were capable of delivering or achieving their promises. It’s the dominant leader fallacy: people believe or discard the authority before having assessed the actual arguments.

Startups are expert into selling the future while struggling to deliver the present, and founders are sometimes turning their initial vision into actual delusion.

We shouldn’t get people to follow us blindly but rather join us with honesty, in the way they perceive the organisation, provide constructive feedbacks and work with an emphasis on pursuing meaningful efforts and tangible achievements.

We shall be careful to be always challenged.

6) Surrounding ourselves with the best persons

One way to fight against delusion or not to get lost within the magnetism that an organisation or a person can create around them is to be surrounded by the very best people within and outside the organisation.

Within a group, the leader or manager is the one who set the bar higher by being a role model for their peers and the guarantors of a culture that values honesty, transparency and merit over politics and misplaced ego.

We shall encourage everyone in the organisation to nurture those behaviours, by setting a clear set of objectives and key results, as well as by giving a chance to everyone to provide anonymous feedbacks that will be taken into account.

Three books that we shall all read among many other: What you do is who you are, The five dysfunctions of a team, Measure what matters.

A functional organisation isn’t enough to go beyond the limits of our ignorance and blind spots. We shall, each one of us, gather support from the outside, by finding the people who can allow us to diagnose our current situation, to set goals for the long, mid and short term, to support us through this process.

On specific situations, one might need the help of real specialists, like the people of https://www.fndr.co/, who help companies craft defining narratives.

For the ones who are still doubtful about coaching, listen to this:

7) Killing regressions

Once we are surrounded with the best possible people, on top of keeping the bar high, as organisations grow and time pass, regressions often arise.

Regressions come from the comfort of the wins. As we reach milestones, win battles, build an organisation that seems bigger therefore less threatened, feel like the major and harder achievements are behind us, regressions start to grow.

Think of an orchestra with a thousand instruments.

As more and more musicians join the crew, some people observe that some of their tiny mistakes aren’t noticed anymore, they don’t pay as much attention as before, they naturally become less responsible as they appear to be less accountable. They end up realising that the crew is running whether they play well or not. The theatre is still full of people. Think of a merry-go-round. It appears suddenly that it wasn’t only one musician, but several, actually more and more, and suddenly, through the simultaneity of their mistakes, we realise the orchestra must be fixed. And it takes time. We must get rid of those who have stopped playing with the same excellence and reorganise the whole crew. We must clean the liabilities, fight against the latency created by the re-organisation. We can’t stop playing. But we already suffer from the damages. Sensitive ears in the audience, from all sides of the theatre, have left without leaving trace. The conductor was so close from the whole crew of musicians, that they couldn’t hear the subtle mistakes being made here and there while they felt accentuated depending on where people were seated in the theatre.

We know what to do next time, we place people at multiple locations in the room in order to detect and clean-up the discrepancies before they compound into a giant mess.

We shall create organs and principles of control to kill regressions and discrepancies as they arise. Once people feel like they are not as accountable as the organisation gains in size, we are in trouble.

8) Shortening the feedback loops

Those regressions also appear because the feedback loops are usually too long for most of the things we do. We tend to wait until we realise that it’s too late or that we have won.

In Venture Capital, it’s especially true, we only know after ten years if our investments are successful or not. In the meantime, the best ones, apparently, might collapse, and the lost cause might survive, break-out and win. Nothing is really intuitive and easy as it sounds.

On a regular basis, as often as every one or two weeks, we shall figure out:

  • The mistakes we’ve done, why, and how we can prevent them in the future;

  • If any of our prior conceptions collapsed and why;

  • What we have learnt from others, from certain situations;

  • The things we’ve done well but that we could have achieved better;

  • The issues in our organisation that must be fixed;

  • The people we should greet, thank and engage with;

  • If we are running fast enough.

9) Running is the new walking

So many people despise those who appear to work too hard, to run too fast, to live a life that is too intense. That is true, it will literally kill us. However, people also tend to misunderstand or misconceive some critical points:

  • We must be competent, diligent and efficient in what we do. Whether we work a lot or not, it doesn’t matter without those prerequisites.

  • As we start, we must accelerate the steep of our trajectory, as soon as we can, as it creates a precedent for what will follow, whether we decide in the future to keep the same velocity & intensity of decisions & actions. It sets good grounds for how we do things generally, we become more accustomed to additional efforts, it forces us to better discipline & consistency in order to play a long term game.

  • The better we progress, the faster we learn new things and apply what we have already learnt, but also delegate to focus where lies our unique value or set of skills.

Whenever we start something, whether it is a company, a career, a race, or a group, the initial velocity that applies to our execution sets the pace for the future, and every single person who has tasted real velocity will tell you that it’s one of the best thing that happened to them. Even though we shall not forget that it’s a marathon.

10) Non linear reading

We couldn’t finish this list without the art of non linear reading.

Reading is a fuel for the mind, to think, discover, entertain, even trigger decisions and actions. However, we tend to apply linear reading, as we’ve been taught at school. It’s a mistake. Do we force ourselves to watch a tv series if we don’t like the first episodes ? Do we read newspapers from beginning to end without cutting through some parts ? Of course not.

We shall all learn to read different bits and pieces, at various pace, in diverse environment, with and without taking notes, in order to build our own system of alternate reading: continue or stop, fast and slow, short and long, with and without notes, for work and pleasure…

Conclusion

Voilà. I wanted to make a short piece about the good grounds that matter for anyone in search for general life principles. It’s slightly longer and messier than I expected. But hopefully you’ll gather useful bits from it.

Oh… I almost forgot, here is a song for you :)