Founder’s Fatigue: Recognizing It & the Top 6 Insider Strategies for Dealing With It
“I have been 150% committed to my startup company for the better part of 11 months and am truly passionate about our services. But I can’t seem to get out of bed today. I don’t have the energy to go to work. Help! I think I need a break from everything!”
How many times have you thought this?
As I look back, I realize that I struggled with founder’s fatigue (FF) throughout much of my 29-year venture, and by the time I got to the last few years, I was ready to leave at the drop of a hat.
During my early adulthood, I never knew such a thing even existed. “How hard can starting a company be?” I thought. I was all geared to conquer any mountain in front of me and thought every team member I hired would be equally passionate about reaching the heights of success with me. Being a Type A personality, I now know that I probably took on more than I should have, instead of sharing the load.
Within your own company, I’m sure you’re already aware that different people take on responsibility differently. A founder is the creative source, the leader who provides the vision. Due to our immense creative input and the work ethic most of us follow, we can soon feel burnt out. This is made even more difficult if you don’t have the right team in place, or if funds are not forthcoming – to name but a couple of factors that lead to founder’s fatigue.
But What Is Founder’s Fatigue Exactly?
There are various types and levels of founder’s fatigue (FF). Steven Moore, in his article for The Startup, How To Deal With Founder’s Fatigue, Your Worst Friend, describes it like this:
“Starting a company requires relentless input. In order for the business to grow, it needs constant creative energy.
When issues and problems arise, it takes a lot of this energy to push through them. This is a basic form of founder’s fatigue — literally a lack of fatigue from founding a business.
However, it runs deeper and more serious.
A lot of it can be stress and confidence related; Doubting virtually every aspect of your business and your choice of career, worrying about your business, cash flow, wages, the next job, the next client, and letting all of the above weigh you down, keep you up at night and generally consume you.”
The Main Causes Of Founder’s Fatigue &
The Top 6 Insider Tips For Dealing With It
1 - Seeking Perfection & Not Delegating Enough
“I can do it better myself,” several founders have told me when I ask them why they are not delegating more tasks to their managers and team.
In my experience, one of the main reasons for founder’s fatigue is that founders take on more responsibility than the rest of the team. They often find it hard to delegate, and they overlook their managers. “I’d rather do it myself,” they say. “No one gets what I’m trying to do.” This is a recipe for disaster in the long term, one which will soon lead to burnout.
- The Problem: The founder does not trust anyone else to do a proper job. This type of thinking can be due to many factors and personal characteristics. Yet, in my experience, most founders who try to do everything themselves are bad communicators or lack the self-confidence, knowledge, or skill to teach others how they want tasks completed. Some suffer from the typical “god complex,” while others simply don’t have patience.
- The Solution: Learn to communicate your vision more clearly to your team, and delegate more responsibilities to your managers, even when they mess up or don’t get it completely right. Your team doesn’t have the ability to read your mind. If you don’t tell them what is expected or leave room for mistakes, they can’t get the job done. In turn, your managers need to practice delegating to their team. This ensures everyone in the company carries a fair amount of responsibility and feels part of the company’s larger mission and vision.
2 – Horrible Communication Skills
“This is not what I asked for!” the founder shouts at the employee.
“But you didn’t tell me what exactly you wanted!” replies the employee.
“You did not, sir,” says the employee. “You said you didn’t have the time to go over the details, and that I should follow my creative instinct. So that’s what I did.”
I’ve already mentioned this in point one, but it’s worth another mention since communication is so important in a business. A large part of founder’s fatigue is a direct result of inadequate communication and management skills. It comes down to the inability to communicate well with your team members. When a founder lacks communication skills, they tend to try and do everything themselves instead of taking the time to train their staff. If a founder took the time to lead instead of keeping themselves busy with tasks that the rest of the team could easily get done, they would experience less strain and exhaustion. Instead, many founders take on a micromanagement role and focus on completing meager, time-consuming tasks, such as spending a full day getting the business email set up when the administrative assistant could easily do it.
- The Solution: Learn to ask the right questions and to communicate your vision more clearly to your team. Delegate more responsibilities to your managers. By communicating clearly and effectively, you will earn more respect from your employees, and you will get more done in your business with less chance of burnout.
3 - Having The Wrong Team Players
If you are an excellent communicator, respected leader, and already delegating to your management team but still find yourself stressed because you feel you are pushing and pushing while the rest of your team is dragging their feet, it’s time to take a closer look at every member in your team. A team member who negatively affects the working environment is like a bad apple.
One of the main reasons for founder’s fatigue is dealing with team members who don’t fit all that well into the company culture or do not pull their weight. Verbal battles and negative situations are draining to everyone.
Since we are all different, we all have different perspectives on work, and our philosophy and commitment to a company will determine our physical and mental investment into that company. Not everyone is going to invest everything they have, mentally and physically, into your company.
- The Solution: As a founder, you’ll notice that some employees and managers do just what is needed, while others exceed expectations. Trying to mold every employee into an image of yourself, or expecting the same commitment and work ethic from all team members, will soon lead to burnout. Instead, learn to identify who people are, provide training and support, know their strengths and weaknesses, and respect the environment in which each performs best. Allow room for their creativity and uniqueness to come through, while taking the time to train and communicate with members of your team.
If a team member continues to drag the rest of the team down, it’s best to let them go. Immediately!
4 – Honor and Promote Quality Team Players & Take Breaks When Needed
As a founder, delegate more responsibility to your top team players who are willing to go the extra mile with you. Recognize hard work and commitment, and reward each person justly. When you have more team members you can rely on, you’ll have less to stress about. Most importantly, watch out for burnout in yourself and your team. Know when it’s time to take a break.
I’m sure we can all agree that Type A team members are absolute musts for any company. We need their fire, enthusiasm, drive, commitment, and desire to perform more than what is expected of them. Unfortunately, it is also this type of personality that is more prone to chronic fatigue, and these players are liable to end up in a state that is unhealthy or mentally unsustainable.
- The Solution: Keep a keen eye on your top team members, and reward them for their extra effort and input. Give them time off when you feel they are pushing towards a point of burnout, even if they insist it is not needed. Observe your own state of mind, and learn to understand what is causing the burnout within yourself. If you are under constant strain because of an unpleasant work environment or unsuitable team members, you have to address these issues before founder’s fatigue takes hold.
5 – Repetition Of Mundane Tasks
Tim Moor, a founder and successful entrepreneur like us, once told me: “In the early days it is what gets you out of bed; the excitement of the project being created and the opportunity of where it could lead. But the repetition of the same or similar activities over a period of time can soon lead to a point where you ask yourself, ‘What is the point of continuing with the project. Where is this getting me?’”
- The Solution:
“I find it helped in those situations to remember the entrepreneurs who mean something to you, founders who also had painful struggles and coped with ‘rejection’ and did not give up. As the chairman of HP1 Technology (a company I co-founded) once said to me, ‘keep going.’ That is all it took. A few words of encouragement, although it was more the way he said it that helped when I remember!”
6 – Personal Health
Most of us founders work incredibly long hours, especially when just starting a company. It takes a lot of time and creative effort to get things off the ground, so we keep pushing ourselves to the brink, even to the detriment of our own health and well-being. I did the same and today still suffer from the aftereffects on my own health and well-being.
- The Solution: I’ve learned that I need to take care of myself – mentally and physically. Instead of sitting for so long in an office, take time to exercise daily before going to the office and take short breaks. Eat proper meals. When you get off work, switch off all mobile and technological devices and completely immerse yourself in quality time with your kids and family. Hey! If Warren Buffet can find the time to do it every day, so can we.
There are many other reasons for founder’s fatigue. Each of us is unique. Look at your circumstances and be completely honest with yourself. When you feel burnt out, take a moment to reflect why it is, and take the necessary action to refuel and recharge.
Enjoyed this article?
Let us know in the comments below. We would love to hear from you.