The Journey Blog

Reflections on the art of leading

Rising from the mud

When I worked in the family construction business I learned that the foundation stage of a building not only determines the shape, potential height, strength, stability, and longevity of a structure, but also that its seems incredibly slow.

During all that time, if you drive by a construction site in the early weeks, it is dirty, mucky, and unattractive. It doesn’t look like much is happening.

Then you drive by again and suddenly a building has “come out of the ground.” All at once it looks like a building instead of a hazardous waste dump—it has a shape and it’s all clean new materials, even if its still incomplete.

Every entrepreneur experiences this slow, hidden stage with its unique challenges, its mucky soil, setbacks and frustrations. Bringing a dream into reality—something that only exists in one's imagination—is not for the faint of heart. It can also be a very lonely journey until there is some structure and visible shape to things. Most people find it much easier to believe in and connect with something they can see.

Many leaders in this stage of a project get themselves into a bad place. There is much work to be done and little showing for it, so they work much longer and harder, and begin to fray around the edges. Bad habits and blind spots start to stand out, especially in relating to  people. They may indulge in unwise risk-taking in a relationship or with finances.

The foundation stage is also pretty solitary. While the work is still "in the ground" the measurable results and satisfaction of progress are not so clear.

Wise entrepreneurs and leaders create a support team, connecting with a coach, a mentor, and a trusted adviser with whom to process and who will ask good questions, can look in from the outside and offer insights.

Do you have someone like this in your life?