Leaders that drive growth are bold; they have the confidence and the courage to take risks. They need to be bold to think big, raise capital, set extremely high targets, develop new products, enter new markets and challenge competitors.
I don’t know about you, but as a business owner I am worried a lot of the time. While I am setting bold growth targets and plans I am still thinking about the responsibility of the employees that depend on me to feed their families. But as I tell my daughters, being bold doesn’t mean you don’t feel scared; it just means that it doesn’t incapacitate you.
When I was a child I believed that being bold was in one’s character — that you were either bold or you were not. My first reference of boldness was my father, a pioneering pediatric orthopedic surgeon. But it was my experiences over a decade of endurance training that taught me that it was possible to cultivate boldness.
You may not be Elon Musk or Richard Branson but you can put in place practices that can cultivate your boldness. So even when you are scared to death, you can still have the confidence and courage to be bold.
1. Dream big and focus externally.
The first time I was inspired to compete in an endurance event was when I saw a man with one leg crossing the finish line of the Dallas marathon. Too often we think boldness is in having a grand vision but it takes focus and discipline to make it real — vision gets you to the starting line, but it’s focus and discipline that get you across the finish line.
Build boldness into your quarterly planning — think of an outrageous “dream” target like quadrupling market share, share it with your team and then together work back to how you would get there. Do this on a regular basis and these targets will seem less and less outrageous and you will instill bold thinking in yourself and your team.
If your company is privately owned, set up an executive advisory board to focus you on external thinking and get external feedback about your company. Make sure they are people with the right expertise and high levels of candor. Regularly hearing external thinking and hard feedback about your company will make you bolder.
2. Don’t be intimidated.
At the starting line of an endurance event you cannot be intimidated by the big guy beside you — I’ve often beat much bigger and physically stronger people because I am more focused and have trained right.
When you are growing a business it is easy to be intimidated by the big fish with all the resources, but if you are more focused and more differentiated you can win.
Be clear and focused on your strategy. Don’t be distracted or try to be everything to everyone. Be dogged and determined to achieve your goals. SpaceX isn’t letting NASA’s 50-plus years dominance of space exploration intimidate them.
3. Remember that good recovery allows us to be bold.
If we want to be bold we need to learn how to recover really well in both work and life. Athletes prioritize recovery so that they can heal and get stronger. An ultra-marathon runner can’t take a break during a race so instead they practice active recovery — which means they slow down their pace so they can recover and replenish their energy.
We can only be bold and perform at our peak when we recover well and replenish ourselves on a regular basis but when you are growing a business you rarely have the luxury of a vacation (passive recovery) so it makes sense to master active recovery for yourself and for your team.
Airbnb has built recovery into its business, shutting down for two weeks every Christmas so everyone can renew and replenish their energy. After a big sales drive or product launch, don’t just jump onto the next big push — take some time for yourself and your team to recover. For instance, do some less taxing tasks that have been put on the back burner or take a field trip to talk with a customer.