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5 Steps to Overcome Your First CEO Crisis

5 Steps to Overcome Your First CEO Crisis

As an entrepreneur, there will be many challenges to deal with. They will range from problem employees to clients and let’s not forget the problems with the product. Those are always fun! As cliché as it may sound, these moments are when you must dig deep and prove yourself as a leader. It is in these moments that you must move through the inconvenient and uncomfortable times

Your first CEO crisis is likely not to be your last. Startups are notoriously unstable environments and as such, anything that can often will go wrong. So how can founders maintain a cool head during their first CEO crisis?

  1. Keep calm.

Losing your cool is never the best thing to do when in the middle of a crisis. No matter how big or small your company is; your team expects you to lead. So, lead. Do not meltdown in the face of pressure. If you need time to collect yourself, do so. But a calm head is important to receive the guidance to move forward. This is not to say that there won’t be times when emotions run high. But you cannot effectively lead while in a highly emotional state, whether it is anger or pain. The time that it takes to gather your emotions and your thoughts you will find will be valuable.

  1. Re-assess the problem.

At times, problems may seem insurmountable. Breaking a problem down into small actionable steps that you can take can reveal a clear path forward. A problem is often just a combination of issues that were previously overlooked. Taking time to assess the real issue at hand, opens up the opportunity to create a plan that will ultimately lead to your solution.

  1. Resist the urge to blame.

Depending on how severe your crisis is, you should always resist the urge to lay blame. Sometimes, yes it is someone’s fault. But remember, you are the captain of the ship. So ultimately, whatever blame exists can and may always find its way back to you. Casting blame on someone else is never a good look. Step up and address the problem and move on. If, I fact the error is so egregious that it requires the removal of a team member, handle it with tact.

  1. Get help.

You might find that the steps you have laid out require the assistance of others. Reach out to them. Sometimes the weight is a lot lighter of borne by others. Remember that asking for help is not a weakness. If you’ve truly surrounded yourself with teammates that are smarter than you, then you will find that you might have resources a phone call or meeting away. And sometimes right down the hall. Use them. Being CEO never means carrying the burden of crisis alone. But what if you’re a solo founder? You can still reach out to friends who can lend an ear. Where’s the stack overflow for CEOs. Or founders?

  1. Learn

What good is a crisis without a lesson? Since crises are legion it is always a good idea to remember that there’s just another one around the corner. Startups are volatile and notoriously unstable environments. How you handle one crisis speaks to how you will handle the others that will inevitably arise. So, it’s better to understand the lesson in each crisis

On my entrepreneurial journey, I’ve started 3 different companies – only one is still around. The odds for startup failure are high. Resiliency when at the helm of a startup is a necessary trait. Founders with this skill will last – even if the company doesn’t.

Sian Morson is an early stage investor, author, and entrepreneur.  Follow Sian on Twitter  @sianmorson and Instagram @sianmorson 




    Sian Morson
    Sian Morson
    Sian Morson is a serial entrepreneur and investor based in Austin, TX. Sian was Cross Culture Venture's first EIR. Since then, she has advised and mentored founders at Founder's Gym, Techstars, and other accelerators across the country. She speaks and writes about technology and venture capital.