Entrepreneurs Take Note: Accepting Hard Truths Will Set You Apart

Pete Newell

October 4, 2022

When you’re the CEO of a company, getting feedback can be one of the hardest parts of the job. Yet being able to invite and accept hard truths is what separates world-class founders from the rest.

The first failure of many entrepreneurs is not putting enough emphasis on getting difficult but important news. This can come from trusted advisors, a mentor, employees or friends. 

The second failure comes in either accepting that feedback with no analysis, or ignoring it and defending your preconceived notion of what you’re trying to do. The fact is, if you put blinders on, you’ll get blindsided. If you don’t look at yourself with a critical eye or seek hard-to-hear truths, you’re going to meet with unwanted surprises.

Sound leadership demands a position of humility to listen carefully and take appropriate steps.

Accepting feedback using good judgment was one of the topics I discussed recently with Jess Larsen, host of the Innovation & Leadership podcast, on an episode where we discussed our journey to building BMNT and what it takes to be a successful mission-driven entrepreneur. We also discussed how to think about innovation, how to build the right network to drive your work, why founders should treat failure as a gift, and why being problem-focused makes all the difference.

Listen to the full conversation, here, or skip to the time stamps listed for some of the key insights below.

Money is a byproduct of service (35:40)

BMNT is driven by solving problems. Revenue is never my first  thought when I talk with someone who wants to work with us. I want to understand their problem and help solve it – the business will take care of itself. 

In our work, building a network of people and understanding their perspectives, motivations and pain points is the start of our process. Engaging in an honest, problem-focused manner, being genuine and loving your client: that’s what drives us at BMNT.

Carve out your own platform (22:30)

Having access to the right people in the right positions is fundamental to that engagement. Gaining that access takes time and careful consideration, and working to build thought leadership is part of the process.

At the most basic level, thought leadership is putting yourself out there, sharing your opinion, defending it, taking questions, and providing things for people to think about. My advice for other CEO’s is to become a part of the economy of thought, not just a consumer of it. Start by providing thoughtful feedback on topics where you might normally click “like” or share posts accompanied by thoughtful analysis. Eventually editorializing and getting published in the sort of publications that define your field will set your name and company apart. For example, if I come across something that really gets to me and I have a statement to make, then I’m going to make it, and make it publicly. I’ll drive a stake into the ground with my reputation on the line, saying, “This is what I believe; feel free to disagree with me.” 

Within that disagreement you actually learn things, and learning is the best avenue to growth. 

Why I hate the word “innovation” (33:00)

Innovation has become an overused buzzword. From my perspective, innovation is merely a cultural process that delivers mission acceleration. At BMNT we’ve always been motivated by this cultural process. We take the best parts of all our various programs to help clients accelerate their missions and drive a cultural process through connection, collaboration, and influence.  

Failure is a gift  (5:00, 16:00)

The most important thing to remember when you’re building a company is that even if you fail, you're building skills you’ll need later. It comes back to this high value we place on learning and growing through processes such as feedback, conflict and failure. 

To “fail well,” have a good understanding of the level of risks you’re willing to take; personally accept those risks; and be willing to pivot. I believe that if you haven’t failed at some things, then you aren’t learning at your capacity. 

At BMNT, we don’t get hung up about failures. At the same time, we don’t get hung up about successes, either. We’re always motivated by what’s next.

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