When Matt and I first decided to start Incite, we knew our aim was to find up-and-coming entrepreneurs with a vision to help others, and to help them unlock their potential – with funding, advice, and support.
But then the question quickly became – how do we decide which projects to pick?
We learned the key has less to do with which project a leader chooses. It most often has to do with something fundamental to the leaders we support, and to us – our shared values.
Over the years, our work has been most successful when it’s anchored in our values and when we support entrepreneurs who share and lead with those values as they build their ventures.
Some of the most successful founders and builders we’ve worked with use three values-driven leadership strategies to help them stay focused on the long game.
1) They state their values, clearly and simply.
This step may seem obvious – but it’s often overlooked! You may know what your and your organization’s values are. But are they clear and accessible? Do they define not just what you do, but how you do it?
During my time on Pete Buttigieg’s campaign for President, we laid out the values of our campaign from the beginning – which Pete named our “Rules of the Road”. By explaining our values in clear language, thousands of organizers, staff, and volunteers were able to operate with a shared framework while taking initiative to get things done with speed and at scale. And because we made them available publicly, anyone could learn what we stood for and join the cause.
2) They build a team of people who share their core values.
In early stage companies and organizations, job descriptions are constantly evolving. That’s why it’s important to recruit people to your team who have a deep commitment to your mission, and who understand that how you work is as important as what you’re working on.
A great interview process not only evaluates a candidate’s experience and technical abilities – it gets to their values alignment. We’ve seen too many cases where an early stage company or nonprofit brings in a “talented leader” who just doesn’t play nice in the sandbox. They’re able to get things done quickly, but they destroy team morale, culture, and trust in the process. If you’re in this for the long haul, hold the line on hiring for your values in addition to technical abilities.
3) Pick investors who align with your values.
Picking partners whose values align with your team’s is just as important for who you have on your cap table – and on your Board.
The current macroeconomic uncertainty has many of you contemplating how best to steer your teams and ventures in these uncharted waters. If you’ve done the hard work of looking for investors who are in it with you for the long term, and who understand the principles guiding your project, you’re more likely to find you’ve got partners that are rowing alongside your team.
For many climate-focused organizations we work with, this has meant taking the time to cultivate relationships with first-time venture investors, such as family offices. These new investors have a deep personal commitment to the goals of mitigating climate change, and are more likely to offer the patient capital that times like these may require.
Building something new from the ground up is tough work. We respect what you do to defy those challenging odds each day, and that’s a value we share.
We’d love to hear from you – what else does your team value?