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“Ultimately leadership is not about glorious crowning acts. It’s about keeping your team focused on a goal and motivated to do their best to achieve it.”

Chris Hadfield

Keeping teams motivated is really hard. 

But, if you are only focused on what amazing thing you can personally do, you are missing the point. 

Your job is about the team– keeping them focused. 

Their drive comes from your leadership, not your heroism.

How do you do this?

Well, sometimes, a simple, genuine note full of vulnerability can be just the ticket to inspiring your team to do the impossible.

This is what I just did this year in my annual kickoff email to the team at my current venture.

I introduced my new mantra — Easy is Boring. I inspired each employee to join me in reaching our impossible goal, making renewable energy a superpower.

I am sharing the letter (slightly redacted) as an example of how best to be vulnerable with your team.

It’s not easy. 

But, oh, so necessary.


Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash


Team,

My mantra this year is Easy is Boring. 

It is based in part from observations about my experience running startups. 

Everything about it can be hard. It’s hard to create something new. It’s hard to build a strong team. It’s hard to raise capital. And, it’s hard to execute in an emerging market. 

It’s not easy. 

But, I have found that when things are hard, that’s when all the learning happens and when the fun begins. 

Heaven knows we’ve had our share of both this past year.  

We’ve learned that dealing with the government requires infinite patience, persistence, the right connections, and some ingenuity. Not to mention, “balls.”

We’ve learned that a company of our type—part infrastructure project part venture—is not so easy to finance and always needs more capital than you think. 

We’ve learned that things take at least twice as long as you plan, so plan for the worst. Engineering is a detailed, systematic process with a well-defined sequence. One slip can elongate the entire project. 

We’ve learned that bankability is not just a fancy finance word overused by project finance professionals. It’s at the core of project finance feasibility. At the same time, we’ve learned to approach it with an open mind as we search for the right rubric. 

We’ve learned that sometimes when you are in the middle of a PR nightmare, it’s best to be silent and let your actions speak for you. 

This is to name a few. 

And, boy have we had fun!

We had fun creating an investment structure that brings the right investors closer. 

We had fun developing a deal structure with a partner that pushed them to think bigger—and scared the sh*t out of them. 

We had fun growing the confidence to be our own financial advisor and approach investors to engage and partner with us early. 

We had fun continuing to tell our story to the world in our own unique way. 

We had fun sourcing capital from unexpected places.  

We had fun getting closer as a team, even during the difficult moments, making tough decisions together. 

And, of course, we had fun going from having a right to do nothing to a landmark right do something in a place that has broader implications for Morocco and beyond. 

As we look forward to 2020, we have many challenges ahead of us. Frankly, I don’t know how we will get through them all. 

But, I do know this for sure, no company gets through tough challenges without the right team. 

Here, that part is easy. 

I am confident we have the best team to do the job. We are an elegant weave of diverse backgrounds and expertise. And, we are beyond resilient. 

We must continue being close, open and trusting of one another. 

Thank you for the incredible loyalty each of you has shown to the team and our mission.

Happy New Year! 

Now, let’s go have some more fun—because easy is boring. 

Love,

John 

PS— Pair this note with this song Still Fly (choose the edited version from Hood Rich by Big Tymers).