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What I learned from Elon Musk

You don’t need to pass the baton, they can run with it.

As I watched the amazing, successful landing of the SpaceX rocket recently, I noticed how youthful many of the SpaceX employees were. They were so excited that at times even the announcers were speechless as they shared live play-by-play on the rocket’s take off, eleven satellite deployments (yes, 11!), and most phenomenally, landing the reusable rocket in the exact same spot as take-off. As one of the announcers described, the feat they were accomplishing was like throwing a pencil over the Empire State building, having it somersault in the sky, then descend and land on the size of a shoe box in a windstorm. If you haven’t seen the video, check it out just to witness the palpable energy of thousands of people as they vibrated, jiggled and hooted over their amazing accomplishment. Minutes 31 thru 35 are already queued up for you at this link.

When I watched the video again later with my children, I took in how much the employees were front and center throughout the entire broadcast. As I watched thousands of SpaceX team members behind the excited Gen-Y threesome reporting live, I was struck that Elon Musk (SpaceX founder) was nowhere to be seen. It was hard to know whether Musk was even in the building. Nowhere was Musk to be seen in any of the camera pans. One never saw him issue a statement, nor did any comment from him scroll across a crawl line of the broadcast.

When I made that comment to my business partner and husband, Kevin, a few days later, he said Musk sent out a tweet.

How amazing is that? It was Musk’s vision, yet it was the team’s accomplishment. Musk created and assembled a team, and presumably got out of the way. As Kevin reminded me, SpaceX had five failures (some of them pretty spectacular) prior to success. As one of the SpaceX commentators pointed out, six years ago, no one thought returning a reusable rocket to its launch site was even possible.

Setting the vision, putting the right team in place and getting out of the way - that is what makes phenomenal, unimaginable progress.

So, as an entrepreneur, before I open my mouth in any kind of meeting, I’m going to remember those jumping up and down teammates, and continually ask myself – how do I create *that* environment? In the end, it’s the environment that creates engagement. Musk showed me that Creating the Environment is the one and only job of the business owner. If you get that wrong, then the team cannot accomplish their wildly audacious goal.

Instead of providing direction or pointing in a direction, I’ll be focused on asking more “wondering questions”. I wonder what made that happen? What do you think will help to be more effective with that? I’ll be asking wondering questions and listening. Tell me more….

Musk got it right and so will we.



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Jo Day

Jo Day

Jo loves learning about interesting problems and how people are solving them. Jo is well known for connecting people and ideas and is a great catalyst (moo!) to change. Where some people see the world through rose colored glasses, Jo sees the world through processes. When Jo isn't hanging out with her family, Jo's favorite hobbies are being anywhere outdoors and coming up with new business ideas – just for fun!