How Entrepreneurs Should Manage Personal Dynamics As Co-founders Of a Venture
One of the biggest causes of start-up deaths is co-founders not getting along with each other, arguing, drifting apart and ultimately splitting.
Start-up founders have deep passion for their companies. And the quality of the relationship among co-founders is one of the key elements of any successful start-up as that determines if the firm will drive to stellar heights of success or cause it to implode in spectacular fashion. One of the biggest causes of start-up deaths is co-founders not getting along with each other, arguing, drifting apart and ultimately splitting.
In the start-up world and in life, social relationships can either facilitate or impede your pursuit of excellence or attaining particular goals. In fact, often overlooked, strong interpersonal skills and knowledge of the complex group dynamics in start-ups can be invaluable to sustainable success.
In a broad sense, interpersonal skills pertain to developing a solid understanding of ourselves and those around us, talking and listening effectively, and building positive and productive relationships that facilitate healthy group dynamics in start-ups. Here are a few things that every founder should have in mind to maintain a healthy relationship amongst co-founders.
Discussing the problems as soon as they arise
The founder should never allow problems, issues or grudges to fester as all they will only get things or situations worse. As difficult as it may be, it is always advised and it's important to tackle issues especially the ones that are very sensitive and problems as soon as you possibly can. If you're upset or angry or you see your fellow founder in the same state, it is always advised to take a short break (or perhaps even a full day) as that helps to clear one's head and gives time to calm down; then express how you feel and what you want to be corrected. This approach can resolve any misunderstanding quickly and get things back on track. Sulking about issues or problems has never been a successful problem-solving approach.
Having a plan to manage disagreements
In any group environment, disagreements are inevitable especially when there are co-founders as they hold the same position in an organization. In the high-stress, ever-changing environment of a fast-growing start-up, conflicts arise daily. Without a framework for managing disagreements and conflict, the group dynamics in start-ups quickly become toxic. That's why it's important to establish a conflict resolution framework, before issues arise, not after, when it may already be too late. Collectively agree upon one that's right for the start-up and more importantly, consistently use it and working on the liking and disliking is one important key factor.
Criticizing the behavior, not the person
During times of interpersonal conflict with not only the co-founder but also our friends and family, it's our nature to attack the other person's character. To maintain positive group dynamics in start-ups especially among the C-level executives, this should never happen. Instead of verbally attacking the other person, a more productive approach would be to say, "I felt insulted when you said that about me in front of the team. Was that your intent?" And be as specific as possible, avoiding generalizations such as "You don't… " or "You continuously… "
Knowing your rights and entitlements
Group dynamics in start-ups can be tough, but nonetheless, it is advised to never be a doormat. Regardless of the environment, never let the rights and entitlements be violated by anyone. This means that no matter what never tolerate verbal, physical or sexual abuse. When someone's behavior crosses the line and violates your rights or entitlements, you need to speak up in a calm, professional, but firm manner. Likewise, one must also always respect the rights and entitlements of those around you.
Always striving to be fair
If you want your start-up to succeed, then it's critical that founders, co-founders, advisers, and other key team members abandon the notion of always being right or getting their way. One should always look for a way to compromise when differences arise and think about what's best for the start-up's future. When personalities or ideas clash, ask "What is fair and reasonable for all parties, and more importantly, what is in the best interest of our start-up." The goal is to work together to find a solution that suits everyone while keeping the company's success at the forefront. Avoid thinking in right-wrong, all-or-nothing, or good-bad dichotomies.