Successful co-founder relationships in startups require productive arguments about common issues, similar to successful marriages, and avoiding contemptuous behavior can lead to effective communication and problem-solving.
Founders in startups must optimize for a long-lasting relationship with their co-founders, which can be challenging, and the only models for understanding such relationships come from our parents, as demonstrated by marriage research conducted by John Gottman.
Predicting divorce with 85% accuracy after watching a couple argue for 15 minutes, John discovered that successful marriages don't avoid fighting, but rather have productive arguments about common issues such as money, kids, sex, time, jealousy, and in-laws.
Knowing the common issues that arise in a company and avoiding criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling can help co-founders work together effectively.
Avoid dangerous contemptuous behavior in business by staying focused on the issue at hand, taking responsibility for problems, and engaging in communication to find resolutions.
Divide responsibilities, determine ownership, and identify triggers for difficult conversations early on to prevent conflicts and protect your startup.
To avoid conflicts and protect your startup, divide responsibilities early on among co-founders to assign accountability and prevent defensiveness.
After delegating tasks, determine ownership, define success and failure criteria, and identify when interference is necessary.
Identify potential triggers for difficult conversations early on to prevent emotional reactions and resolve problems effectively.
The CEO usually has the final say in resolving issues, but in a startup, the board (composed of founders) must work it out if there are problems with the CEO, and knowing oneself is the second defense against the "four horsemen."
Ask probing questions, make specific requests, and find ways to meet everyone's needs in team communication.
Be careful to distinguish between universal needs and specific strategies when making requests, and avoid making needs that are too specific to yourself or the situation.
Make specific requests instead of demands to invite others to meet our universal needs.
When a team member shares an idea, ask probing questions before sharing a conclusion and stay curious, and if someone says no to a request, try to find a way to meet everyone's needs, and for more information on giving constructive feedback, read Dave Bailey's article on Medium.