Getting Communication Right As Cofounders: The Collaborative Coaching Model
Updated: May 4
Have you ever wondered how many of your relational problems arise from differences in communication?
A lot can be said about our choice of words; often people will brush something off saying 'oh, that's just semantics' when there's a misunderstanding based on the words used in conversation.
I argue that it's never just semantics, and that approach only leads to a lot of overthinking and a lot of inaction.
Our choice in words reflects how we frame our reality, and in turn impacts how we communicate and convey that reality to others.
If you put some time into understanding and tightening up your communication as cofounders, you can ensure that there is less ambiguity, and can get into the habit of using words the way others will understand them.
This way, there will be less room for tensions that you don't have the time or energy to get stuck in.
The Collaborative Coaching Model
How much time do you want to put into getting communication with your cofounder right?
Here's a circular technique I facilitate with cofounders to encourage seamless, tension-free communication around all the tricky topics. Let's take cofounders Sarah and Mia as an example:
Sarah says everything she needs to say, and Mia responds by paraphrasing everything Sarah has said, which Sarah then needs to approve before we can move on. If Mia has misunderstood and what she paraphrased isn't aligned with Sarah's intended meaning, Sarah will have to rephrase and Mia will then try once more.
This ensures that what Sarah has said has been received exactly how she would like. Once that's cleared, we move on to everything that Mia would like to address and respond to, and we then repeat the same steps.
Through this process we want people to disagree, to misunderstand and get things wrong, as this is how we learn. This is a way to ensure that if you're an agreeable type, you have an opportunity to disagree, and to clear up any ambiguity that might otherwise go unaddressed.
If you're the type who tends to just hear what you want to hear, this is also challenged as you paraphrase everything your cofounder has said and in doing so convey your level of understanding.
By following this model, you cut out any possibility of a confrontational energy and get into the habit of communicating clearly and with intention.
Through this practice you start to realise that it's the meaning of your words in how they're received that matters, and you can therefore refine your way of addressing difficult topics by using your words in a way the other will understand best.
Taking this step is an example of how you can 'act your way into a new way of thinking', and therefore a new way of doing; what I call progressive action.
Bringing in a Third Eye
In theory, you could try to have your cofounder conversations one-to-one following this structure. However, my experience as a 12x cofounder has taught me the importance of an objective observer to facilitate these discussions.
Facilitation here is as essential as the structure itself. The facilitator here is able to impartially step into your understanding of the world, and help you to convey that to your cofounder.
You don't necessarily need a coach to facilitate this style of communication. Coaching as a skill is the key here.
So, what's the third eye? A third eye is a third person who steps into the cofounder duo to shed some lights onto your blind spots.
Essentially, the third eye is an acting cofounder who mediates; someone who can impartially ensure that the two founders are seeing everything from a holistic perspective.
So, the next time you're facing some form of resistance from your cofounder, or you're handling a topic which you have difficulty expressing, consider collaborative coaching as a way to improve your communication skills.
Take the time to refine your style of communication as cofounders, and avoid reaching a deadlock which will hinder the progress of your business.
Photo by Shane Rounce on Unsplash