Alignment: the key to a harmonious and successful Cofounder dynamic
So you're embarking on a venture with a cofounder, or perhaps you're already running your business together.
You'd like to think you're both on the same page: that you want the same things, and have the same idea of what success will look like. Often, however, it's just not that simple.
It all comes down to alignment: this is really the key to a harmonious and successful cofounder relationship.
When misalignment arises between you and your cofounder (which is very normal and common), this leads to pain points which many cofounders will identify with.
With the cofounder relationships that didn't work out and impacted me negatively, it was down to a lack of clarity: we weren't sure what we wanted as individuals, and therefore we weren't clear on where we stood together.
Because of that, we weren't confident in ourselves, in each other, or in the business as a whole. And, as a result, we weren't fully able to commit to getting to where we wanted to get to.
Let's take a look at the common symptoms of a misaligned cofounder dynamic, and what's achievable once you've found alignment...
6 signs that you and your Cofounder aren't aligned
Alignment is something you need to consistently work on together with your cofounder, as misalignment will keep cropping up, causing cracks that eventually lead to problems.
As a 12x cofounder, I have been through a whole myriad of situations in cofounder roles, and what I've found is that any issues or conflict that arise are usually down to some form of lack of alignment.
Based on my experience both as a cofounder, and as a coach, these are the typical issues that I've come across again and again. If you're experiencing any of the following, it's quite likely you're facing a misalignment with your cofounder:
(Lack of) Energy
(Lack of) Focus
Busyness and business are not the same thing. If you're in a state of busyness, you find yourself constantly firefighting, always dealing with things that are urgent at the time, leaving no time to address the aspects of the business you want to deal with, to work from a more creative, less reactive place.
Conflict or tension, this can either be external - directly with your cofounder and/or employees, or internal - meaning there's just something that doesn't feel right, that isn't quite flowing with ease, something you can't quite put your finger on. You'll need to dig a little deeper to get that smoothed out.
Demotivated is how you wind up feeling when you're just not excited or engaged anymore.
Energy levels start to dip when you're demotivated, as you put most of your energy into busyness and conflict.
Focus is lost, or spread too thin, when you're not focusing on what you want to be focused on, and you're getting distracted by things you don't want to be dealing with.
Growth is limited and affected by all the above, both on an individual level, and collectively as a team and as a business. It starts to feel like groundhog day: like you're just stuck in the monotony of dealing with the same things every day.
If you can identify with one or more of these pain points, then it's time to sit down with your cofounder and see what you can do to get aligned; to get back on the same page.
The roadmap to Cofounder alignment: clarity, confidence and commitment.
There are two main steps you need to go through to attain alignment as cofounders: figuring out what are you're aligned on and what you're not, and then agreeing on how to handle it.
Alignment doesn't necessarily mean agreement.
There will be differences in opinion, and that's normal. Alignment means seeing both perspectives and creating a bigger picture from the two. Confidence comes from that awareness, and from an agreement on what you're going to do with it.
If you're not aligned, at the core of the problem there will be a lack of clarity. So the first thing to do is to get things clear again. When you're clear about your misalignment, then you can decide what we want to do about it.
These are 3 stages to getting back on the same page... (The One Page Plan is a great tool for thrashing this out!)
Firstly, you need to gain CLARITY on where you're going, and on how you want to get there. Without clarity, we can't identify where we're aligned and where we're not.
This will then turn into CONFIDENCE: knowing where you want to get to, and confident that you're capable, and that you have what you need to get there.
And then you can have COMMITMENT: individually and collectively, you want commitment to the cause, to your vision, your purpose.
Often we ask for commitment from our cofounders from the outset, but how can you be committed if you're not confident of what you're doing? And how can you be confident about your capabilities if you're not clear on where you're headed?
The three Rs of full alignment: resilience, resourcefulness, reliability.
When there is true alignment at every level, you're maximising your potential to be resilient, resourceful and reliable as a team and as a business. Here's what that looks like:
Resilience - you're both resilient to the outside world and to complications which may come up, and to internal conflict as and when it arises. You're happy to resolve any issues, find solutions, and move on.
Resourcefulness - you're doing more with less! That's resourcefulness. Because what we can co-create is greater than the sum of its parts.
Reliability - you're both doing what you said you'd do, and you're doing it well. You're flexible enough to constantly review what you're doing, based on what's going on now.
Ultimately, these three Rs form the equation for response-ability, which is what you want to be building as business owners.
Hopefully this has been a helpful guide to where your efforts should be going in order to achieve alignment as cofounders, which will help you get to where you want to get to with your business. As they say, a fish rots from the head down! So the 'head' (i.e the cofounders!) needs to be in optimal health for the rest to be too.