Working with founders

| From start up to grown up

The journey from founding to leading is a challenging one and requires adaptation to changing circumstances, shifting focuses and the skilful use of different behaviours and communication styles. However, when working with a founder, a group of founders or a leadership team that reports to a founder, there are also many systemic things to consider.

| In the beginning

The first questions to consider exploring are the dynamics around starting. Who generated the original idea? Who generated the funding? Who else had a stake in the business? What circumstances led the founding? When there are a group of people who describe themselves as ‘the founders’, who was the first? If these things are not clear from the start they always come back later as limiting patterns and dynamics. Everyone and everything that contributed, even in a small way, needs to be acknowledged if the system is to find balance and flow.

Going back further, it’s often very important to understand where and how the founder(s) worked before. Many founders start a company in order to get away from a working environment or culture they disagreed with or rejected. Or to protect themselves from being treated badly or excluded, hence the common inner ‘life sentence’ in founders: “I’ll never get excluded again”. Others want to compete with their previous employer or prove something to them. This is often the source of the inner ‘life sentence’ “I’ll show you!”, as described in the main article, this pattern may have often begun in the family of origin.

All these different kinds of motivation – especially a clarity around ‘moving away from’ or ‘moving towards’ – can be important to understand as they will influence what happens after the start-up phase.

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