With these three principles, you will establish a healthy CEO & Co-Founders’ balance of power.
Steve Ballmer, the former CEO of Microsoft, talked about his relationship with founder Bill Gates in an interview. He said they had a “brotherly” relationship.
Although they had differences in opinion on the strategic direction of the company, it was after a fundamental disagreement about how important it was to be in the hardware business and whether Microsoft should make its own handsets and tablets that they “drifted apart”.
No CEO or business leader is exempt to struggle with situations in which decisions can affect their working relationships.
So how do you deal with your Co-founders when you are rising entrepreneurs trying to kickstart your businesses?
During the first year of Opportunity Network, I was fortunate to have the support of extremely dedicated and capable co-founding members that worked hard to get to where we are today.
After many ups and downs as business partners and as friends, I realized how important it is to stick to these three basic principles to have a great CEO and co-founders dynamic.
Rule # 1: Clarity
First of all, be clear about who is the final decision-maker. Before getting into any major topic of discussion, always designate a final decision-maker.
We can disagree, and we should always listen to one another. But at the end of the day, the person in charge of the final decision should be able to make a call after listening to everyone’s feedback.
For example, since the early days of our business, we have been debating where to position the marketing function within our company: Should it be an independent business unit, or should it sit within the product team, the business development team, or both? All members of the founding team have had varying opinions on this matter.
Clarifying that the final decision was up to me as CEO allowed me to listen objectively to everyone’s reasoning and come to a thoughtful conclusion.
Rule # 2: Transparency
Be transparent with each other. Never keep your opinion to yourself. If you disagree on something, make sure your voice is heard.
More often than not, you might discover that you and your team actually agree on fundamental principles – you’re just missing a certain piece of information, seeing a different side of the coin or have a communication issue.
We always share our decisions—from defining our company’s values to building our strategic plans— in the most transparent way possible.
We encourage everyone to adopt the same style, especially in interactions with people working in different functions. That way communication keeps smooth and respectful.
Rule # 3: Be constructive
This one may be harder to achieve.
Just like in any relationship, if you do not agree with something, it is essential to deliver your feedback in a constructive manner.
Propose a different solution or scenario, keeping in mind that your words, tone, and body language are all equally important. Be mindful of not only the opinion or idea you want to convey but also of your verbal and non-verbal communications.
Power struggle will always be present in any CEO’s and co-founder’s environment.
We won’t always agree on things, and we will make mistakes along the way. Create a supportive and fail-safe environment to empower your co-founders to learn and become better business leaders is key.
When it comes to maintaining happy co-founder dynamics, I believe in Ballmer’s “Rule of Three:” In this case, feedback, feedback, and feedback.
Founder & CEO of Opportunity Network