Being a founder, not to mention a CEO, can be a very lonely place, carrying loads of stress and required to constantly be at peak performance. This often makes it hard to find balance between one's professional and personal life. Maintaining strong relationships with the co-founders and investors, is also not an easy task, where clarity and empathy are not always present. As one of my entrepreneurs says: “It’s not the technological challenge we deal with, it’s the mental one”.
"Throughout my +15 years as a professional, I've always been attracted to the intersection of business and psychology through entrepreneurship - What makes people tick? How do people think and act? And what motivates people in business? What drives me is being there for the amazing entrepreneurs, who are under constant pressure, so that they can make our world a better place. That’s what I’m here for, and this is my podcast – The Human Founder."
Irad Eichler, Co-Founder & CEO of Circles
From living in the Kibbutz, surrounded by a circle of people, to a startup that creates circles of support for others - Irad is an extraordinary serial social & tech entrepreneur, named by the World Economic Forum’s “Social Entrepreneur of the Year”.
Irad’s mom coped with cancer for 7 years. He spent a lot of time with her during that period. But despite his help and efforts, his mom said that he couldn't understand what she’s going through, and she felt lonely. It was only when he overheard her speaking with a friend who is going through the same thing - she sounded happy as she finally felt understood.
When Irad coped with her loss - his siblings were the closest people to share it with.
It was then clear to him that people need to feel belonged.
Nowadays - loneliness is something that everyone is dealing with. Being part of a quality group of people, who share similar experiences - is the thing that fills the emptiness so many people are suffering from.
So what’s the story of groups?
Groups are all around us - in the family, with peers, through shared experiences (e.g - IDF units). Groups enable us to feel:
- Feeling normal
- Helping others and by so - giving to others - which is something that makes us feel meaningful
- Group symbolizes a micro-cosmos of life itself
Groups should enable a psychological safety and hence there are 3 main components for a group:
- Its members:
A well-structured group optimizes the group members & balanced dynamics. Few things that impact the group dynamic that you may never think about -
- The surrounding environment has a lot of impact on the group’s dynamics (e.g. - think what happens when you're in a board meeting, and there are 5 empty chairs; or when you’re in a product session - and a bird flies into the room… Imagine how the surroundings impact the people in the situation).
- Your own place in your origin family - whether you are the oldest/ youngest/ somewhere in between. The sibling dynamics have a lot of impact on the way you’ll behave within groups.
A group can be moderated by a professional facilitator or by the members themselves. There's a difference between professional therapy groups and support groups. In therapy groups - it’s more about the personal progress each member is making. In a support group - it’s more about the reflections and progress the members are going through around a specific life event (similar also to FB groups or communities).
The way you structure the group - weekly session, F2F or via zoom etc. One should also take into consideration the privacy setting of a group (both physically and in-person or digitally).
Think of an early-stage startup as a group
When it grows - think of the various groups within the startup - leadership team, product group, marketing, finance, etc. Think of the support potential each startup has uniquely due to its specific characteristics, and use it as a growth engine.
Co-founders, which are in fact a group, have basic fundamental needs - to be seen & heard. And as we all know - it’s not always coming to fruition.
Irad shares the behind-the-scenes of his relationship with his co-founder - @Dan Landa, and how they have stopped listening to each other at one point. How afraid he was of the 'snowball effect’, as problems don’t go away by themselves. “It was all too much… We started to go to a couple’s therapy… We started talking again. I suddenly felt relieved”.
Irad describes how he uses the method of sharing in groups for the Circles Team - every weekly meeting is opened with a question followed by the answers of the whole Team - a practice that enables an open & warm atmosphere and builds the company’s culture in the right direction.
One of the techniques I teach the founders I work with - is the Brief Communication method (G.B.L) (do you remember the briefs from the advertisement agencies?), that helps keep effective communication channels, effective meetings, and get things moving. It should include the following:
- Strict title - provide the framing and gain the attention of others
- High level mission/ task - make them listen
- Details & dead-lines - be clear, specific, transparent, direct, accurate, measurable
- Reflection - make sure the other side really understands what you are asking from him, that’s the only way to maximize mutual results
People avoid sharing when something is wrong with them. It’s hard to share when this is “bad news”, cause it makes people feel like they are broken. But, we see it the other way around. Strong people share. Strong people talk about it. And strong people care. Strong people know that sharing is an act of strength not weakness. And people who share - are not broken and there’s nothing to be fixed. On the contrary - they want to improve and grow. Here’s a good tip - next time you are coping with something - share it with just 4 people. Most of the possible reactions will happen then. That’s it - you did it, and nothing happened. Maybe, just maybe, you will also feel comforted by those reactions, stronger, more positive and with an open heart for what comes next.
So remember this hashtag, and share. Prior to Circles, Irad founded and still serves as a board member at @“Shekulo Tov” - an NGO with the mission of including people with disabilities in organizations and making them feel they belong. He won the UN award for this amazing activity.