6 psychological mistakes business leaders make, including 'crossing the net'

6 psychological mistakes business leaders make, including 'crossing the net'
  • Dr. Matthew Jones is a psychologist who helps cofounders work through issues together.

  • He shared some of the most common communication mistakes he sees leaders make.

  • They include "crossing the net," never checking in, and overlooking major differences in values.

Married couples aren't the only ones seeking counseling: cofounders are also going to couples therapy.

Dr. Matthew Jones, a clinical psychologist who started focusing on cofounder coaching in the past five years, told Business Insider that his clients are often drawn to therapy because of "the psychological complexity of going through a high-stress, high-pressure situation with someone close to you," such as managing a startup.

Dr. Matthew Jones
Dr. Matthew Jones.Dr. Matthew Jones

Most of Jones' clients work in tech and often deal with fast-paced work environments and uncertainty.

"That creates a bond that can either be leveraged to greater resilience, more closeness, better decision making," Jones said. Or, it can have the opposite effect, where "the relationship actually starts to deteriorate your mental health and impact business outcomes."

Jones shared six of the biggest communication mistakes he's seen business leaders and cofounders make — from how they address conflict to ignoring it until it's too late.

1. They only understand business language

Jones said there are three types of languages that all business teams speak: operational, psychological, and archetypal.

Operational language is the one "most teams do relatively well," he said, as it's strictly tied to work tasks. Comparatively, he said psychological language is slower.

"It's more deliberate, more resource-intensive," Jones said. "It requires a different approach for listening."

Lastly, he said archetypal language is more about your overall vibe around each other, such as walking on eggshells with the other person.

Jones said miscommunications around these two languages cause most of the problems his clients come in for because they influence how leaders navigate conflict and give feedback. Being able to speak all three languages is an important soft skill — and a sign of emotional intelligence.

2. They don't check in enough

Jones said that when business leaders don't normalize listening and giving feedback, it can create rifts between them over time. That's why he generally recommends weekly syncs for teams.

He also encourages deeper monthly or quarterly check-ins for cofounders, where "you're spending far more time focusing on meta communication or talking about how you are relating to one another."

Questions should include, "What are we not talking about?" and "How can we continue growing?"

"Ideally, you each leave the conversation feeling heard and understood," Jones said.

3. They lead with assumptions

"Crossing the net" is a term from a popular Stanford class on interpersonal communication.

"On one side of the net, you have yourself, your own intention, and your inner world," Jones began to explain. When a person crosses the net, they make assumptions about the other person's intentions and feelings.

In business settings, he said it often shows up in "you" statements, such as "you don't care about this project" or "you aren't fully committed."

While it's widespread knowledge that "I" statements are ideal in healthy communication, Jones said some people still turn them into accusations such as "I feel like you're being disrespectful" or "I feel like your heart's not really in this."

Jones added that it's natural to have images in our minds of other people's motivations and values — it's just that they "need to be updated" for relationships to flourish.

4. They want agreement, not compromise

Jones said that often, cofounders start loving how complimentary their differences are. They see one person filling in gaps for the other, embracing their unique dynamic as a strength.

Inevitably, these differences will come to a head under pressure. Instead of finding a way to meet in the middle, some people will just dub the relationship a bad fit, he added.

He said this is faulty thinking for two reasons: Primarily, successful companies need diverse personalities to ensure a range of skill sets and perspectives are covered.

Secondly, "There's no such thing as a perfect match," he said. "There are differences that need to be respected and managed over time."

If one founder is more cautious while the other wants to move fast and break things, Jones will try to work with them to find the optimal outcomes for the company, which usually involves finding common ground.

5. They ignore major differences in values

Sometimes, issues stem from having irreconcilable differences. In one pair of Jones' clients, one person was adamant about diversity, equity, and inclusion being central to hiring practices, while the other felt it was more important to "move very quickly" in hiring.

By scheduling sessions with Jones, they realized their visions were incompatible and parted ways before committing more deeply to working together.

In those cases, he absolutely believes that separating is the best course of action for them — and the company.

6. They only seek help when tensions are bad

Jones loves the clients who come in before problems arise and who "value self-growth." Usually, these cofounder clients are also family members or close friends, understanding that their relationship is "slightly more complex than just business associates."

Unfortunately, that represents the smallest percentage of his business clients; the vast majority "are currently experiencing varying degrees of conflict," he said.

While it's still possible to work through their issues at the height of them, Jones said it's always best to be preemptive about seeking guidance. That way, leaders can iron out issues more effectively and grow faster.

Read the original article on Business Insider