“Happy Talk” refers to the vague and excitable comments often heard from startup founders – “Everything is great!”, “We’re doing amazing”, “We’re the best!”.
Use of Happy Talk language is normal and even beneficial in the first few months of a startup, the honeymoon phase. However, there is a point where it should come to an end, and when it does not, it is usually a sign of problems beneath the surface. Founders of healthy companies that are experiencing growth and gaining success do not feel the need to constantly emphasize it, and those that do are often overcompensating and suppressing anxiety.
Open communication is essential in early-stage startups, it is the learning and development engine of the people building the company. A founding team needs to reach a state in which their relationships can handle any kind of conversation within respectful boundaries. Founding team members should be able to talk about feedback, failure, and constructive criticism- all topics that promote growth and positive change.
Aside from Happy Talk, there is an additional manifestation of consoling the hard truth –Silence. When a founding team reaches a point where all parties are tired of trying to communicate effectively– they will stop communicating all together. This could have dire consequences and result in a dysfunctional and divided company.
Every time you meet a specific founder they are always in the best mood and constantly smiling, sharing only positive developments. Even when you share negative happenings in your life and business- they do not open up.
In each visit to the company’s office, it is eerily silent and there is hardly any chatter or talking. In these instances you can tell that there is no straight and open communication, rather people avoid brainstorming and consulting one another.
“I want my employees to understand the bigger picture, the ‘why.’ This requires that I share not only the positive, but also sensitive information that reflects the authentic picture and the reality on the ground.”
“I believe it is inappropriate to share too much with employees. Sensitive information remains strictly between co-founders because we will not be put off or made nervous by these problems.”
“While my employees are part of the company on an execution level, my investors are part of the company on a strategic level, as such I share challenges with them and welcome their advice, assistance in solving them and moving forward.”
“I do not like sharing too much with my investors, I will share with them KPIs and positive movement, but the challenges and hardships will remain between co-founders.”
“I bring my top talent to a brainstorming meeting where we work together to find solutions. I also consult my investors in the upcoming board meeting or call them if it’s urgent.”
“I like to sit with myself to find solutions. I will take time alone to think of problems and then return to my employees with answers.”