7 Traits of the Emotionally Fit Founder


Presented on May, 8th @Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center, SF  Twitter: @emilyCA5

We recently got the chance to hear another great talk at The Center, Nasdaq's Entrepreneurial Center in downtown San Francisco. They host free events for founders and professionals to develop new skills and strategies. Dr. Emily Anhalt spoke on the traits of the emotionally fit founder, reminding us again that business is as much about the head as it is the heart. 


"Emotional Fitness vs Physical Fitness"

"The founder is like a parent, and we need a structure to meet people where they are now."

"There is a sweet spot between the distortion of reality and reality, it is a balancing act." 

The founder sets the tone for the company, either positive and negative, for example, Travis Kalanick at Uber. As the founder all roads lead back to you!

7 Pillars of Emotional Fitness

Pursue in Life + Work

1- Capacity to Identify and Manage Our Own Emotions

  • We have to know our own feelings and develop more insight internally. 
  • Get into therapy - the world inside our world, only we are only as good as the work we do on yourself as groups and then as leaders
  • Process your stress and anxiety, this is extra important to hold other people’s emotions, like our teams and employees
  • Psychotherapy is 100% confidential and honors your difficulties of change, remaining highly accessible, sometimes free and very affordable now!

2- Capacity to Identify and Tolerate the Emotions in Others 

  • Empathy can be difficult when people are odds for a reason, connecting the dots from childhood emotions still at play.
  • Google's Project Aristotle- Created teams that work well and one's that did not. The most successful teams created a safe psychological space inside the company!
  • Start a mindfulness program at work. 
  • Facebook offers therapy in-house for all
  • Be sure to play inside the company
  • Offer gratitude inside meetings, to others on the team, in-person!
  • Millennials are a purpose-driven generation
  • Focus on the positive in life
  • Company Spotlight: Keen.io keeps a psychologist on staff and runs great meetings 

3- Capacity to Play

  • Basic child therapy, feeling safe and feeling free
  • Play build community, culture, creativity, lifespace, etc.
  • Increase capacity to play more, things can be real and not real at same time, creativity, imagination, newness, etc. 
  • Use popular Improv techniques of Play “Yes And” or “Got It”, the convergence game
  • Game example: 2 people think of 1-2 words at random and say them out loud at one time. Then think of a word each that connects the two words, keep it going till you both guess the same word! (surprisingly it really works)

4- Capacity to Face and Handle Reality

  • Look at what you want to be true and what actually is true?
  • Low emotional fitness, ignore the facts and truths in reality
  • Attending to your emotional health when feeling good
  • Being proactive and yet very unpredictable
  • Seeking the Work - Life - Balance = work and life in Bay Area are the same things
  • TIP- Look for what energizes you and what drains you, taking on tasks (listen to the ZenFounder podcast - Keep energy sacred in personal life)
  • Do more writing if fills you with energy, or more speaking, learn what helps your energy levels

5- Capacity to Tolerate Discomfort!

  • Can process through discomfort, getting feedback, silence, etc?
  • What do you do when you feel discomfort? 
  • Prove to yourself that you can do it... is part of the founder game.
  • Try new meditation and some yoga - learn to tolerate a pose inside the discomfort, getting more into it, to get stronger for the future? What is your flavor of discomfort?
  • What are your discomfort triggers?

6- Capacity to Handle Criticism, Feedback and Failures

  • The value of growing is better than being right or even failing
  • Be authentic and vulnerable with people for growth
  • Discard old beliefs, men 'should not' cry, need help, show emotions
  • Allow the full range of emotions to be transparent, people can handle it
  • Ask for helpful support and reward learning inside the company, offer external education for higher success rates. 
  • Be vulnerable - try to do eye gaze for 30 seconds with people, then share what scares you and what you are great at with the other person after stare.
  • For example; I have a fear of running out of money and are great at creative ideas
  • Beauty is created in silence, ability to tolerate silence, sit quietly together and feel good, creating beauty in this space.

7- Capacity to Communicate Effectively

  • Do not scapegoat yourself, taking out of ourselves and placing to others
  • Face it in the self, and you can handle it, 
  • Flexible to be an authority, be a human and also a boss
  • Balance transparency with optimism and reality
  • Give people a communication they can understand and accept
  • Find a community that understands your journey, fosters collaboration over competition to come together
  • Connect with people with what they can do for you
  • Join or start a founder group for sharing and support
  • Emotionally fit founders, create fit company with fit products and services

Action items TO-DO:

  1. Write down my known triggers: situations and people
  2. Update your mission statement on the website to include Emotional Intelligence
  3. Play got it with friend or stranger each day
  4. Meditate for 10 min per day mornings or evenings are best, or stressful daytimes
  5. Reach out to a peer or mentor, one that you respect

Meditation Support try the Calm app and Headspace app

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