Relationship Skills from Bed to Board room

Interview with Coach Jessica Harvey, PhD, The Thinking Man’s Intimacy Coach

Dr. Harvey’s practice is a bit different from that of the other coaches I’ve interviewed about their work with early-stage companies.

Her clients come to her with issues in their romantic relationships (or their lack of romantic relationships). Many startup founders have applied Dr. Harvey’s teachings to their startups to good effect.

The first of these techniques is empathic listening. This includes assuring that they have heard what has been said to them by retelling and asking for confirmation, followed by making guesses about the other person’s emotional state. (In the NonViolent Communications tradition, we call this making empathy guesses.) Failing to take such steps can make people feel unseen and also often focuses attention on shallower, less important issue than could otherwise be addressed.

By doing this rather than immediately trying to solve a problem, her clients can not only be sure that they are solving the right situation but also assures their partner that they have been heard. Dr. Harvey reports that this alone has often made huge differences in both romantic relationships and small companies. There is a broad literature reporting similar results.

Second, she asks founders what type of leader they want to be. Most founders are caught by surprise by this question and had not previously given any thought. Unsurprisingly it is easier to become the kind of leader you will be proud of if you know in advance what would be and begin to work on the skills, beliefs, and attitudes to achieve it.

Beyond the skills themselves, it is widespread for founders to feel unqualified or unworthy. In some cases, there is an actual skill deficit; in others, this is what we commonly call “imposter syndrome.” This did not surprise me, but the idea that a founder might feel unworthy caught me entirely by surprise. Dr. Harvey says that confronting and healing unconscious narratives about money and love are key to lasting, fulfilling success.

You can learn more about Dr. Harvey’s work at

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Written by Russell Brand

Russell has started three successful companies, one of which helped agencies of the federal government become very early adopters of open source software, long before that term was coined. His first project saved The American taxpayer 250 million dollars. In his work within federal agency, he was often called, “the arbiter of truth,” facilitating historically hostile groups and factions to effectively work together towards common goals

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