VC= me; F = founder.
The setting: phone call. The crisis: significant, potentially company-ending, involving multiple parties, complex, chaotic, needed to be urgently addressed. The founder had been losing sleep and I had been losing my sense of dispassionate engagement.
I have anonymized the conversation, shortened it, and edited for clarity (I hope).
VC: Tell me about the thoughts that go through your head when you think about [the crisis you're currently facing]?
F: Seriously? This is what you want to do right now?
VC: Humor me, just for a minute.
F: If we don't solve this, we'll miss all our targets. I think the fundraise will fall through. People will start leaving. The whole house of cards is going to collapse.
VC (swallowing acerbic comment about the "house of cards" thing): Identify the emotions that come up.
F: I just want to make this go away. I don't know if I can.
VC: If you really wanted to make it go away, you would. Let me ask you again, what do you _feel_, literally, inside your body?
F: I hate these conversations with you... *laughs*. I feel a big knot in my stomach. There's so much tension everywhere. I guess you can call it fear. We've worked so hard for this and so many people depend on this going right. If I come up empty, it will be a huge and very visible failure.
VC: Based on the possibility of the whole company going under, it's perfectly natural you're feeling that fear of failure. No wonder you've been avoiding addressing the issue, losing sleep over it, trying to contain it. But you're not doing the best that I know you can do.
F: What would you have me do differently?
VC: Let me answer that with another question. Your belief is that this crisis could make the whole company fail. What would a different, more powerful belief be?
F: Perhaps it's showing me that I avoid things when I get fearful.
VC: What else?
F: Once we get through this it will make us much stronger. As a team and as a company. It's an opportunity to grow.
VC: Take that belief and imagine it's true. I know you don't fully buy it right now. What would that feel like?
F: Liberating. It feels like it's a necessary rite of passage for this company.
VC: Do you believe that?
VC: So based on that thought, that this is a real opportunity for growth, and the liberating feeling you have about that, what actions are you going to take?
F: I've been trying to tackle this head-on, very aggressively. Perhaps the better way is to build consensus more slowly with all parties. Let me go and try that.
VC: How can I help you?
F: You already did. Let me call you back tomorrow and I'll tell you where I got to.
In the conversation above, the main block to taking decisive and correct action was fear of (personal) failure and the ensuing self-doubt. While we didn't go as deeply as I think would have been beneficial, enough was achieved to move forward.
The conversation was, for me, a reminder of how all blocks to action are a result of the filters and consciousness developed from previous experience. Not every setting is right to address those historical blocks and I am not a therapist. But to be aware of such things as an investor can be hugely beneficial to the founder-VC relationship.
If you'd like to experience a different kind of venture capital, the doors at Sunstone are always open.