Business Culture Resilience for Founders – Work with Conflict

The following ideas for deescalating and preventing destructive conflict from slowing down or taking over your business are huge and much easier said than done. The ability to practice them in real time when you are in the midst of rising tensions comes with practice, patience, self-reflection and pure guts.

Each of us has some ability to work through difficult conversations, and, with practice, everyone can get better at it. Recognizing things like Conflict CurvesCreative Tension Zones, and Conflict Spirals mentioned in previous posts is also greatly beneficial as you practice your skills in making work a creative, productive place to be.

  1. Start by looking ahead. Take preemptive steps to make sure that destructive conflict does not have a reason to arise. Check out the 11 common systemic issues that lead to disputes in startups and make sure you and your team are well-prepared to make good decisions right from the start and along the whole journey.
  2. Be deeply curious about your own behavior. What’s going on for you when someone behaves in a certain way? Is everyone else reacting similarly, or is something going on for you that is different? Once you think you have figured it out, step back and look a little deeper to make sure you got it right. Be curious about what you need and why.
  3. Be very curious about the other person’s behavior. What could be going on for them that made them act the way they did? Are you better off guessing what that reasoning is or finding out in some more certain way? What would that best way be? Is talking directly with the person still an option? How? Find a way to remain curious about the situation rather than simply reacting to the symptoms of it. Be curious about what the other person(s) needs and why?
  4. Recognize when you are in a “Conflict Spiral” and get out. There are two ways you can stop the spiral; (1) change your own behavior so the spiral stops; (2) change your thinking about the other’s behavior so the spiral stops. Once you are out you can take steps to understand what’s really going on for everyone involved. If you stay in the spiral you risk burning bridges and destroying trust.
  5. Don’t avoid the conflict. This doesn’t mean that you need to go after a cure at the first moment you spot conflict, but it does mean that you should gather information and not put off working through it as soon as possible. Just like leaky pipes, conflicts tend to get worse unless we work on them.
  6. Build options to change the dynamic. Situations typically don’t change unless we do something different. Name the problem and come up with some options that will help change the dynamic. If you are getting the feeling that none of them will work, it may be time to ask for help.
  7. Have learning conversations. If you forget everything else during a conflict situation, remember to be curious and to allow the other person(s) to be curious. Be aware of what makes you tick and take steps to try to understand what makes the other person(s) tick. Their (and your) underlying interests are the key to the puzzle here.
  8. Seek advice from someone outside the direct situation. Choose a person who is not on either side of the conflict and ask them to help you build some options to change the dynamic. The more curious the outsider is, the better off you are going to be.
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If even one part of this helps you make a relationship work, and, therefore, your team a little stronger, please pass it along to anyone else you think may have an interest.

Next time I’ll focus on some of the regular and predictable conflict-causing systems at play in high potential startup businesses.

Take good care out there!


About Resologics: Teams exist to produce results and Resologics exists to produce super-creative, high-performing teams that know how to work with and manage conflict well. Based in the Bay Area of CA, USA, Resologics provides integrated and proactive training, Ombudsman services, team development, and dispute resolution services that enable fast paced, uninterrupted, and fun growth in startups. More information can be found at  Contact @ 510.314.8314 /