In an earlier segment, we talked about the importance of anticipating conflict with your business partners, communicating regularly, and getting tension points on the table before they have a chance to grow and fester.
Today we’ll talk about some guidelines for healthy disagreement, and simple techniques to help you through an impasse.
Let’s start with the guidelines:
- Remain calm. Remember, you are in this together
- Honor the golden rule.
- Talk it out face-to-face when possible. Conducting arguments through texts or emails almost always ends badly.
- Assume the best about the other person until you have the facts to prove otherwise.
- Listen carefully before responding. Avoid interrupting the other person
- Look for a compromise solution
You can build upon this list by simply whiteboarding additional ground rules or doing some basic internet research on conflict resolution.
But let’s suppose you’ve followed these guidelines, exhausted the arguments, and still find yourselves at an impasse. Let’s further suppose that you’ve put the issue to a vote, and it’s a tie. What then?
Well, more arguing isn’t going to get you anywhere at this point. And there may be significant consequences to “no decision.”
Some partners prefer to go to a mediator or designated tie-breaker. That will bring you to a decision, but dragging additional players into the mix — especially if they are a board member, a professional advisor to your business, or a mutual friend or family member– can actually create new damage to important relationships.
You could flip a coin, or take some other arbitrary approach to determining who gets to make the final decision.
One method I like is to take turns on who gets the final say. So, Partner A may hold that power first. But once he or she exercises it, Partner B gets the power on the next decision. I’d even suggest the use of some physical token that changes hands each time the power to overrule is exercised. This approach sounds primitive at first, but it actually motivates partners to compromise, because surrendering the token means that the other person holds the power on the next big issue.