True Conversations. When you feel there is tension in your relationship with your business- partner(s), you can do two things. Neglect or supress the tension and hoping for the better or having the courage to start a True Conversation. Asking an independent third party to facilitate this conversation might be the right helping hand. Pretty normal and very meaningful, but we are not used to it. That’s why we like to help you. It’s our mission to normalize these sensitive conversations and to hold space to have real talks, to prevent and regulate conflicts. Here you find some examples from business partners who experienced this before.
Talking about Expectations
What if a Start-Up Manager decides to start without specific roles and without specific responsibilities? What is the impact of that decision on the team members and their daily work? How do they handle this ‘free state’?
Especially when it comes to collaboration, this is the first thing that comes around when we speak with two members of this Startup. What we really need here is a good conversation. We start from the collaboration perspective as a starting point, but it’s really all about the following underlying subjects.
Can we handle the uncertainty, not exactly knowing what our Manager expects? Do we feel enough connected with other team members and with the common objectives of the company to trust each other? Is power between the members an issue? Are we fighting for our position although there is no formal position to fight for? Can I trust the others in such a way, that I can share (as being with the Startup from the first hour it feels like’my child’)? Can we be vulnerable about our competences and incompetences in order to learn from each other?
This intense conversation clarified a lot. We ended with the notification that the way these two members spoke and will speak about these issues together, and the way they will handle them, can have a flywheel effect on the other team members.
From Management to Leadership
In our meeting with one of the Startups, two of the shareholders gave a brief outline of the company’s history. They took the risk to start the company with their unique product, they found investors and they worked day and night to come where they are today. As we speak,a second round of investments is needed for the survival of the company. In this phase of
uncertainty there are new challenges coming up. One of the biggest challenges is ‘How dowe keep the shareholders as committed as they initially were to guarantee success?’
When the initial excitement, enthusiasm and bursting energy moves to a more ordinary level, other needs appear. After a longer period of uncertainty, people start to weigh their risks and will opt for stability and continuity. During this phase we often notice that shareholders accept other jobs to secure their need for a reasonable income. But through the acceptance of other jobs, their attitude changes as well. Let’s say their involvement goes to another gear.
With these two shareholders we talked about what is really needed in this moment. One of the main issues we discussed is whether they clearly set out the directions. For the short, the medium and the long term, including the consequences of these directions. And whether they have communicated these consequences and expectations.
This is where the difference between a manager and the leader comes in. The phase of organizational development we are talking about here, requires a leader instead of a manager. Because the manager will have an approach to focus on details where the leader will set the direction. The manager tells the vision where the leader sells the vision of the company. The manager avoids conflicts where the leader uses conflicts to get thingsdone. The manager will choose existing roads where the leader will explore new roads.
And last but not least, the manager will execute the current culture where the leader will shape the desired culture.
Only with this transformational Leadership people will stay committed and follow.
Follow the Leader
Because (of the fact that) there is a hot item at stake, one of the Startups immediately asked for mediation after our introductory talk. Within a few days we met and started to explore what is the actual situation.
The company is in a process of appointing a CEO. The question ‘who is most suitable for this position?’ has been on the agenda for sometime now. Three of the four Founders consider ’the fourth Founder’ incapable for that position. Although the opinions about his capability differ, this issue has a great impact on their mutual relationships.
An interesting way to look at this kind of situations is to use the ‘here and now’ as a practical experiment. In this case, we use: ‘who is showing leadership skills?’ We outlined ascenario ‘what if X is quitting on Monday’ and observed the group dynamics.
Two major things came forward. One of the Founders naturally took the lead and loyalty appeared. This loyalty is a very important signal for ’the third Founder’ in terms of support and acknowledgement. Thereupon, the way is paved to discuss possibilities instead of constraints. A process of talking about each other’s needs and the company’s requirements follows and immediately possible solutions appear. A new role as ‘silent shareholder’ seems the right position to ’the fourth Founder’.
Irritation as a gift
Mutual irritation. Everybody recognizes this now and then, in relationships, in teamwork. Especially when there is time pressure. The most common way to react on this is to focus on the negative behaviour of the other and to blame him/her for that. We want the other person to change. Consequently problems arise and a conflict is on its way.
This was the fact in one of the start-ups. The CEO and the COO had such opposite personalities (let’s stereotype them as extravert and introvert) that working together becamemore difficult every day. It affected the board in trust and integrity issues. A good start in pre mediation because everybody feels it is urgent to change this in order to have one voice externally.
The thing is, we can see these potential conflicts as an opportunity! Why suffer, we have a choice to take it into our own hands. When we are self-aware and take responsibility for our own behaviour and actions, we realise that all of this irritation has nothing to do with the other person, but us. His or her behaviour triggers something in me. It irritates me because I feel (one of) my needs are not met. Otherwise it wouldn’t irritate me. He or she is often showing me what I can do a little more or a little less. For example if I am irritated about the ‘egocentric behaviour’ of the other, I feel that he or she is extremely good at expressing what he or she wants. Most of the time this is exactly what I am allowed to do a little more: expressing my needs!
In this pre mediation we stimulated every team member to take responsibility for their own behaviour. Another important aspect we discussed is that in teamwork and ‘growing together’ is crucial to give each other the opportunity to learn. Being patient, letting each one learn their own lessons and stimulating and accepting new behaviour.
Every time you are irritated you can ask yourself honestly ‘What can I learn from my irritation?’ ‘What is the exact behaviour of the other that irritates me?’ ‘Which judgements do I have about that behaviour?’ What if I turn this negative behavior in something positive?’
Do you see the gift? Try it and see the dynamic changing!