Disputes are a normal part of family business life. The problem is, when the disputes are not properly dealt with they can become corrosive, damaging and even lethal to the health of the business!
Here are 4 tips to help you make sure your family disputes aren’t life threatening…
Take a big breath
Remember when we become emotionally charged, the primitive part of our brain literally hijacks the rational part of the brain. It’s amazing how a big, deep breath and a short pause can restore access to the more calm and reasonable part of your brain.
When the dispute happens, make sure you have the awareness to step back for a moment before you try solve the issue.
Keep it all in perspective
Most of the things that we have disagreements about are minor in the whole scheme of things. You’ve heard the old saying, “I don’t want to die on THIS hill.” In other words, don’t make one minor decision or dispute become the big thing that drives a wedge between you and your business partners.
Realize that there are lots of little decisions where people will not necessarily agree. Rather than make it a big deal, you can keep the big picture in mind and let someone else have their way this time.
Try to find a win-win and a balanced scorecard
Most long-term relationships that last and are healthy involve a good mix of win-win and balanced decision making.
If over the course of a year, I look back and realize that we did 30 things my business partner wanted to do and two things I wanted to do, we are probably not going to have a healthy relationship.
I really don’t want you to keep score per se, and at the same time I do believe you should be monitoring the decision making and dispute resolution process in your relationship. Be striving for giving your partners a win as often as you can.
I try to remind clients that the health of the relationship is a foundational piece to ensure the health of the business and family. Don’t be so stubborn and caught up in the fact that your way is the right way. You may find yourself left alone without any partners or family members.
Be patient and be generous
At the end of the day, how you handled the dispute might be the most important element. Get good at listening to others and having patience as they try to convince you. Be generous in giving in; it’s a great gift you give to others.
When the next dispute comes along, have this four step process close by so that you can practice and get better at dealing with disputes.
Unfortunately, I’ve seen some families who allow their disputes to smolder over a long time. At some point they burst into a large uncontrollable fire and cause huge amounts of damage and financial hardship to the family and the business.
Get good at handling disputes while they are small so they don’t become a bigger issue.
I would be remiss if I didn’t suggest that you bring in an outside perspective if you’re having trouble solving the dispute. Sometimes you are just too close to the issue to see other perspectives. Put together a few trusted advisors and ask them for their opinions. Use that process to help solve the dispute.
Remember, if you aren’t having a few disputes, you’re not challenging and pushing each other. This is an important part of being a strong, competitive team.
Dealing with conflict is one of the skills we build as part of the Family Business Decathlon Training System. I hope you’ll check it out. Conflict resolution skills are like any other–you have to practice.
Pete Walsh is a demanding, courageous and playful Master Coach in Phoenix, Arizona. He is the founder of Peak Workout Business Coaching and the Family Business Performance Center. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.