Sunday, July 29, 2007

Conflict Management in Startups

How many times have you seen it as an entrepreneur that you toil to build your dream startup and a new hire comes in and suddenly there is chaos and conflict and decisions seems to loop around without going towards your milestone, especially a outbound market facing milestone?

Every startup team has to go through this process several time as you scale your team. The first time is essentially painful.

You have new people, new directions, new challenges as past blind-spots are exposed or from simple chaos of communication and at maintaining speed. Looking back, I have always found that it has been good. But when it happens it feels like a twister with no way to get out of it.

I recently saw a familiar discussion between engineering and marketing to get a company logo right getting a startup ready for launch. I have seen this thrice before at different startup environments. My being aware of the nuances of what happens did not help me speed the cycle or mend broken hearts as passions spiraled to get the best logo for the startup.

I have seen the same about getting ready for the first real customer sales or a company launch. Listing all tactical work or being aware of the team dynamics from the past does not seem to stop me from watching the same people dynamics.

What I have learned to do is to challenge strong emotions of conflicts to work "for" the company and not against it.

What we can do is create an environment where confrontation is encouraged to get issues on the topic, keep the focus on issues not people and let the passions run high towards results.

When the end result is achieved, be it a product launch or that first sale, the team bonding that happens and the confidence amongst the waring team members and the company as a whole is worth all the pain you would go through this.

As an entrepreneur, when you see such an conflict in the early stages of the company, you have an opportunity to create a positive company culture and create corporate memory and confidence to solve future unknown problems by being able to brainstorm, handle criticism and come out as a winner with a better team product.

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