Empowering Confident Decision-making in Startup Teams

We all know that Overconfidence can take us places but can also get us into trouble eventually. Think domineering CEO with head in the clouds.

We also know that Underconfidence can get us nowhere, never making a decision or take a risk. Think dutiful worker putting up with domineering CEO.

Wouldn’t it be great if we just had Confidence, all of the time? Ahhhh… nirvana.

Surely that must be the holy grail for any startup accelerator or angel investor: “Empowering confident decision-making in startup teams”.

Here is our solution, so far.

OBJECT123 objection procedure
  1. Startup accelerators or angel investors will have access to a large number of likeminded startup team members that can be utilized to form a cohort network. Once agreed, this fact will be critical to the first step to empowering confident decision-making in startups.

  2. Uncivil behavior can arise during the decision-making process by one or more team members, being so overconfident that they try to dismiss the other person’s argument in an assortment of ways. Tone, volume, browbeating, dogmatic and angry behavior, used in an attempt to intimidate. This can be used to steamroll any dissenters, or alternatively, get them to “agree to disagree” in an attempt to prevent their argument from being unraveled through further discussion.

  3. Then, switching the cliché from, “Let’s agree to disagree” to “let’s agree to object”, is the next step to tackling these disputes. We may still disagree with the content of the dispute, but now we can OBJECT to the way the message was delivered. That is, our misbehavior.

  4. How we go about objecting and what we object to is the next step.
    • We object using the 3 phase procedure, being direct and in real-time (see above diagram)
    • We object when we simply feel offended by the other’s behavior.

  5. Failure to resolve our dispute using Object123, the dispute is then automatically posted onto the cohort network of peers (DisputZ.com), for them to review our dispute and offer any feedback.

  6. And finally, failure to resolve our dispute using the DisputZ network, we then Zoom it, and put our cases before up to 8 of our peers from our cohort network, and they will vote and make a recommendation to us and to the accelerator/investor management.
DisputZ Network 3 minute pitch

Latest Objective Book Cover

This is my latest book cover, influenced by Daniel Kahneman, and his latest book, Noise.
From an interview I heard today, he seems to be saying, how we can overcome overconfidence in organizational decision-making. My take is that confidence is the goal but overconfidence or underconfidence is not. Now, rather than using the old cliché and thinking of “Let’s agree to disagree” my handbook is the next step moving towards “Let’s agree to object”. Objecting to overconfidence and the behaviors that come with it. And objecting to underconfidence also, if I want to be fair.

Overconfidence – can be identified by people’s behavior ranging from:

  1. Aggressive, angry behavior, (tone, volume, expletives, body language).
  2. Use dogmatic and absolute language “never”, “always”, “I am right..”, “You are wrong..”.
  3. Refusing to acknowledge or apologize for poor or offensive behavior when pointed out.

underconfidence – can be identified by people’s behavior ranging from:

  1. Submissive, passive behavior,(tone, volume, body language).
  2. Use passive language “maybe we can do…?”, “can we do…?”.
  3. Failing to object or hold people to account for their aggressive behavior.

confidence (aspirational) – can be identified by people’s behavior ranging from:

  1. Objective behavior, (tone, volume). ie. neither aggressive or passive behavior.
  2. Use objective and qualifying language, “to me we..”, “in my opinion we…”, or “I think we..” etc.
  3. Objecting to aggressive behavior in real-time, holding offenders to account for their behavior during a dispute.

Who decides – So how do we judge who is what and when? Well…we try resolve our internal disputes in person, direct and in real-time using Object123, and if unsuccessful only then do we let our network of peers decide by posting any unresolved disputes onto the network to be reviewed.
If still unresolved we finish with a zoom call and our peers vote and make a recommendation.

“Very interesting point Desmond, democratize organizational power, as we do political power so (we) can vote people out”.

Timothy R Clark author of The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety

We use DisputZ.com for the network and Object123.com as the objection procedure

Our Latest handbook and toolkit for how we can empower confident decision-making in startup teams
Object123 Objection Procedure
Our 3 minute pitch to utilize our toolkit in startup accelerators

Startup Accelerator Dispute Network

Startup accelerators and incubators exist to help nurture and advise startups and assisting them to get funding. Startup teams are decision-making machines, making pivotal decisions that have enormous effect on the early direction and the later outcome of the startup. They are also vulnerable, with around 9 in 10 startups failing. We think that the main reason startups fail is because of the decisions that the teams make (a no brainer, right?). During the decision-making process disagreements occur, and it is inevitable that, on occasion, they will have unresolved disputes, stressing relationships even further.

Now, imagine if we could get our accelerator cohort peers and mentors to assist us in resolving our internal disputes without HR departments, managers or using uncivil gossiping or backstabbing of our fellow startup team members.

The good news is that by using a dispute network to moderate our disputes, startup team members can now participate in decision-making debates and not fear having their contribution ignored, dismissed, or ridiculed. What is a dispute network? It’s a network where we enlist our accelerator cohort colleagues and associated mentors to help resolve our internal disputes.

How Does it Work

  1. A startup accelerator or incubator signs up to use Disputz.com, initially free, and add their next intake or cohort of startup teams which usually consists of some 5-10 startups teams, with 2-3 per team. The dispute network would consist of some 15-30 team members plus any associated mentors.
  2. The startup teams would then be briefed on the standard procedures used before any individual can lodge their internal dispute on Disputz network.
  3. The cohort would be notified of the latest dispute lodged on the network, and members can review and offer any feedback on the dispute.
  4. If the dispute is still unresolved, it would then go to the final zoom-type video call, with some eight seats and where both parties put their case forward. Failure to resolve the dispute at this time means the network participants will vote and make a recommendation, posting it on the network.

Let’s Agree to Object?

“Let’s agree to disagree”, is the famous cleché used to stop disagreements, that have become an impasse.
But what if we had a better solution such as “Let’s agree to object”? That is “lets keep the discussion open but if either of us feel threatened by the other’s imposition, then we can simply object to the way they are disagreeing”. In fact we can object in 3 phases, in order to achieve an agreement:

  1. Caution,
  2. Object
  3. Stop

This is my proposal that I believe will someday change the way we disagree globally.

Workplace Civility

We can’t PREVENT misbehavior or incivility in the workplace; it is a given. On occasion, it WILL happen between colleagues or between managers and team members, especially when we disagree. When our ideas are threatened, we can become defensive and offensive, resulting in angry or uncivil behavior. We can, however, tackle this behavior rather than trying to put up with it or ignore it.

I could write reams of quotes on the adverse effects that incivility has on teams in organizations. Suffice it for me to say that it is significant and is still neglected in many organizations.

The solution we are proposing for our organization is called Civility123. Without going into too much detail here, I will give you a brief outline. It consists of 3 phases of accountability for our incivility or misbehavior.

  1. Object123
    That is, we OBJECT to misbehavior during a disagreement in 3 phases and in real-time, rather than complaining about the person later, thus nipping any potential for long-term disputes in the bud.
    1. Caution – A verbal warning that requires a simple acknowledgment, or escalate to…
    2. Object – A written email objection that requires a simple apology or escalate to…
    3. Stop – A post on our dispute peer review platform and requires an acceptable apology from either or both participants to resolve it.

  2. Disputz
    Once the offended person has posted their dispute on the Disputz.com site, it would consist of all their correspondence. Anyone in the organization can then offer feedback on their dispute. At this point, whoever is deemed to have misbehaved would need to provide an acceptable apology consisting of:
    1. What was said
    2. Why it was said and
    3. What he or she would do next time

  3. Civility Live
    The third and final phase of their dispute would be to zoom the dispute on our Civility.live video platform. Each person could nominate up to 4 team members in the organization to adjudicate their dispute. Failure to resolve the dispute at this stage without an acceptable apology from either or both would mean a vote is taken by the team members and they would recommend someone for dismissal.

Of course, all participants in an organization would need to agree to use the Civility123 toolkit beforehand, and it would apply to every member of the organization, from the Janitor to the CEO.

Aggressive – Assertive – Submissive

If Assertive behavior is the objective between Aggressive and Submissive then maybe objecting to aggressive and submissive behavior is the key.

Is this possible, that the principle of moderating our behavior and treating each other objectively is linked to the actual word, OBJECT? I believe so.

As we simply OBJECT to aggressive and submissive behavior we are acting assertively and therefore acting objectively. Too easy.

“Agree to Disagree”, Supplemental

Type into Google “Let’s agree to disagree” in quotes and it will return some 121,000 results.

“Agree to disagree” or “agreeing to disagree” is a phrase in English referring to the resolution of a conflict whereby all parties tolerate but do not accept the opposing position. It generally occurs when all sides recognize that further conflict would be unnecessary, ineffective or otherwise undesirable.”


Now, type in “Let’s agree to object,” and five results will return, and they will all be mine.
Agreeing to object is the next step or supplemental that we can use without giving up on actually getting a resolution.
Objecting is what allows us to separate our behavior from the contents of the disagreement. That is, we may disagree with the content or context, but we object to the delivery. Tone, volume, mocking, mimicking, name-calling, dogmatic, browbeating, etc., etc.

Get an agreement with anyone and try it. You might be surprised how much further you can take an impasse, so-called. How we go about objecting is another matter. I have come up with a simple procedure called Object123. See below.

Eliminating Badmouthing Gossip

Q. How do we eliminate badmouthing gossip in organizations?

A. Expose any unresolved dispute to the whole organization.

Obviously there must be some sort of dispute between the initiator of gossip and the person that they are badmouthing. But imagine if their gossip was open for everyone to read including the subject of the gossip. Hmm that would be interesting.

Imagine if organizations had their own dispute network that allowed everyone in the organization to lodge an internal dispute, after first initiating a specified private procedure between the offended and the offender. This procedure would also include the documenting of both sides of the dispute, first.

What could have been an issue for malicious gossip now becomes an opportunity for anyone in the organization to review the dispute from both sides and offer their feedback.

The potential Result
1. If this dispute network existed and team members already agreed that their behavior could be aired in front of the whole organization, then it is likely that disputes would be resolved through the initial private procedure, rather than having them published for all team members to see.

2. If the dispute was not resolved by the initial procedure and was published on the network, but was still unresolved, then the dispute would finally go to a zoom call. Then the accused and accuser can put their cases forward for up to 8 team members to vote on and make their recommendation to management.

This would certainly be a game changer. Worth a trial, I say.

Moderating Startups

Feeling and being safe, both physically and psychologically in a startup team, a family, or any organization is what has allowed societies to flourish. Think of our legal, and political systems in democratic countries. How we achieve it in a startup is another story as, unlike established organizations they don’t usually have HR departments, or middle managers to handle internal disputes.

But imagine if we had a cohort of startups, say in a startup accelerator, where we could harness the team members as a peer review network to help individual startup teams resolve their early decision-making. Decisions that will be so pivotal to the success or failure of the startup team. I believe that it is during these pivotal decision that team members are going to disagree and unresolved disputes form.

If we had a simple and clearly laid out process that we all knew how to tackle misbehavior and uncivil behavior during these pivotal disagreements, then we would all feel safe and secure knowing that bullying will not win out or be acceptable during our decision-making process. After all, that is exactly what a startup is, just a decision making machine, that sorely needs moderating, in my view. Here is my pitch video that might help explain what I am talking about:

Letter to Swimming Australia

I was just listening to the latest complaints raised by Australian swimmers in the media and I thought I would contribute and try help. I know this is a long shot but Swimming Australia and most organizations obviously need some radical process to prevent these venting experiences from offended members. A way to transform from the “#metoo” type complaints, indirect and years down the track; to the individual objecting directly, and in real time.

Maybe these problems occurred because the offended swimmers didn’t know how to raise the issues. They may have feared they would have been labeled a “snowflake” or just “too sensitive” for an individual instance. And did not want to use a sledge hammer to crack a wall nut.

But what if the offended swimmers were given a 3 step objection process to deal with the offender direct, and in real-time. Knowing that they have a network of their peers, to back them up, if needed, rather than dealing with the hierarchy within your organization, where they may feel they would not get a fair hearing.

The solution we are offering is called the Disputz Network. Where, if the issue cannot be resolved over the 3 step objection and network review process, the offenders can be brought before the offended’s network of peers, over a zoom call, and they can vote and post the recommendation on the network and also with the Swimming Australia management, .

Here is our pitch for using Disputz. Although it still needs developing and testing, maybe, just maybe you would be interested in trailing it and see if it can help tackle these instances and stop these small issues growing into major festering problems.

Here is my pitch which is directed to startup teams in startup accelerators, but I believe can also be adapted to any organization that has teams in it.

I am based on the Gold Coast at the moment and would be available to discuss the solution further.


Founder & Chief:
Desmond Sherlock


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