“Some 65% of startups fail because of co-founder conflict”NOAM WASSERMAN – THE FOUNDER’S DILEMMAS
So, you are a co-founder of a startup, and you have a conflict with your co-founder. How do you go about resolving it? Or maybe you sweep it under the carpet, only to trip over it later? What if you had access to a private network of fellow co-founders, to help resolve your conflict when all else fails? What if you could also use this network to assist you in solving the actual problem that caused the dispute?
There is a difference between having a conflict/dispute versus a disagreement over an issue, in my book. The conflict is caused by uncivil behavior when we disagree. i.e. When you hold a dogmatic or absolute view, one can feel threatened by your co-founder’s different idea. At this point, someone starts to play the person and not the ball, resulting in misbehavior by one or more co-founders. I don’t want to tell you how to suck eggs, only for you to recognize the difference between a conflict and a disagreement. By tackling uncivil behavior in a conflict, we can get back to discussing the issue of the disagreement and hopefully find a more balanced solution.
Here is what my brother and I have agreed to use to resolve our disputes. Funnily enough, we have called it the Disputz Network. We think it could be a game-changer for many startup co-founders who have never spent the time or effort to develop their own culture or explicit rules of engagement. It has taken us some 17 years to get to this point. If you wish to try out this self-organizing culture to resolve your co-founder conflict, it could save you a lot of time and heartache.
It consists of joining our dispute network by agreeing to use our rules of engagement for the group. There is no long list for acceptable behavior, only one criterion for when we should object. When we feel uncomfortable or offended by our co-founder’s behavior, we object to it. We do this using Object123, i.e., three phases or levels of objection:
1. CAUTION 2. OBJECT 3. STOP, and we receive a corresponding acknowledgment. Or, if our objection is challenged three times by the offending co-founder, the dispute would be posted automatically on the Disputz Network for our co-founder peers to review.
So, now you and your co-founders finally have a choice. It’s free! Why not give it a try?
*NOTE: Being held to account for our behavior will reduce incivility and, therefore, conflict. I can tell you anecdotally that it works for my brother and me, even without using the network. Finding co-founders willing to be held to such a high level of account for their behavior is the issue here. A lot will not want to participate, preferring to use coercion to get what they want. i.e., bullying, browbeating, righteous indignation, increasing tone and volume, and other aggressive behavior.