As entrepreneurs we must be effective problem solvers. Problems come in all variations: financial, health, technical, scheduling, staffing, etc. One type of problem that we will eventually encounter is people problems.
People problems can be particularly difficult to handle if you have an aversion to confict. Many people would rather experience just about anything but having to confront someone about a problem. I know, I used to be one of those people, and I still have to fight that tendancy. And that is a benefit of the road we travel as business people...it exposes our weaknesses and provides opportunity to confront them one way or another before you can achieve success. Learning to deal with people problems is one of the biggest hurdles facing a start-up. We all want to be liked and we all hope to get along with others, but things can go pear-shaped pretty quickly when mixing money, deadlines, personalities and expectations.
So here are 4 things I have found that help to difuse potential hot spots...
1. Quantify the issue. Put a number on it. Numbers are black and white, impersonal. This helps to stick to the facts and stay out of the weeds. A project is either financially feasible, or it's not. A certain volume of work can, or cannot, get done in a certain time period. This amount of resources will be required to accomplish these objectives.
2. Stick to clearly defined expectations. Whenever a conversation starts to get personal, it's good to reign it back and focus on mutually agreed to expectations (hopefully in writing). This requires that expectations are clearly defined at the outset, mutually agreed to and regularly measured. Many problems arise out of unclear expectations. One can use the 'broken record' method to stay on point and keep a dialogue from going toxic.
3. Argue the opposing viewpoint. Take a few moments to look at the issue from the other side. In your head, try to make a case from their vantage. This can get you out of your own emotions, help you empathize with their situation and help you find a path to a mutually satisfying solution.
4. Don't be provoked to react in a heated situation, but don't let things fester either. It's OK to step back from a situation for a period of time and take some deep breaths, steady your emotions, gather your thoughts and think things through rationally. Once you know what needs to be done, make a decision and carry it through as soon as possible. Find some resolution or compromise and move on.
5. If disagreements cannot be resolved and the issues are costing you and your business, it's OK to consider moving on from a relationship. As a micro-contractor, you are accountable for the relationships you enter into, you have the agency to break-up with customers, suppliers and workers who do not return value to you. This power can be scary to exercise but it is an important step in actualizing your entrepreneurial spirit. We have to solve our own problems, not just our customer's problems. If a relationship is causing you chronic stress, there is no risk in severing that connection. It will give you freedom to add value where you are better suited and appreciated.
In your business experience, what have you found to be helpful in resolving disagreements?