Avoiding Conflict is a No-Win Decision (Part 1 of 5)

In business, you can’t avoid hard conversations. However, when a difficult or potentially volatile situation arises between peers, particularly business owners and managers, the conversation is often postponed for fear of conflict. Conflict avoidance is not a winning strategy.

When he started his own business, my client Joe hired a project manager, Fred, a guy he’d known for years. In the beginning, business was great – it was just the two of them “making it happen” every day. Joe trusted Fred’s skills and didn’t inquire to closely about how things were done. As long as clients weren’t complaining, it was all-okay.

As the business grew, staff was added, and it became apparent to Joe that the “just-get-it-done” approach wasn’t going to work any longer. He realized that he needed to establish systems, processes, and procedures, so the company could grow with a strong foundation. In order to maintain consistent profits and great service, they needed to standardize what they did. This meant that Joe and Fred could no longer be involved with every decision and action in the field. They needed to develop the team under them and build better systems for managing these folks.

To Fred, “systems and procedures” showed up like “more stuff to do” – he just wanted to do what he was good at – build. This created a dilemma for my client. Joe started to become resentful of Fred for not wanting to help the company build a better foundation. When Joe put processes and procedures in place, Fred neglected to follow them. Joe’s response was to remain quiet and to work directly with the folks who reported to Fred. In turn, Fred began to become isolated. He stopped attending operations meetings because “things came up.” He also began criticizing the new processes to other staff members, and he made remarks about how “all that paperwork isn’t necessary–we just need to be able to do our jobs.”

See blog next week to discover how this potentially volatile situation came about, so you can avoid something similar.

As a business consultant and coach for more than 20 years, Vicki has helped hundreds of companies realize an appreciable, sustainable business growth and increased profits. She works with owners and managers to create alignment in teams and to build “cultures of accountability” – a key for building a sustainably successful company! As a business coach, Vicki’s straightforward style helps business owners and managers maintain clarity and focus on what they need to do to reach their goals.