As a coach specializing in executive coaching, I have found that the way in which a company’s partners handle disagreements and conflicts is crucial to the success of their partnership. It’s perfectly normal for tensions to arise between partners, but it’s crucial to understand the main causes of these clashes and to find ways of overcoming them in order to preserve the company’s harmony and success.
Strategic differences, financial disagreements, governance problems and personal disagreements are often cited as the main sources of conflict between partners. According to Noam Wasserman, author of “The Founder’s Dilemma”, 65% of startups fail due to conflict between partners, underlining the importance of proactively preventing and managing such conflicts.
Here are the main reasons for clashes between partners:
Strategic divergence :
When partners have different visions and strategic objectives for the company, tensions can quickly arise. These differences may concern the direction to be taken, the investments to be made or the markets to be targeted. To avoid these differences turning into real conflicts, it’s important to encourage frank and open discussions. Partners must commit to listening carefully to each other’s points of view, and to seeking solutions that respect the company’s common interests.
Governance and distribution of roles :
The question of governance and the division of roles can also be a source of conflict between partners. When responsibilities aren’t clearly defined, or decisions aren’t made fairly, this can lead to tension and frustration. To overcome these problems, it is essential to establish a solid governance structure, defining the roles and responsibilities of each partner in a transparent way. Regular, transparent communication is also necessary to avoid misunderstandings and resentments.
Financial disagreements :
Financial issues can quickly divide partners. Differences over the management of financial resources, investments, remuneration or the distribution of profits can lead to major conflicts. To prevent such situations, it is crucial to establish clear financial procedures and define control and monitoring mechanisms. It is also important to maintain open and transparent communication on the financial aspects of the business, fostering transparency and mutual trust.
Personal disagreement :
Differences in personality, values or working styles can also be a frequent cause of clashes between partners. These personal misunderstandings can quickly generate tension and conflict within the team. To overcome these problems, it’s crucial to cultivate a climate of mutual respect and open communication. Associates must recognize the importance of diversity and learn to leverage complementary skills and perspectives for the good of the company.
Now, how do you overcome these clashes and preserve a healthy collaboration between partners?
It’s crucial that associates constantly cultivate what unites them, and regularly address their disagreements. Here are a few keys to achieving this:
1. Choose yourself well, align yourself with your project and vision, but also with your values and sources of motivation:
When forming a partnership, it’s essential to select associates who share the same vision for the company. This includes adherence to long-term objectives, as well as a convergence of values and motivations. Once the partners have been chosen, it’s important to maintain this consistency by regularly reassessing alignment with the project and promoting open communication on the company’s core values.
2. At the start of the relationship, create a pact between partners and consider possible scenarios:
At the start of the association, it is useful to formalize the mutual commitments of the partners through a pact between partners. This document can clearly define roles, responsibilities, expectations and decision-making mechanisms within the company. It’s also a good idea to consider different possible scenarios, such as the entry or exit of a partner, to prevent potential future conflicts.
3. Clarify everyone’s roles, as far as necessary and in detail:
A common source of conflict between partners is confusion or ambiguity about roles and responsibilities within the company. It is therefore essential to define each partner’s areas of involvement precisely and transparently, specifying the tasks and expectations associated with each function. This clarification promotes a better division of responsibilities and minimizes the risk of overlapping or misunderstandings.
4. Spend informal time together to continue nurturing the relationship:
As well as the purely professional aspects, it’s important for partners to cultivate strong personal bonds. Organizing informal activities outside the work environment helps to build mutual trust and understanding, and promotes fluid, open communication. This can include lunches, outings or team-building events.
5. Respect each other and find a way of communicating that suits everyone:
Mutual respect is an essential pillar of any professional relationship. Associates must be committed to actively listening to the views of others, accepting divergent opinions and fostering respectful communication. It’s also important to recognize that each partner may have a different communication style, and exchanges should be adapted to these differences to facilitate mutual understanding.
6. Dedicate regular time to feedback and conflict resolution:
Regular communication is a valuable tool for preventing and resolving conflicts between partners. It’s a good idea to set aside time for feedback, where associates can constructively share their impressions, concerns and suggestions. When a conflict arises, it’s important to deal with it quickly by encouraging open dialogue and seeking mutually beneficial solutions.
7. Facing reality :
It’s essential to face up to reality, even when it’s unpleasant. Partners must be prepared to recognize problems and tackle them head-on. This requires frank and open communication, where everyone can express their concerns and points of view in a respectful manner.
8. Be agile and ready for change :
Partners need to be agile and ready to change things when necessary. This means being open to new ideas, ready to question established positions and explore alternative solutions. Flexibility is the key to finding compromises and moving forward together.
9. Handling disagreements with emotional intelligence and rationality :
Managing disagreements and conflicts requires both emotional intelligence and rationality. It’s important to recognize and understand the emotions that can arise during a clash, while seeking solutions based on shared facts and objectives. Associates need to develop their ability to manage their emotions and step back to solve problems constructively.
10. Get help or support from a trusted third party when necessary:
When conflicts between partners become complex or seem difficult to resolve, it can be beneficial to call in a trusted third party, such as a mediator or specialist coach. These professionals can provide a neutral perspective and help associates overcome their differences by promoting effective communication and seeking mutually satisfactory solutions.
By putting this advice into practice, associates can build a solid, balanced relationship, fostering the success and longevity of their business. It is important to emphasize that preventing and managing conflicts between associates requires a continuous effort and a willingness to maintain open and constructive communication. By following these principles, partners can foster healthy and productive collaboration, contributing to the development of their business.
To go further
At WINGMIND, we coach partners to help them align, work effectively together and manage conflict and disagreement.
Founder of WINGMIND, David Chouraqui serves as an advisor and coach for leaders and management teams. His areas of expertise include HR audits, leadership assessments, and change management.