How my work with ostriches helps families and their businesses handle conflict

It can be tempting for all of us to choose not to handle conflict. That’s part of why I work with ostriches: the human equivalent of the birds who (mythically) react to problems by burying their heads in the sand.

It’s not a good option for birds (asphyxiation) or humans (problems get worse as you dither and deny they exist.)

Far better, for people (not sure about ostriches) to choose to handle conflict before a nasty dispute can erupt. Conflict denial and conflict avoidance are not good strategies. Pretending that no problem exists does not mean it’s true.

Why should we grapple with conflict? It’s so hard to do!

First, important planning and decision-making is delayed. When a festering problem causes paralysis, simply waiting for it to go away is not an effective approach to conflict. Decisions with long-term effects are put off, perhaps forever.

Second, opportunities are lost when paralysis sets in. “Let’s wait to decide whether to pursue that new line of business (it’s scary to think about how some might react to that idea, so we will just wait… and wait.)” “No need to decide promptly whether to make that hire (one that might ruffle some feathers.)”

Third, conflicts don’t tend to just go away on their own. No; in fact, conflicts tend to fester, harden, and grow. You are probably aware of situations where no one can remember what started the fight. Yet they (and, sometimes, their descendants) are still fighting.

As these damages settle in, a family’s wealth, its businesses, and its legacy can suffer, sometimes mightily.

But how do we grapple with conflict? If it were easy, we would be doing it already!

Well, exactly. It can be hard to do. It’s especially hard when it is a side issue — important, but not the primary focus — for the family or its family enterprise.

That’s where I can help. The primary focus of my business is helping families and their businesses to grapple with conflict.

I use facilitated family meetings and mediation to help you move forward, even when there are ostriches involved.


Posted in Family Businesses, Family Wealth Mediation, Uncategorized, Thursday, April 6th, 2017

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