There is a lot that I learnt about conflicts during my startup days. I never had the time to reflect and consolidate my thoughts in those hectic times. But it all just came out during an interview recently when I was asked how I manage conflict with other team members.

As I see, there are 3 main scenarios when a conflict arises:

  1. Lack of alignment on the Big Picture. The big picture is the end goal. It’s where you want to reach eventually. If different people want to pursue different big picture, it’s bound to result in a conflict in the team.

  2. Lack of alignment on the direction. There are times when people are aligned on the same big picture but they have very different ideas about how to get there. This again results in significant amount of conflict. In fact, in my professional & personal life, I’ve seen that most of the time, people tend to align on the big picture but will have very different point of view on the direction.

  3. Personal agenda. There are also times when some people within the team are more motivated by personal agenda than a big picture. The personal agenda could be to gain something desirable or to avoid something painful. The problem with this kind of conflict is that it’s not an open one. Nobody wants to acknowledge their personal agendas but they can’t keep it aside as well.

All in all, during conflict resolutions, I try to mentally run through these three checkpoints and identify the source of the conflict. Different sources require different treatment. For example, if there is a lack of alignment on the big picture, there is no point in discussing the direction or execution path. Similarly, if someone has a personal agenda, no amount of big picture talk is going to create alignment.