Case Study No 5 - Contracting for success and positive working relationships

When setting up a new business venture or initiating a major project, the people involved are typically enthused and energised by the opportunity and the vision  they have of the future. People are often keen to 'get stuck in' and help make a contribution to delivering the desired outcomes.


All too often though, conflict between stakeholders emerges; relationships become strained, bad feelings surface, and the energy that had been channelled into delivering results, is diverted into interpersonal tensions. All the potential that existed at the start can easily be lost at this point and with it an enormous waste of time, money and goodwill on the part of all concerned.


In our work we have come across some experienced, far sighted and pro-active business & project leaders who recognise this risk and want to take steps to manage it from the start! They know that success is far more likely if they anticipate and plan for, both the opportunities, and the threats that human relationships pose to any team and organisation.       


This was the situation we found in a consulting enterprise where the two business colleagues had a great idea for a new business, and entered into a partnership to develop the opportunity further. They got on really well as people and recognised their shared interests, values and approach to work, but both had previous experience of 'good friendships' in business that had gone wrong and wanted to avoid this at all costs. 


Using best practice Coaching & Facilitation approaches, our Conflict Masters expert created an environment in which these two entrepreneurs could freely articulate their hopes and fears for the future and explore a number of challenging 'what if' questions like 'what if you bring in more sales than I do?'. When both felt that they had fully anticipated the risks and agreed how they would deal with them, we summarised the discussions in a written report that was intended to be a 'working document' moving forward.


Review sessions were then facilitated every 3 months for the first year of trading, where both individuals were encouraged to verbalise exactly how they were feeling about the venture and, in particular, the relationship with the other partner. A number of the 'what ifs' originally identified did arise and the theory could then be put in rapid practice. In addition, a number of unexpected things arose that had the potential to cause friction, but they were quickly brought into the open, examined and win:win solutions found. 


After 4 sessions, this level of openess and honest feedback had begun to be ingrained in the way the business worked. Furthermore, the two had learnt that they could navigate successfully through potentially awkward and difficult conversations and maintain a high level of motivation for the business and commitment to the partnership. 





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