Journey of a Serial Entrepreneur

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How to get from where you are to where you want to be

5 Steps to Manage Conflict

“The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly; it is dearness only that gives everything its value. I love the man that can smile in trouble, that can gather strength from distress and grow brave by reflection. ‘Tis the business of little minds to shrink; but he whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves his conduct, will pursue his principles unto death.” Thomas Paine

There is no doubt, managing conflicts is a challenging task. On my journey as an entrepreneur I have had my share of conflicts. I think working in close proximity and under much pressure, tends to raise conflicts more frequently in entrepreneurial ventures. It is hence important to know how to handle them more effectively. Losing a team mate, a client or a supplier can spell the end for a young startup. Listed below are five steps to help manage conflicts in a systematic and structured manner, and thus reach a fair and faster consensus.

1. Facts: Before anything is discussed or negotiated, it is important that all relevant details are documented. This includes finding core reasons behind the conflict, the stage the conflict is at, and the affected parties. It is important to be objective when documenting these factors, and ensure that each one of the affected individuals is part of the process. To read more about the fact finding process please click here

2. Ground Rules: Developing a set of rules and structure can greatly facilitate conflict resolution. It is important to let all the participants know what is expected of them. It also helps to formalize the actual negotiation process with a set agenda, and a mediator if possible. Setting up such a structure helps the negotiation process run smoothly, with each participant well aware, before hand, about the discussion agenda. To read more about setting appropriate ground rules please click here.

3. Negotiations: The actual negotiation stage brings all the concerned parties together, to discuss their points of view in a structured manner. It is important to insist that each participant keep their mind open to different options, even if they do not agree with them. Keeping a close mind and remaining stubborn makes the process more challenging to manage. During this stage, notes need to be taken down regarding options discussed and differences and concerns that were voiced. To read more about the negotiation stage please click here.

4. Evaluation: After the negotiation stage, all the participants are called back at a later date to discuss the options discussed during the negotiation stage. At this time, it is important to establish a set of objective criterions, to ensure the options discussed are feasible, fair and take into account the larger picture. There are several strategies which can be used at this stage to rank or combine options, and to come up with a mutually agreeable option. To read more about the evaluation stage please click here.

5. Closure: The final stage of a conflict management process involves bringing closure to the argument. This is done by  formalizing whatever was discussed and decided into a written document, which clearly outlines everyone’s responsibilities and roles. It is important that a commitment is made to follow through on what was decided. Periodic meetings can be established to ensure that everything is moving as planned, with suggestions and feedback provided along the way. To read more about closure please click here.

I have followed this system in conflicts I have been involved in. However, given the variances in every conflict, one needs to improvise along the way. Managing conflicts is a challenging task, especially when they have been brewing under the surface for long periods of time. Reaching a formal agreement acceptable to all the concerned individuals is a major feat. It requires patience, an open mind and the willingness to be flexible. It is much easier to be stubborn and refuse to change a position, rather than be adaptable and sacrifice for a more congenial and brighter future. 

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Closure

“The most intense conflicts, if overcome, leave behind a sense of security and calm that is not easily disturbed. It is just these intense conflicts and their configurations which are needed to produce valuable and lasting results.” Carl Gustav Jung

Closure is one of the most critical components of successful conflict resolution. Without it, there is always something unfinshed hanging in the air and this makes people uncomfortable. I am sure many of us have been involved in conflicts which have ended without the required closure. It is not a pleasant situation, and if you then have to continue working with the persons concerned, it can be most awkward. To avoid such situations and reach closure, there are a few things I work on ensuring. 

1. Written Plan: Ensure that everything that has been discussed and decided upon, is written down in a formal document. This document should outline levels of future responsibility, possible compensation agreements, changed working arrangements or any other directives that are to be carried out. Putting it all down on paper makes it tangible, and easy to take ownership of.

2. Commitment: It is important that once a mutually agreeable option has been accepted, tasks and roles allocated, everyone commits to whatever they were assigned. A personal commitment is as important as having faith in the abilities of others to carry out their parts. This is not a time to doubt the follow through abilities of others. At this time more than ever, it is necessary to begin and rebuild the trust which may have been lost in the process.

3. Periodic Checks: A system to routinely check the progress of what was decided and agreed upon is vital, to ensure everyone is keeping their end of the deal. Such checks help monitor team progress and provide valuable insight into the team or individuals working dynamics. Such meetings can be a sounding board for suggestions, complaints or feedback. 

Closure after a long drawn out conflict is a liberating and empowering feeling, and helps us face challenges with ease and confidence. It reminds us, that survival in this world, requires us to learn to be flexible and move forward. Being stubborn and refusing to see different sides of a conflict, renders us incapable of moving forward. 

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Evaluating Options

“There are three ways of dealing with difference: domination, compromise, and integration. By domination only one side gets what it wants; by compromise neither side gets what it wants; by integration we find a way by which both sides may get what they wish.” Mary Parker Follet

Once the negotiation stage has been cleared, all options presented and discussed need to be evaluated. During this stage, respective parties need to set their differences aside, and work towards reaching a consensus where both parties are satisfied with the outcome. This is by far one of the most challenging stages in the conflict management process. Much of the time such situations conclude in deadlocks, because one party may not be open to entertaining any option other than one which benefits them. Conflict resolution needs a certain level of sacrifice from each party to reach a mutually beneficial agreement. 

Some steps which can help reach a mutually beneficial agreement are:

1. Developing Criterions: Prior to starting this phase it is important to establish some base criterions. These include ensuring that all options discussed are feasible and fair. It is also equally important to identify a set of objective criterions which help each of the participants look at the larger picture. This helps set a tone which in turn helps the flow of the discussion and reaching a mutually beneficial agreement, faster. 

2. Ranking: To begin the process, rank the options discussed in the negotiation stage. This will help the participants decide jointly which options address the needs of the group and their own needs. This is a tricky exercise, as each participant would like to rank the options which benefit them the most, on top. To resolve this issue, each option should be graded against a set of objective criterions which are mutually agreed upon. This helps bring objectivity and fairness into the process.

3. Combining of Options: I have found that it is often possible to combine certain options, thereby creating a mutually acceptable option to both parties. Through this method we can bridge differences in opinions, which may limit parties to reach a mutually agreeable agreement. This takes some creativity,  at the same time, helps to think out of the box when resolving conflict. 

There needs to be much give and take at this stage. Sacrifices need to be made, at the same time it is important to remain objective and work towards a mutually beneficial agreement. During this stage one needs to be creative and think out of the box. A deadlock must be avoided at all costs, if a party becomes stubborn and refuses to change positions, we need to factor this dynamic in, and find alternatives which may be acceptable to them. 

 

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Tackling the Issue

“In a conflict, being willing to change allows you to move from a point of view to a viewing point — a higher, more expansive place, from which you can see both sides.” Thomas Crum

Proceeding with actual negotiations after laying down a comprehensive foundation for determining the facts and establishing ground rules, makes the exercise easier. With a set agenda, each party is fully aware of what will be discussed. The negotiation stage is a a critical one in conflict resolution. Without each party making the effort to bring the issue to the table, and discuss it candidly, very little progress is possible. Once the concerned individuals have made the effort to come together, and discuss the issue at hand, it is important to keep the discussion moving in a focused and objective matter. 

Key points to be kept in mind at the negotiation stage are:

1. Remaining Open: It is quite natural to close one’s mind to the other person’s point of view in a conflict. If such a stance is taken however, to reach a mutually agreeable decision will be a difficult and long process. Therefore, it is essential in such a situation, to not just remain open to the other party’s point of view, but the larger picture as well. 

2. Developing of Options: When a conflict is being negotiated, it is important that each side offers possible options to resolve the matter at hand.  I have been involved in conflict resolution, where the discussion revolves only around options which are not acceptable to either side. Therefore, being creative in the development of options is vital, as is abstaining from judging or criticizing them.

3. Notes: In the heat of discussions, we tend to lose track of what was said. This only complicates matter further. During the negotiation stage, it is hence vital, that notes about major agreements, disagreements, options and any other important piece of information are taken down, this will help in resolving the matter at hand.

These pointers are cornerstones to keep negotiations open and healthy. They may be very simple steps, but they have been extremely helpful to me when I have been involved in negotiating conflicts. In the end, it comes down to keeping things simple and straightforward. It is only when we complicate issues, with more details or people, do they become more of a challenge to resolve.

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5 Steps to Change a Habit

“When you sow a thought you reap an action, when you sow an action you reap a habit, when you sow a habit you reap a character and when you sow a character you reap a destiny.” Anonymous

Embracing change poses a challenge to most of us. Our comfort zones have the ability to make us feel just that, comfortable and at peace. Stepping out of these zones is a frightening experience, at the best of times.  Venturing into spaces where you need to find your bearings all over again is daunting . The task is arduous at the onset, it doesn’t get much easier along the way either, however, when you have successfully enlarged that comfort zone, the feeling of accomplishment is unparalleled. This week, I talked about a couple of steps which can be used when wanting to change or develop a new habit. I felt it was important to talk about this, because being an entrepreneur requires you to be flexible and open to change. It requires you to change limiting habits and beliefs, which may be pulling you back. Listed below are five steps which may be of help in this process:

1. Identification: Before we commit ourselves to “change”, we need to make sure our unconscious desires connect with the conscious ones. Clarity about what you want to change is essential. Asking yourself what you want to change about yourself is a powerful question, use it to crystalize your thoughts. To read more about identification of limiting habits/beliefs please click here.

2. Ask yourself why: Once you have identified the change you want in your life, the next question is, why do you want to change? This discovery process is essential, to grasp the fundamental reasoning behind the change you want to see in your life. Without this process of understanding , you may discover that you approached change in a particular habit, for the wrong reasons. You may discover that you never really wanted to change this particular habit, hence, you had not found a strong enough reason to motivate the change. To read more about asking yourself “why” please click here.

3. Make a plan: To successfully start a transformation process, you need to outline a plan. One which will be documented, and have clearly marked time lines. It is important you take into account any triggers which may lead to lapsing back to old habits.  To read more about making successful plans for changing  habits please click here.

4. Taking action: We can plan all we want, in the end, it all boils down to taking action. This step requires courage, determination, and above all, belief in your capabilities to bring about change. Life is too short to expect those around us to change, or, to stand still and hope that things will become better. The first step towards wanting to bring in change, is to take responsibility for your life. It boils down to you, and how committed you are, to wanting change in your life. To read more about taking action please click here.

5. Maintaining change: Once we have taken that first step towards bringing change into our life, we have begun a journey. To help us maintain the change that we have brought into our lives some of the things which can help us are, keeping a daily log, developing a support system and rewarding ourselves whenever we reach small milestones. These activities will help keep you motivated when the going gets tough. To read more about maintaining change please click here.

Time is the most precious asset we possess. Everyday is an opportunity for you to bring about the change that  you want to see, in your life. In the end, it boils down to your level of determination and persistence to be the change you want to see. I love the Adidas quote “impossible is nothing”. Maybe that could be a mantra for your next habit change? Best of luck!

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Maintaining Change

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.” Aristotle

Once we have taken that first step towards bringing change into our life, we have begun a journey. Like most journeys, this one will have its share of ups and down. There will be times, when you will want to go back to the way things were, and there will be others when you feel lost and alone. Embracing these feelings for what they are, is an important step on this journey. If we let our emotions hinder our capabilities to move forward, we will find ourselves trapped, and unable to bring about the changes we want to see in our life. There is no doubt, we will fall many times, to fall is only human. What matters is whether we have the courage to pick ourselves up, and keep moving on.

Listed below, are a couple of pointers which have helped me carry on, when the going was tough:

1. Keep a daily log: This simple activity does not require you to write pages of detailed specifics. Its primary purpose, is to help you understand the transformations which are taking place in your life on a daily basis. As a secondary purpose, it serves as an outlet which allows you to express your thoughts and emotions.

2. Support systems: When we are undergoing drastic changes in our life, we need to identify an individual or a group of people, to rely on to help you through this period. Better yet, taking someone on board who also wants to change or inculcate the same habit, is ideal. This way there is someone to identify with, who also understands what you are going through. This emotional bond sometimes creates a force strong enough to overcome just about any obstacle.

3. Reward yourself: This is a tip I use a lot when going through change. It provides incentive to push yourself further. The sense of accomplishment when you are rewarded for your efforts, is a great boost as well. This also helps create a momentum that is infectious, and soon you find yourself hitting goal after goal. Choose your rewards carefully,  they play a major role in motivating you to go further.

Sustaining change is a challenging task. We have to constantly keep reminding ourselves why we want to change, and what we hope to achieve, once we have changed. The rationale behind the reason for change must be based on solid foundations. Without this base, reverting to older habits is more likely, and no one likes to admit failing. However, after having said that, there will be times, when although the reasons for change are based on the strongest of foundations, we still fail. At this point, it is best to go back and understand the reasons again. Was a trigger missed ? Does the plan need changing ? The minute we start blaming our inadequacies, is when we lose hope. Look for reasons , not blame.

Remember there is no such thing as failure only feedback!

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Taking Action

“Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising which tempt you to believe that your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires courage.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

We can plan all we want, in the end, it all boils down to taking action. This step requires courage, determination, and above all, belief in your capabilities to bring about change. Life is too short to expect those around us to change, or, to stand still and hope that things will become better. The truth is, once you sit on the fence for too long, it becomes comfortable, and taking a decision becomes a lot harder. In my own life, there have been times when I have been guilty of such behavior, we all have. However, what has happened in the past remains there, what is important is, that we don’t make the same errors today. If you have decided that something in your life needs changing, and have figured out what it is, and how you plan to change it, then you need to do, just that.

The first step towards wanting to bring in change, is to take responsibility for your life. It boils down to you, and how committed you are, to wanting change in your life.  For example, we are constantly bombarded about the side effects of smoking, in Singapore, they even have gruesome photographs on cigarette packs of what it could potentially do to you. The mind however, is such a powerful thing, that these images are subconsciously blocked. By remaining undecided and continuing to sit on the fence,  it may well be too late when you decide to take action! I accept that it is lot easier for me to say such things because I don’t smoke, I realize that giving it up is a very difficult process and one which requires a lot of discipline and determination. I believe however, that to find courage to take action, sincere and convincing arguments need to be understood with an open mind. Fully comprehending the negative impact of this habit is vital.

Along the way, curved balls will be thrown at you undoubtedly. Certain triggers will appear repeatedly, the urge and need to revert back will often be too strong to resist. However, if you have been strong enough to take that first step, with all the right reasons and intentions, half the battle has already been won. The theory of “Ready, Fire, Aim” is one which I believe in completely, it forces you to take action. There will always be fears and doubts regarding the outcome of an action, the important thing is, that you have taken that first step. Once you have begun to take consistent action, it is now, only a matter of maintaining a momentum to help you reach your goal.

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Planning to change?

“Reduce your plan to writing. The moment you complete this, you will have definitely given concrete form to the intangible desire.” Napoleon Hill

After we have identified the change we want to bring in, as well as the reason for it, we need a road map on how to implement this change into our lives. This is another critical process which requires substantial time. It is easy to wake up one day and tell yourself, you are going to change from tomorrow. This is easier said than done, whenever I have used this technique, it takes around 3 days to go back to old ways. What your mind needs, is direction. It knows the reasons to change, it also needs to be told how to get this change going.

 An effective plan for habit change, is better for the following steps :

1. Documented: A transfer of ideas and plans onto paper is essential. This is an obvious first step, however, most of the time we neglect to do so, thinking it to be trivial. Before starting any change, write down what you want to change and why you want to do so.

2. Time Specific: Setting yourself targets spread over extended periods of time (months, years) is not an effective strategy. Commit yourself to a realistic but challenging timeline, to help you start seeing results.

3. Identify Triggers: Most habits are triggered by specific activities or emotional states. Do your best to identify these triggers as soon as possible. Once you have list of triggers, you will need to compile a list of alternative actions that need to be taken in place of this habit. For example, if your smoking is triggered by the completion of a meal, replace the cigarette with some nicotine gum or green tea. This is a key component in developing your strategic plan.

4. Create Mini Goals: As humans, we need to be constantly motivated, to continue moving forward. Therefore your plan may be broken down into mini goals, which can be rewarded when acheived. This will help keep your motivation at a higher level.

Using these basic components, plan how to go about your day. This doesn’t need to be very detailed, it just needs to be specific enough, so you can monitor your progress. By developing a plan, you will have a guidance system, which helps keep you on track, and provides you with the necessary motivation to wake up the next morning, fully aware of the steps you have to take, to change that habit!

 

 

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Why do you want to change?

“Change is the essence of life. Be willing to surrender what you are for what you could become.” Anonymous

Once you have identified why you want a change in your life, the fundamental question is, why do you want to change? This discovery process is essential, to grasp the fundamental reasoning behind the change you want to see in your life. Without this understanding process, you may discover that you approached change in a particular habit, for the wrong reasons. You may discover that you really never wanted to change this particular habit, hence you had not found a strong enough reason to motivate the change. This inconsistency in thought and action , starts to manifest itself in different aspects of your life. 

A few questions you need to ask yourself once you have decided on what changes you want, are:

1. Why do I want to change?: When answering this question write down your responses. This will help you visualize all your unconscious thoughts. The number of responses and reasons will vary depending on the type of habit and how deeply it is ingrained in your system. 

2. How is this habit negatively affecting my life?: This question seeks to re-affirm all the negative aspects of the habit. For example, if you continuously lose your temper, visualize how it affects your work, relationships, personality and outlook towards life?. We tend to forget that the repercussions of our habits, affect every aspect of our lives. It is only when we consciously bring their impact to the fore, do we realize the damage we are doing by continuing with them.

3. How will changing this habit benefit my life?: This question should help you visualize what life would be like with a change in place. This is a powerful visualization exercise, it re-enforces certain messages into your subconscious. For example if you have made a vow to stop smoking, visualize how this will benefit your lifestyle through better health, having more energy, not having a dependency, saving money, not having to run to the gas station in the middle of night, being more confident and just generally feeling better about life. These could be some of the things you could have on your list.

These questions will help you put more thought into why you want to do change a certain habit. Waking up one morning with a hangover and vowing to stop drinking is not adequate. When you want to make any sort of transformation in your life, there needs to be concentrated thought behind your rationale. Without this we will continue to make half hearted commitments which will only further reduce our ability to believe in ourselves and bring about positive change.

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What do you want to change?

“Sometimes it’s the smallest decisions that can change your life forever.” Keri Russel

The process of identifying habits and mannerisms that need changing is a tricky process. The unconscious level continues to repeat the process, over and over again, this process eventually leads us to a conscious realization. This realization takes place when this repetitive activity is getting us results we do not desire. For example, over the last couple of years you have wanted to lose some weight. Every time you get motivated to start a diet, it goes well for a short period, then you return to your old eating habits. What appears an obvious pattern is not so obvious to the person on the diet. They feel their diets may be wrong,unsuitable for them, unforeseen circumstances keep coming up, eventually they lose their initial motivation.

The reason why such individuals find it difficult to follow through, is because of a disconnect between their conscious and unconscious desires. Before embarking on changing aspects of your life, there needs to be a process to identify in detail, what you want to change. In the case of the above example, identify if it is your figure, your health or your overall lifestyle that needs a change. Without this identification we are bound to return to our old habits due to a lack of connection between the conscious and unconscious. I mentioned my sleeping habits as an example yesterday. For some time I struggled with the fact that I needed to get up early. There would be periods when I would stick to the plan, and there would be longer periods where I would not stick to the plan. It is only when I told myself that I need to change my sleeping habits to balance my lifestyle, did I begin to make a connection and eventually made progress.

Before undertaking any major change in life, remember you first need to make sure the unconscious desires connect with the conscious ones. There needs to be clarity about what you want to change. It is only after you have identified a particular habit, that you can go to the next question which involves, why you want to bring about this particular change.

 

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