All families and businesses experience conflict. Family businesses that survive practice the equivalent of controlled burns.  By exposing and dealing with simmering conflicts in managed situations, they prevent buildup of resentments that can burst out unexpectedly and result in a conflagration that can destroy careers, relationship and companies.

Absence of conflict is not the goal of any family. The goal is to be able to deal with emotional, highly charged, potentially difficult subject matter and do it in such a way that there is respect and dignity for everyone.

There are numerous technologies and actions involved in achieving that type of conflict management.  You must, for instance, avoid focusing on past history and replaying old tapes.

Controlled conflict is another vital tool.  By allowing and encouraging conflicts to play out before they fester, you can continue to get stronger as a family business.  Don’t wait until the underbrush grows so think and flammable with issues so big that a small one ignites a massive fire.

Timing is crucial in conflict management.  How do you know when to ignite a controlled burn?  The default choice is, as soon as conflict develops.  Whenever issues come up that excite opposition among family members, your bias should be for the judicious airing as soon as time permits.

Having a bias toward immediate action probably doesn’t mean you have to hold conflict management sessions daily or even weekly.  But by the time a monthly, quarterly or annual meeting rolls around conflicts are certain to have cropped up.

If you don’t see any, you probably aren’t looking hard enough.  If you see a dozen, you should trim your list to the most important few and try to deal with those.  Having too many controlled burns going at once is a good recipe for inadvertently igniting a wild fire.

If you need help resolving conflict with your family business then we can help.

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