3 Steps to Resolve Differences

Robert Schultek Author of
The Gauntlet

Your business exists to create value for customers by solving their problems. And sometimes, solving external problems can trigger an internal change, a challenge to your status quo, a need to think

differently about opportunities, precedents, and risk. There will be times when proposing solutions for customer problems compels you to first resolve some of your own issues, to improve a product or


Leaders understand and expect this scenario – a core function of leadership is to improve things. They appreciate that improvement means change, and change requires dialogue to resolve differences about the best way to address a problem.

When the problem is technical, leaders know that discussions about differences are largely impersonal, with the right answer often emerging after some analysis of clear options.

But resolving people problems, by their nature, involves a broader discussion of possible disparate ways forward, complicating the search for resolution. A possible solution that fits one person, may not work for a second person; multiple people interacting to resolve differences, based on their personal motivations, exponentially increases the number of possible solutions. As a result, there is rarely a perfect, one-fits-all solution to a people problem – just an agreement that one solution will work for most.

Whether it’s a technical or people problem, effective leaders succeed in finding the best solution by using empathy to encourage dialogue, and then resolving differences by securing these three agreements:

  1. Agreeing on reality. The current reality is accepted as accurately described, validated by facts.
  2. Agreeing on outcome. Having agreed on the existing reality, envisioning a shared, successful outcome establishes a preferred solution as the endpoint.
  3. Agreeing on goals. With the realities and the envisioned solution settled, the path between these two points can be navigated by establishing goals that create momentum towards the target outcome, while acknowledging diversity in how they can be achieved.

Resolving differences using these three agreements enables a respectful, collaborative and efficient exploration of opinions, barriers and potential solutions necessary to successfully ensure resolution. And along the way, a bond of common purpose is forged within a team that bridges differing views, laying the foundation of commitment and shared accountability required to achieve the goals and outcome.

How might this process help your team more promptly resolve differences and commit to a solution?

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