The Bregman Leadership Podcast
Episode 191

Jennifer Goldman-Wetzler

Optimal Outcomes

What do you do when conflict resolution strategies don’t work? Jennifer Goldman-Wetzler, the author of Optimal Outcomes: Free Yourself from Conflict at Work, at Home, and in Life, says that we often become trapped in “conflict loops”—where the same conflict plagues us. But we can disrupt the cycle. Discover the process of freeing yourself from a conflict loop, how some perceived BATNAs (Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement) are a soothing mechanism that prevents us from dealing with the conflict, and how shadow values may worsen your conflict without you realizing.

About

Get the book, Optimal Outcomes, from Amazon:

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Bio: Dr. Jennifer Goldman-Wetzler is the founder and CEO of Alignment Strategies Group, the premier New York–based consulting firm that counsels CEOs and executive teams on how to optimize organizational health and growth. As a keynote speaker at Fortune 500 companies, public institutions and innovative, fast-growing startups, she inspires audiences of all kinds, including those at Google, Harvard and TEDx, and in her popular course at Columbia. A former counterterrorism research fellow with the US Department of Homeland Security, she is a graduate of Tufts University and holds a Ph.D. in Social-Organizational Psychology from Columbia University.

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Transcript

This transcript is unedited.

Peter:

With us today, we are fortunate to have Jennifer Goldman Wetzler. She is the founding principle of the alignment strategies group. It’s a New York based consulting firm and she advises CEOs and their executive teams on how to optimize organizational health and growth. She has written most recently the book optimal outcomes, free yourself from conflict at work, at home and in life. It’s really an excellent book and there’s a lot of books on negotiation and conflict and communication. And this one really deserves this place on the shelf and, and in your brain because it’s it adds important things to the conversation, which we’re gonna go over now in the next few minutes. So Jen, welcome to the Bregman leadership podcast.

Jennifer:

Thank you so much Peter, it’s really great to be here with you today.

Peter:

There are a lot of books out there on conflict and communication and negotiation and what are you hoping this one is adding to that conversation?

Jennifer:

This book is all about what to do when you’ve tried all the methods that you’ve found in other books and they have not worked for you. They have failed. This book is for situations that have returned again and again and again, no matter how many times you’ve tried to resolve it using other methods.

Peter:

I love that because most people don’t want to take on that challenge. Most people, when they’re writing a book, they want to say like, okay, so you’ve had this conflict, how am I going to arrange it and you’re, and how am I going to deal with it? And what you’re saying is, you know, give me your hardest, most unsolvable problems and I’m going to give you a process for them.

Jennifer:

Yes, that’s absolutely right. Yes, absolutely.

Peter:

So I want to just sort of jump right in and let’s jump right in with a couple of definitions and because I think they’re important. And then let’s talk about the process and let’s play with some conflicts. So the first definition is what’s an optimal outcome? I think that’s important.

Jennifer:

Yeah. So an optimal outcome is really made of two things. One is what is your imagined ideal future? This is pie in the sky using your imagination, not just your thinking brain. Cause the thing is typically it’s the thinking brain that has gotten us into trouble in the first place or has just not gotten us what we wanted. We have often come up with option after option after option, rational thinking. We’ve offered those options to other, they haven’t wanted to go along with those options. So this optimal outcome is saying put aside those rational options and put aside the rational thinking brain for a moment and put on your imagination. So what would the future, the ideal future look like? What will it smell like? What will it feel like? What will it taste like? Martin Luther King Jr’s, I have a dream speech is a great example of this.

Jennifer:

So, so number one, you know where he says like I imagine a future where there’s a lot of imagery in that speech. So people want to take up, take a few minutes just to go to the middle of that speech. And listen, I’m holding hands ringing, bells of freedom, lots of imagery that helps us imagine what that future is that he wants for us. So part one of an optimal outcome is what do you imagine for the future? So often we’re kind of distracted by blaming other people and what went wrong in the past and we need to look at the future. But the second piece of an optimal outcome is taking into account the reality of the situation that you’re facing. So often we get stuck in that pie in the sky scenario that we have made for ourselves in our minds, and yet we’re stuck fantasizing about those because they don’t match reality.

Jennifer:

So an optimal outcome is one that takes into account both that pie in the sky imagined future. And also the reality of the people we’re dealing with, the reality of the constraints of the situation we’re facing. And that can mean coming to terms with some really hard truths about who other people are, where they come from, what their backgrounds are, what they want out of life can be very, very difficult for us to acknowledge those things. And yet only once we’re able to really acknowledge those, can we come to what our optimal outcome is and free ourselves from conflict instead of staying stuck.

Peter:

That’s great. And I, and, and you mentioned these sort of these two elements of it, which is like what’s going on for the people and what’s going on in this situation. Can we add a third, which is what’s going on for the system? Because I think of Martin Luther King, like operating in within a systemic societal kind of constraint at that time, trying to break through that. And that seems like it’s an important piece to throw in there. Would you agree?

Jennifer:

Yes, absolutely. And in fact, in the book I talk about a third, a third piece of what we need to acknowledge. And so maybe there are really four, cause you’ve named now one third which is acknowledge the reality of who we sell. We ourselves are, right? I would typically, we wish three things would be different either that the structural institution or society would be different than it is. That’s what we wish. We wish the situation would just go away. We wish other pencils, you know, that’s the first piece. The second thing we wish is that other people would be different from how they are. And if that person could just blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, this would all just be gone. Right? We wish. And then we also often wish that we ourselves were different. God, if I wasn’t so competitive or if I wasn’t so blah, whatever it is, then this w we wouldn’t be in this situation. So we wish that these three things were different. And what I’m asking us to do is acknowledge, wow, what am I wishing here? And turn it around. Can I accept and acknowledge, not accept in the sense of accept and now I’m resigned and cynical about the situation. But rather that, you know, you could be sure Dr. Martin Luther King jr he, he accepted, he acknowledged what was the reality that he was facing, right?

Peter:

Yeah. Yeah. And I think it’s so actually rare. You know, when I think about the work that I do around leadership and, and working with people, one of the principles is to go into this work with a desire to be changed, right? Like I’m going in with a desire to be changed and, and it’s like, it’s so rare because mostly, you know, like when’s the last time you were in a political conversation with someone and you weren’t looking to change their perspective. You were looking for your perspective to be changed. Like never, right? Like we don’t get into arguments hoping that the arguments will change us. We don’t get into conflict hoping the conflict will change us, but it’s this really, you know, beautiful, challenging mindset to say, I’m going to go into this situate, maybe I’ll be changed, maybe I won’t. But with a real openness and even desire to be changed from the interaction.

Jennifer:

Right? That’s absolutely right. And the idea is, look, there are a couple of things I can say about that. One is it takes courage to go into a situation saying, look, I’m not here in order to change anyone else’s point of view. I’m not here to try to make them be different because I recognize that I’ve been trying to do that and it hasn’t worked for me. Right? So that takes a lot of courage. Just that alone to acknowledge that’s not my purpose here. Second thing it takes courage to do is to be vulnerable and ex and, and say, look, I am gonna take it upon myself to grow. So that’s, you know, that’s another thing also is that what you’re suggesting is what if we orient to our lives as the point here is to grow. And if the only way that I could grow here is to do something different myself, then you know, then I’m going to have to build those courage muscles and figure out what it’s going to take. Right.

Peter:

So you, you, you structure the book and talk a lot of its premise is around this conflict loop in many ways, right? That in 1970s, Dr. Morton Deutsch, I don’t know if I’m pronouncing his name correctly and he sort of says, which is a profound discovery around the nature of conflict, which it’s self perpetuating, right? That when conflict begins, it’s likely to leave to lead to more conflict. And so the goal of this is to get ourselves in effect to free ourselves from this conflict loop. You, you talk about conflicts as having no end, you know, unlike legal negotiations. Can you explain a little bit about that and tell us anything else that we need to know about the nature of the conflict loop before we go in? And I think we should just do like a super quick shallow dive in terms of the process and then play with it a little.

Jennifer:

Gosh, you just asked a bunch of different things.

Peter:

I did. Sorry.

Jennifer:

So the thing about the conflict loop is that it’s self perpetuating and what perpetuates it? It’s our own conflict habits that get caught in a pattern of interaction with other people’s conflict habits. So I talk about four different conflicts habits. You can identify your primary conflict habit either by reading the book or you can go online to the optimal outcomes book.com/assessment and you can actually take a quiz. It takes like seven minutes to complete and you can take the quiz online to find out what’s your conflict habit that you primarily fall back on. And our complex habits get, get caught in a pattern with other people’s conflicts, habits, and they keep us stuck on this conflict loop. So we could actually kind of stand back and watch this pattern go around and around and around. And that is what I ask people to do is stop and notice what is the pattern that I am stuck in here am I, am I blaming and attacking other people and then are they blaming and attacking me back?

Jennifer:

That’s one very common conflict loop that people get stuck in or pattern that people get stuck in. Another one might be I’m blaming and attacking them and they’re shutting down and they’re avoiding me. They’re running away, they’re hiding, and that also is we get stuck so we get stuck in these conflict loops and the point is not to try to take that conflict loop and tie it up in a bow and say, now we’ve resolved the conflict loop because the nature of conflict as more Deutsche and many, many people over the last 40 years of conflict, research, research have shown conflict. Inevitably it is the nature of the beast is that it will lead to more conflict. So if that’s true, the challenge is how do we get ourselves off that conflict loop? We might even still be kind of watching it go around and around by itself, but we’re not in it anymore. And the beauty of that is when we free ourselves from the conflict loop, we inevitably, there’s no way not to also free other people from the conflict because there’s no more energy there. If, if I’m not staying stuck on the conflict loop, you’re free as well.

Peter:

Yeah. And it’s interesting when I think about the cause when I think about relationship work that I do, whether it’s relationship work actually even with couples or with partners or organizationally, what you’re saying resonates with what I know about relationship work, which is that people have their control patterns, right? And it’s, it’s usually aggressive control patterns or passive control patterns. So, you know, a, you might have two people who are avoidant and, and they’re both passive and they’re not gonna have the conversation. You might have two people who have aggressive control patterns and they’re just going to blame each other and fighting it. It’s going to get really big. Or you might have, you know, passive aggressive where they’re, you know, one person blames and as you described, the other person shuts down or you know, so, so it’s, it’s this is, this, this work is so deep in terms of not just particular conflicts, but how we even relate to each other. And, and those are the things that ended up leading to the conflicts.

Jennifer:

Right. I think one of the counter intuitive of the conflict of the four conflict habits, one that’s tends to be counterintuitive for people is the one that I call relentlessly collaborative because in our culture, for me it’s supposed to be great. All right, great. I mean you can type in collaborative to YouTube and you’ll get like 10 billion videos on how to be right and we, many of us now learn from an extremely young age that we need to be collaborative in order to get along in society. Our classrooms are set up to encourage that our workplaces are now all, you know, so many open space workplaces, encouraging collaboration. And then the issue is when it becomes a habit and we only use that muscle when we’re in conflict situations, we can actually get ourselves stuck in conflict by trying to collaborate when that’s not appropriate and the way we know it’s not appropriate, it goes, guess what? Cause it’s not working.

Peter:

Yeah. And and, and it’s, and not working actually can take a few different forms is an organization that I work with a financial services firm. I don’t know your client list. I don’t know if you may work with them also, but it’s, but I, I’ve taught them negotiation, conflict resolution and one of the one at very senior levels of the organization and one of the tools that I use as a Thomas Kilmann conflict mode instrument and when, when, and it has these different, you know, sort of five different modes of engaging in conflict, each of which is incredibly useful depending upon the situation that you’re in and this organization that’s super high functioning, but a little slow moving, absolutely. Prejudices towards collaboration. Right? And so it’s not even that it that they’re stuck in it forever, it’s just that a decision that should take two minutes might take two days because they want to make sure that they have the buy in from everybody. And one of the takeaways is collaboration is great and we have to know when not to use it. And by the way, we have to then be okay not being in every loop because it could create conflict to then say what we didn’t collaborate and now I wasn’t in the loop and nobody involved me in this decision. And even though I don’t agree with it, even though I agree with the decision, I feel left out and I’m going to like, and that’s so in some ways, you know, it’s resolving conflicts themselves may may initiate another conflict because of the way that we ended up resolving it.

Jennifer:

Yes. And that does sound like a relatively functional use of collaborations. Yeah. There must be some mechanism that’s happening there where people are able to eventually get to a decision in a relatively short period of time of two days. I’ve, as you can imagine, consulted to a number of organizations where that’s not the case, right? They’re collaborating as that’s their main habit as an organization and they don’t get to a decision in two days and they don’t get the decision in two weeks and they often don’t get to it in two months or even two years. It just goes on and on and on and on. And these decisions don’t get made and it’s frustrating the hell out of people. And so when that is happening, I’d say if you’re getting to a decision in two days and you’re simply frustrated, all right, this optimal outcomes method could help you.

Jennifer:

Right? But it really, when it’s going on and on and you’re stuck is when to look and say, Hey, we as a team or we as an organization tend to habitually collaborate. What else could we do instead? And that’s what the rest of the practices in this method are all about, is about helping people identify what else you can do, right? Break the pattern that you’re stuck in. We’re stuck in a collaborate, collaborate, relentlessly collaborate, collaborate pattern. Then what else could we do? And stop being so nice to each other. Okay. So, so let’s go through, could you give us like a super quick superficial dive into the eight practices or the, the, the flow. So that then we’ll just to give people an understanding of it and then let’s use it as an example. Yeah. So the first few practices are all about taking a step back.

Jennifer:

Notice where you are and how you’ve gotten stuck. So we’ve talked a little bit about the first piece, which is notice what habits, what habits are contributing to a pattern that’s keeping you stuck. Then we also ask you to look at what are the emotions that are involved, what’s driving you emotionally, what’s driving other people emotionally? And then some advice about how to help settle your emotions. And if they can’t be settled because you’re so intensely experiencing your emotions, what to do and in that case and how to listen to the messages that your emotions are sending you. So emotions. Then we take a little a dive into what are the values that are driving the conflict, both ideal values that we’re proud to say we hold. And also what I call our shadow values. Those values that things that we really care about in life but would never admit to anyone, including not even to our own selves that we care about in life that are driving our behavior.

Jennifer:

And because we’re not admitting them are impossible to discuss that really wreak havoc on conflict. So we look at emotions and values and then once we have a handle on the situation of what what’s driving it we move into the second part of the book, which is all about how to free ourselves from whatever it is that we’re noticing we’ve been stuck in. So piece of that is imagining our ideal future using the imagination brain and not just the rational brain. A piece of that is about thinking ahead and predicting what might be the unintended consequences of our own actions or inactions that might cause conflict without our realizing it and, and taking steps to both prevent and mitigate those. And then finally analyzing what is our optimal outcome so that we don’t stay stuck in fantasy land like we were talking about before, but rather get a real sense of what are the costs on paying for staying stuck. What might be the cost that I’m going to pay if I go with my what I perceive to be my ideal future, optimal outcome and what might be costs I would pay if I would walk away. And then asking people to use those courage muscles to make a conscious choice about where you’d like to start heading.

Peter:

You know, it occurs to me as I listen to that, that even just thinking about the conflict in this way, like even before you go into the specifics of playing it out in a particular situation, just thinking about it changes how you enter into the conflict. Like just kind of getting the flow of it. You know, you might just say, there’s nothing I’m going to do here. Like it’s not like I’m wasting all of my time, you know, like it’s not worth being in this conflict and, and you know, I’m going to you know, this term BATNA, best alternative to a negotiated agreement. It’s like, what’s my best alternative to like I could avoid the person I could like that might be the best shot you have. So, so it’s, it may not, I mean there may be other opportunities, but even just thinking about it can remove you from the loop in some ways.

Jennifer:

Yes. The thing about BATNA that I am so excited to be having conversations with people about with this book is that my experience teaching the concept of BATNA now for the last 25 years, is that we often fantasize about our BATNA when we would never walk to it because it’s so costly. Right? Right. So you know, I have a client who was telling me about her BATNA as if this were something that she could actually do and cause she was really in a stuck place with her boss. She was on a senior team of a high growth, high potential team in an organization that was, you know, doing extremely well, but she could not figure out how to get along with the CEO, her boss. And so she starts telling me when we’re in a coaching call about this other organization that she could go work for. So we’re, you know, she’s telling me about it few minutes in and I say, so sounds really great. You know…

Peter:

So do it right.

Jennifer:

What are you waiting for? And she says, Oh, well, I’ve already talked to him that, you know, the CEO of that company about it. We’ve talked about it many times over many years and it’s never going to happen for XYZ reason. Right? And I am sitting there and I’m thinking to myself, what is she talking about?

Peter:

Not an alternative. It might be best, but it’s not an alternative.

Jennifer:

Exactly. It’s not. And yet the thing that is so fascinating to me about what we do, the human brain does is that we will not let it go. And why don’t we let it go? Possibly because there’s some, some joy out of some soothing feeling that we get from just daydreaming about that possibility, even though we know it’s not a real possibility. Right. Not something we would actually go do, but it calms us down in our high anxiety moments of dealing with the cost that we’re currently paying in our current situation. Intellectual game, exact comfort ourselves. Exactly. So the thing that I would like to help, if there’s anybody, listen, I’ve been one person listening to this conversation that you and I are having now, who I can help not do that and recognize I’m in the fantasy land. I’m going to let it rest.

Jennifer:

I’m not, that’s never going to happen because there’s too many costs associated with doing that and bring myself back to where I am today. Even though I may be feeling so much pain about where I am today, that I just want to jump out of my skin because I don’t want to be here, right? Let’s deal with that, right? Other than soothing ourselves with these things that will never ever happen. And we see this, by the way, in the international sphere, you know, you can see entire countries of people acting in these ways of thinking. You know, this thing that we think might happen one day, like, let’s hold that. And it’s just like, and it’s never going to happen.

Peter:

Okay? So let’s, let’s use this now. Let me, I’m going to throw out an example of a, of a client organization. I’m not going to name the name and, and you can ask, you can coach me. Right. and, and, and that, you know, like one of the roles is, you know, to really map out a conflict is you have to be directly impacted by the conflict, not just an observer. In this case, I’m an observer, but we’ll sort of try to work the situation and I’ll, I’ll share with you whatever I know and we can kind of see where it, you know, like how to approach it.

Jennifer:

Are you impacted because this is, this is the client of yours. So you’re impacted to the extent that you need to figure out a way to be helpful.

Peter:

Yeah, exactly. So in that way I am impacted. Yeah. Right, right. Okay, great. So let’s think of it as a startup company, founder and investor, right? Or maybe even group of investors and, and the founder is brilliant, developed the technology, like, you know, like he’s super strong in that way, but you know, not a great leader of the organization from the investor’s perspectives in a number of different ways. And there’s, you know, there’s just been a tremendous amount of conflict around that and maybe it starts to ask me questions so I know how to narrow this down in a way that might be helpful.

Jennifer:

Sure. Well, what, what is the conflict about? What are the people one thing, cause I, I imagine it may be complex conflict.

Peter:

Yeah. So let’s just say that the conflict is about, because there’s so many different things that conflict is about, so I should just choose one.

Jennifer:

And by the way, while you’re thinking, I will say this is an integral part of freeing yourself from conflict is identifying what are the various complex conflicts, multiple conflicts that are at play in one situation. Right. Well, maybe if I, if I had to guess, I would say, look, given how you know that you’re thinking about it for even just a few seconds, there may be a conflict going on between one of the main investors and the leader. There may be a conflict, there may be multiple conflicts going on between the leader and the people who work on the staff inside of the organization. Right. Right. There may be multiple conflicts that each group, each one of those kind of dyads or groups that I just named are dealing with issues wise, right? There may be five issues that they’re dealing with internally and there may be three issues you’re dealing with with the investor.

Peter:

Right. Okay, that’s great. And that’s a great example. That’s a great example because that, that is all over the place. So let me, let me define it in, in one very particular way. I can think of two conflicts that could be very useful. One is a very basic fundamental conflict, which is, which I see in startups by the way all the time, which is what the investors would like is for this founder to focus on the technology piece and do what the founder does best and stop trying to be CEO of the organization at the same time. And the founder would like to be both CEO and you know, founder and head technologist person. And as a result creates a lot of problems in discord.

Jennifer:

Mhmm, mhmm, got it. And-

Peter:

And that plays out by the way, because then this, the CEO wants to make certain investments from a business perspective that the investors think are not the right investments, but the investors sort of don’t feel like they can push too hard because if they do the worry that they’ll lose the founder and then lose their investment.

Jennifer:

Got it. Right. So you just answered my next question, which is, well, why not just say thank you very much to the founder, right? See you later. It’s because this founder brings so much to the table. You cannot lose the founder, right. Helping many, many costs.

Peter:

And by the way, in my view, I questioned that a little bit. Whether that’s true or whether that’s just the fear of the investors I, I think it’s actually extremely unlikely that the founder would walk. I just think it’s extremely unlikely, but the investors are scared enough that they’re not willing to push it.

Jennifer:

Yeah. Great. So one thing just to point out what we’ve just started to do, we haven’t been physically writing this down, but I would encourage you as someone trying to be helpful in this situation to map it out, right? Write down what we just talked about. Here’s these investors and even name the investors individually. So you might have one circle on your map. Right? So I think about a map, and by the way, I forgot to kind of highlight that this is one of the main first pieces of the method before, which is to map out the conflict because it helps you notice things, levers for change that might not have been apparent other otherwise about doing this right. But if I were going to mess up –

Peter:

Because I am talking about the investors, but there’s actually a number of different investors. There’s a number of different venture capital firms. There’s so there’s like there’s lots of different players in here and they’re different, which is totally true.

Jennifer:

Exactly. And I’m, I would venture to guess, no pun intended, that some of those venture capital investors have more formal power and more informal power than others, which is probably at play, probably influencing the message that is then being sent to the CEO himself or herself. And so just even if we just mapped out what are the relationships between the investors alone could be help.

Peter:

Right. And so then there’s conflicts there because some, some are more aggressive about the need for change and others are not. And so there’s like, you know, so that might be more a conflict but they are not just a single body.

Jennifer:

Exactly. Right. I love how you just use the word subtle conflict because it is often the subtle conflict that’s at play, right? So when we talk about, we could now think about what our shadow values, right? What are the things that people on that investor team care about and are unwilling to admit that they care about that might be driving their opinions or their behaviors.

Peter:

And also I think along with care about, I wonder if it’s also fair to say afraid of like what are they care about and what are they afraid of? Which I guess is just an element of what they care about. Yeah.

Jennifer:

An element of what it’s that it’s the negative they care about in the negative, right? They’re concerned about X. Right. And then the question is, well, why are they concerned about that? Right? So you know, it just one way for you to possibly make headway here in possibly a different way than you have so far. And I will, I w I hope it’s okay that I say before we jumped on the call, you and I were just chatting and you mentioned to me that you were thinking about the situation that it might be very difficult to have this conversation with CEO directly because you’ve already tried that a number of times and it hasn’t helped. Right? Right, right. So one thing to do when you realize that’s happened is to, is to focus not on the relationship between the investors and the CEO, but on the relationships amongst the investors themselves. So to ask each other, and again, we don’t need to ask ourselves out loud or we don’t need to ask other people out loud, what’s your shadow value? Right? Cause like that’s ridiculous.

Peter:

And explain, yeah, explain the shadow value. Cause people listening won’t necessarily know what to shadow values.

Jennifer:

So a shadow value is something that you care about, that you’re not able or willing to admit to yourself that you care about. It comes from this young Ian psychology idea that we all have parts of ourselves that we’re proud to reveal to the rest of the world. And then parts of ourselves that we’re really not proud of. And we push those down and we pretend they don’t exist. And the problem is other people can see them, they lose out of us. Right? Or for example, I might be proud to tell you that a value that I have is that I care about adventure or I care about spirituality or I care about leadership. And those are things I’m proud to say I value in life and that I will align my behavior with those. If I can’t. Things I might not be proud to tell you that I care about are being competitive, being right, having status, having recognition like that financial security, right? Those can tend to be things that are hard for people to admit. Now, not for everybody. Right. And kind of the fascinating thing about ideal and shadow values are that different people can have, you know, one person can have a shadow value that is someone else’s ideal value and vice versa, right? Somebody might –

Peter:

– want status, right? Yeah. Yeah. So that has to do a lot with culture and upbringing and, and you know, what’s interesting too is when you say that one of the things that, that, that even, that language opens up is to say, you know, because we can look at it and go, Oh, I want I want financial security and then characterize ourselves or someone else as greedy. And then that becomes all of who they are as opposed to saying, no, there’s a tremendous amount of complexity to our values and to the values of other people. And, and so like it’s, it’s about holding and being able to hold the, the sort of basket of values that that someone holds and realize that they’re complex human beings.

Jennifer:

Right. So on that, coming back to your example on that team of investors or group of investors, it may seem to some of the investors like other people, other investors are driven by fear, right? Like they just don’t get it. Why are they so resistant to the idea that this CEO may not be the right one and that he, they’re so worried he’s going to walk. So one potentially raw, honest, maybe difficult conversation that could be had had among those investors is what are you, you know, do you, are you concerned about that? Sometimes it’s also a matter of just using the different kind of language. So instead of saying to someone, are you afraid he’s going to walk away saying what’s, what, what are you concerned about? You know, if he were to walk away, what do you think would happen then?

Peter:

Language is so important because are you afraid of people are going to react to, but what are your concerns? People feel like, well, I have legitimate concerns, right? I’m not afraid. I’m just actually concerns my conversation yet on that. You know, it’s interesting. So I have I, I, I, I think I probably characterize it as fear because I have some judgment around it. So that’s very helpful for me to hear because I sort of think, you know, I probably framed it and the answer was we are afraid of that, but still, like, I think I could have been more skilled in how, how I approached it and, and but what I, but I haven’t, I, I’ve, I’ve thought of this as a conflict between investors and, and, and CEO. I haven’t thought of it as conflict of the investors and, and how interesting it is to get the investors to think together about like, how do, how do we want to approach this in a way where there’s real unity of, of approach, especially in a place where, you know, change has been tried and it’s not likely to happen. On the CEO side.

Jennifer:

Exactly. Given what you’ve described, it as hard for me to imagine a unified VC group not making quick, easy, decisive change with that CEO. Right, right, right. Much harder to imagine. Right.

Peter:

That’s great. So like what we’ve led, this is great. So what we’ve done is like, I, I, you’ve sort of using this process have shifted what I thought the problem was, what I thought the problem was, you know, and, and there’s an Optima outcome, there might be an optimum outcome for the conflict, but there’s like a, a step-wise optimal outcome. So the first optimal outcome is get some agreement among the investors, right? Because that’s the first step. And then, then it’s like, you know, what’s your optimal outcome there? And then what’s your, you know, what’s the optimal outcome, you know, to the whole situation is like how to in in my sense, the outcome would be how to keep the CEO in the role that is best suited for him and support the growth of the company by by complimenting his, you know, sort of technology skills with leadership skills that he’s not likely to have.

Jennifer:

Right? So that may or may not turn out to be what the ultimate outcome is. Right. And you use the word stepwise. That’s great. I talk about it as designing a pattern breaking path. And the, I talk about it as a path is exactly because of what you’re talking about. That typically when we’re stuck in a complex conflict, there’s not one thing that needs to happen in order to free ourselves from that situation. There’s multiple steps on a path that needs to be trodden. You know, we need to trot on that path. We need to walk that path. And sometimes it can be very difficult to know what that ultimate outcome is going to be, but we can at least see what’s the next. And the next and the next and I often I really encourage people to see the first step as doing these practices or at least one of them.

Jennifer:

Right. Pick off one of the practices. So we, you and I just took off two which was mapping it out and thinking about what shadow values might be, what other people shadow vial. It might be on one part of that map. So start with yourself and then move outwards from there. So you’re starting with yourself here on this call today and then maybe your next step will be to go to one person on that VC investor team offer the insight that you just got and then from there build. Okay. Then we’re going to talk to more people on that BC team and then we’re going to, you know, see if we can get some unity on the VC team and then we bring it to other people inside of the organization.

Peter:

Right, right. That’s great. We have been speaking with Jen Goldman Wetzler a fantastic conversation. Jen. Her book is optimal outcomes, free yourself from conflict at work, at home and in life. It’s a really great book that is both sort of theoretical and conceptually interesting and as well, incredibly practical and as you saw, you know in this podcast and it’s conversation very, very applicable in a stepwise way which is super useful. So Jen, it’s such a pleasure having you on the podcast. Thank you so much for being with us.

Jennifer:

Thank you so much Peter. Really, really appreciate the time.

 

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