Disagreements are natural, even healthy in a startup. They're how we challenge old ideas and come up with new ones. But when founders argue openly, it can sometimes shake people's confidence.
Call it “managing optics” or whatever else you'd like, but I think employees need to see their leaders on the same page. It's like a football team watching their captain and manager argue. If the top dogs can't get along, how's the team supposed to work together?
I'm not saying that leaders shouldn't argue. That isn't the point. The point is that it's wise to do so behind closed doors. Out in public, they should put on a united front. Conflicts should be resolved before you step out of the room.
Also, it's not about hiding the truth or hiding troubled waters underneath, but about giving clear, consistent messages. And it definitely is about optics and the role they play in building morale.
Imagine if your parents were constantly arguing when you were a kid.
It would have been confusing, right? You wouldn't know who to believe. At best, you would resort to taking a side. And at worst, you would be left with a feeling that you couldn’t trust either of them and had to think and fend for yourself.
That's exactly what employees feel when founders can't agree. It's not a good feeling, and it's bad for business.
Disagreements can lead to better solutions. But a big part of being a leader is showing strength and unity. If you don't, things can quickly go south.
Because, when founders disagree in front of employees, it creates uncertainty.
Who's calling the shots?
Who should they listen to?
I've seen that the resulting confusion can slow down decision-making, create factions within the team, and hurt overall productivity. And I've seen it more often than I'd like.
On the other hand, when founders hash out their differences in private and present a united front, it shows they are strong, decisive, and on the same team. This boosts employee confidence and strengthens the company culture.
To manage disagreements, founders should have private meetings where they can argue and debate freely. Once they come to a decision, they should stick to it and present it as a unified front. This shows employees that, while there may be disagreements, the leadership team is working together towards the same goal.
Remember, disagreements aren't the problem. They're how we learn and evolve. The real problem is when disagreements aren't managed properly.
So, argue all you want, but do it behind closed doors. When you step out in front of your team, stand together. Because a large part of leadership is projecting strength, clarity, and unity.