Interview with Bryant Gálindo
Is your co-founder team having difficulties communicating sensitive issues? Are your cross-functional teams suffering from a lack of communication? Does your startup culture not support open dialogue or feedback?
I know you're the type that is relentless. Your startup is finally growing. But frustrations or resentments build because people aren't communicating with one another or don't know how.
I'll train you in collaborative communication, and coach your startup or co-founder team in building it's collaborative intelligence - the ability to work with people who think differently than you.
Could you please introduce Workplace Collaborations and what led to your founding the company?
My name is Bryant, I’m the founder and CEO of Workplace Collaborations, in negotiations and resolution training company. I work with startup entrepreneurs in high stake negotiations tactics and building collaborative intelligence so they can work better with people who think differently than they do. I founded this company two and half years ago after a friend of mine who has two successful startups needed help to restructure the equity of his company. Him and his friend had started this startup AdventureFlow about two/three years ago and realised the 50/50 split wasn’t working for them anymore. He reached out to me and said “Bryant, I don’t know how he’s going to react to this conversion, I’m doing more work than he is, I feel like he's going to get really frustrated, maybe even leave. I really need him to stay on board, and stay motivated to the work. But I don’t feel like the 50/50 split works for us anymore”. He wanted to go up to 80/20, or even 90/10, as you may think that must be really hard for a lot of people to hear, especially when you’re building something. He ended up contacting me and I mediated the conflict he was having. I have a background as I mediator, I worked at a federal agency. I ended up meeting the discussions via Zoom, after 5 hours of intense conversations and going back and forth and talking to each person individually as well as understanding what was everyone's needs and interests in the issue, we came to an agreement. After that, he told me “Bryant, that was amazing, I can't believe we got the result we wanted”, he ended up getting 90/10. He was like “You need to do this for other people, specifically start-up entrepreneurs, if I have this issue other people would too”. And that’s how I started up Workplace Collaboration, and from there we’ve been taking off and I’ve been working with other workplace founders who are also having the same issues.
How can startup founders and entrepreneurs healthily release tension and talk through issues they're facing with co-founders, partners, and employees?
One thing that I ask at the beginning with all my clients is ‘Are you willing to change your perspective on this issue? Because if you’re not because whatever frame of mind you have is going to keep you locked’. So when founders or entrepreneurs are having issues with their co-founders, partners, or employees they’ve really got to ask themselves ‘how is it that you are showing up to the issue and what story are you telling yourself for it to stay stuck’ and so you’re going to release tension, you’re really going to want to look at that and see how are you contributing to this dynamic, what is going here, and how can you take a step back to actually allow for this release to happen in this healthy happy dialogue. There are three questions that you need to be asking yourself: how am I showing up right now, how am I contributing to this, and how am I going to be able to talk about this open, freely so that I can feel heard. That is one of the major issues in any conflict, or tensions, or disagreement, it’s that people don’t feel heard, the money, any little symptom that pops up, anything that is the symptom of the problem, but its actually the root of the problem that needs to be hashed out. When you’re looking to release tension, just talk about it from that natural space, be honest with yourself, and know that people are all wanting the same things, empowerment, security, respect, and if you can really gauge people from that perspective you can actually understand that at the end of we all want the same things and if we can talk about it from that space, you can release tension in a much healthier way.
What is one mistake you often see founders and entrepreneurs making in regards to maintaining their personal relationships with their team?
The number one mistake that most founders and entrepreneurs make when maintaining relationships with their teams… Lack of boundaries. What I mean by that is all the happy hours, and all of the amenities, all the play and everything in-between is actually deteriorating what is the profession boundary which is what is in the workplace and what is outside of that. I see a lot of founders and entrepreneurs make these mistakes as these companies are growing because how do you maintain that balance. Whereas at the beginning it’s a very small close knit group where everyone friends but then as you grow how do they maintain that authority and as well as that balance with ‘Hey! I’m your boss, not just your buddy’, and you have to be accountable with those power structures. Then how do you backtrack, how do you create those processes, maybe in the employee handbook, or maybe in HR or talent management strategies so that people are in know when it comes to accountability, that its okay to go out for drinks and see each other drunk but that shouldn’t dissuade you from that you have a boss. If you are a founder or an entrepreneur, remember that it starts at the beginning, how you show up at your startup will very much reflective how your employees will also show up. Remember that because your team is your most valuable asset and they’re going to help you grow your startup.
What is the first step Workplace Collaborations takes to better understand a client scenario and core problems?
Let me give you one step right now that anyone can take to better understand a client scenario and understand the core problems that are happening in there. Its called the Pin Model of Associations. It means Positions, Interests and Needs. Think about it as a pyramid, and the positions are on the top that’s where everyone is telling you about what they want and why they want it, all the statements and the arguments. You need to get the heart of what is actually going on, and if you stay at the position's level at the top of the pyramid, it actually negates your ability to get down to the interest level and the needs level which is the ‘why are they wanting that’. Let's say someone says they want one million dollars; you’ve got to ask yourself why. You would like to think that they just want to make more money but really, in reality, it could be tied to their self-respect, or they value their time at a million dollars, or they feel like million dollars is owed to them. If you can get down to their level, and get down to maybe even that needs level, which is all the way at the bottom of the pyramid you then start asking even deeper questions of like “What need is being met here”, I talked about respect, I talked about value. If you can target that level of analysis in a client scenario you can get to the heart of what is actually going on. The Pin Model of Associations means that everybody has their own little pyramid, where they might have the conflict resolution, you can start to have this understanding of what is going on and how to best meet a resolution of the needs or the interest level because they actually overlap since most people have the same needs. If you’re going to start looking at a client scenario, and the problems that are going on, you want to start asking questions that go beyond what is actually being said, and start understanding what isn’t being said, so you can start negating it and get to a resolution faster.
What has been the feedback from audience members of your speeches and workshops?
I do a lot of workshops and speeches on something I call ‘Collaborative Disagreement’, it’s a process I invented to hash out differences with people collaboratively and do so in a way that moves conversations forward. A lot of people say, ‘Wow you can actually do this type of process, and still be friends at the end of the day”. Most people are not aware that they are 5 types of communication styles, there is competing, elaborating, comprising, avoiding and accommodating. All of those five have different ways that people present their arguments as well as how they do feedback and how they do criticism, what do they do when there is a high stakes situation and there needs to be conflict resolution. A lot of my audience members realise that ‘Wow, I didn’t realise there's more to talking than just talking’ and that there are nuances as to how people present themselves through their speech. It's always mind-blowing because they never recognise that, I always like to tell my audience members “Maybe because you can talk, doesn’t mean that you are a good communicator’ and I think that’s true for all of us. As we learn the nuances, from body language to tone, to even our facial expression and reactions, it really boils down to understanding it’s a spectrum and where do you land on it. They are the more helpful aspects of my speeches and my workshops that I give.
When did you first realize you had a penchant for conflict mediation in the startup world?
How did your time as a facilitator for the United Nations influenced your work with Workplace Collaborations? How are negotiations in the startup world different from those in the NGO sphere?
I was really fortunate last year to work as a consultant and a facilitator at the United Nations on training and research. It helps humanitarians and diplomats prepare for the high staked negotiations and the extreme context that they work in internationally from human rights abuses to disaster relief. I had the ability to help them, in not only applying to what I do with startups but also within this international place. I realised that despite the fact that they use different words, they’re doing the same things. Meaning we all need to activate our self awareness, understand how to manage ourselves within these high stakes situations, understand social situations and what’s going on around us and finally understand how to use all of that as data points so we can affect not only our relationship management but also the context of which we are operating with. While negotiations in the start up world are with investors, employees and co-founders, in the NGO space its really about these international actors, as well as these institutions that support them. How do you work with different people who may speak different languages to you, or may come from different cultural backgrounds, who maybe have circumstances that are outside of their control. While the negotiations use different words with different people, they still come down to those four things that I mentioned before which is where you have to learn how to manage yourself and other people so that you can come out the other side happy with a fair outcome, where everyone feels like they have been heard. I still use a lot of those concepts but I have just changed the words for when they don’t work in a startup setting. For example, ‘disaster relief or negotiation’, this term isn’t really applicable but ‘high stakes complex decision making’ is within a startup world. It has influenced my time, but it has also gone both ways. So that’s how it tends to work for now.
What's next for Workplace Collaborations, as well as your own career?
It’s a really exciting time for Workplace Collaborations right now, because not only do I have a good list of clients, I’m also building a lot. One of the things I’m building is the Collaborative Intelligence Profile Assessment and it pinpoints the 4 main characteristics that every person needs to know about themselves to see how they show up when it comes to high stakes collaborations. We think collaboration is this nice fun buzzword, where we’re just like “Yeah! Let's go doing something together”, but I’m really more interested in “Cool let's go doing something together, but what happens when we show up and there's conflict or disagreement, what are we going to do then”, because that’s when someone’s true colours show up. The four characteristics are ‘Cooperation’, ‘Resiliency’, ‘Empathy’, and ‘Assertiveness’. You’ve got to understand how those four things show up for you, as well of the shadow components like competitiveness, aggressiveness, lack of emotions and indifference. It's how those things are actually impacting your ability to negotiate. So I see this as the next frontier for workplace collaborations as well as something that’s called the Collaboration Academy which is something that’s an online course platform where people can come in and learn about different projects around collaboration and communication, to driving across sector collaborations, to across function collaborations, and understanding how to apply this not only in the startup scene, but also within the public sphere. I have these dreams of actually entering politics one day or diplomacy on an international level. I really believe that what I’m building now will help me in the future because startups are at the frontier of how people are changing, and how they relate to each other in a business context. We’re changing how people do business together, I’m really interested in taking that concept from a startup level but also to a public sphere because that is where we are going to make real change and where we are going to be able to affect these bigger issues that are really plaguing our society in the 21st century, from environmental issues to indigenous rights, you name it, even water! We need new ways of thinking about this and collaboration is really going to help us get there.