3 Inquiry Techniques to Address Confrontation within Your Startup

3 Inquiry Techniques to Address Confrontation within Your Startup

In collaboration with the Techstars Accelerator Program in Boulder, Galvanize is hosting a workshop series called Model Mondays, on business development, valuations, and market trends, for anyone interested in entrepreneurship.

Galvanize had the honor of hosting a second Model Monday to discuss one of Techstars’ core principles, Intellectual Honesty, with Julie Penner, Managing Director of Techstars. Entrepreneurs learned new inquiry techniques for confrontation amongst themselves and their team.

Techstars shared three inquiry techniques used in their program that entrepreneurs can adopt for their startups – team check-in process, OFNR – Observations, Feelings, Needs & Requests, and the 5 Whys.


Techstars uses a daily check-in process for standups and retros to establish the state of their team’s well-being. Everyone will state whether they are red, yellow, or green for work and for home. The engagement provides context for the whole team and recognizes work and home are one in the same.


For confrontation, OFNR is a nonviolent or empathetic communication technique that works best to address conflict. It begins with a non-judgmental statement of something you have observed. Using this observation, a personal feeling can be expressed, however, keep the feeling as an ‘I’ statement and be direct. To address the feeling, a personal need must be stated. Then to fulfill the need, add a request. The process serves as an easy fill-in-the-blank technique for entrepreneurs to address confrontation.

The 5 Whys

To address a failure, a breakdown with human factors, or interactions involved, a lean technique of the 5 Whys can be used. Almost always it is the process that is broken not the people, however, our minds tend to go to blame first. When using the technique it is important to ask permission and provide a deep level of genuine curiosity. Essentially, you identify the problem and continually repeat ‘why’ without any blame or judgment to get to the root of the cause.

Co-Founder conflicts are majorly the reason early stage startups fail. These three inquiry techniques to address confrontation and create intellectual honesty within a team. Entrepreneurs can use unbiased solutions and correct process failures using these Techstars’ inquiry techniques.


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