One way I make a living is by coaching CEOs. Recently I was speaking with one of my clients, the CEO of a startup with 60-plus employees.

The CEO told me how they and one of their executives had been disagreeing about something. My client’s initial instinct was to assert their authority, close the issue, and move on. Rather than doing that, however, the CEO decided to open a document instead.

In that document the CEO first wrote down their opinion on the situation and why. Next they wrote down what the other person thought and why. When the CEO looked at the two opinions side-by-side, they were surprised to find they were 95% the same. It was a tiny area where they differed.

The CEO sent the document to the executive and asked what they thought. An ensuing conversation resolved the specific issue and revealed something deeper that the disagreement was really about. They were able to make progress on that too.

I was impressed with my client’s decision. “That wasn’t easy to do,” I told them. “It took more energy to write down both perspectives than just flex your authority.”

The CEO laughed. “It seems like it,” they said. “But think about how much energy I saved by doing it this way.”

They were right. Often what can seem like an “extra step” is really the critical, thoughtful step that unlocks better outcomes and prevents a bunch of undesired extra steps later down the line. Next time you find yourself in conflict, don’t rush in. Try writing down both perspectives first.

Author of “This Could Be Our Future: A Manifesto for a More Generous World”; Cofounder of Kickstarter; Bentoist;

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