Weekly Intention – Resolving Conflict II
03.14.13 | Posted in Weekly Intention
Strengths Becomes Challenges!
The last WI dealt with the issue of resolving conflict and looked at it from the view of people who don’t like conflict. Their goal now is to embrace conflict as a growth experience, develop tactics and strategies and find people who can help them learn to thrive in their ability to handle conflicting situations. Some of you may know the name Pat Lencioni. He’s written numerous books and his most famous is The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. He has described in the past that he is a person who naturally doesn’t like conflict. However, he has learned that without it, you don’t grow and especially within an organization. He embraces and even encourages it in his company to the extent that conflict and active debate are a part of the normal culture at his company The Table Group.
As I referenced in the blog and at the end, what about those people whose attitude is “bring it on, I love conflict!” Why should we have a conversation for people who own it as a strength? Very simply, it serves as a gateway for a brief discussion on strengths and how they can become weaknesses. Most of us have heard that there is a continuum and that a strength that is overused can become a weakness. This also helps bridge the conversation we’ve had in the past in some of the other blogs about the fact that most of us as leaders don’t realize how we impact other people with our usual style. I believe this can become most problematic when a person’s natural leadership style is to engage in and drive conflict and expect others to do the same. It really becomes a problem when people who can’t handle this strong leadership style are judged as incompetent. What it can come down to is that, for a person who avoids conflict, their voice may never be heard above the cacophony of noise that emanates from the meeting rooms. If that happens, they are judged incorrectly, just because they wouldn’t engage in active debate.
In the past, I worked with a company and the CEO had this approach. He loved conflict and debate and he judged your ability and competency based solely on whether or not you could handle that environment. After working with him and his team, he was willing to admit that they had chased out some potentially great people because they just didn’t survive the climate and culture he had created. He was very abrupt, very abrasive and direct. If you stated your opinion, he felt it his duty to immediately challenge you and he did it in a very confrontational manner. I wish I could tell you a happy ending – that he saw the error of his ways and became a little less confrontational and learned to value people who thought it was important to think about issues before bleating out opinions and defend positions. But he didn’t. He held firm that if you couldn’t handle it, he would find someone who could! Look, everyone’s not coachable, and in fact, I wasn’t there to work with him, just his team. According to him, he didn’t need any coaching.
If you recognized yourself in the descriptions above, then what should you do? Should you abandon your strength and love of conflict? No. It is time though for honest reflection about those that work and live in and around you. Simple question – how are those relationships? Be honest. On a 1 to 10 scale, with 1 being that they are horrible and 10 they couldn’t get any better, where are each of them? Most of us have room for growth no matter what, but if you see that there are some important relationships where you’ve rated anything less than 8, what do you think would make the most difference and create the most growth? Chances are, based on the coaching work I’ve done the past four years, how you deal with conflict with those people could pay huge dividends. This could be a turning point for you as a leader. What would it look like to keep your strength – your ability to thrive in conflicting situations – and help others around you learn the same skill? What would happen if you embraced them to teach them and help them understand how to do conflict better? This might require a major rethinking of how you lead, but if these are important relationships, what a great opportunity to become a teacher.
How do you do that? One very simple method is to practice what we coaches do – stay curious and learn to ask questions. As Marilee Adams calls it in her book Change Your Questions, Change Your Life become a “learner” and not a “judger.” She also calls it becoming an “inquiring leader.” The simple act of staying curious and asking a few more questions before leaping to conclusions could radically change who you are as a leader. From St. Francis of Assisi we hear “seek first to understand before being understood.” Can you imagine a meeting where everyone participating was driving toward a greater truth through inquiry, dialogue and respectfully listening to other’s opinions? I can as I’ve been there before and I can tell you it’s an incredible place to be – productive and honoring of others at the same time.
Mr. & Ms. I Love Conflict, what’s your goal after reading this? Stay where you are or recognize that a minor shift in your approach could catapult you and your team to that proverbial next level? It’s your choice. After all, as I referenced in the story above, not everyone is coachable nor believes the way that I do. Here’s a challenge – try it for 30 days and see what happens. Then make the value judgment with facts and not ingrained habits and emotions. I recognize that change can be tough (if that’s what you believe then it is so!), but go for something different instead of doing what you normally do.
Your challenge now is to apply the ARIA model to resolving conflict and moving toward embracing conflict as a positive! If you’re not familiar with the ARIA model then go back to some of the early WI’s to discover this process.
Onward & Upward!
Change Your Questions, Change Your Life – Marilee Adams