The Leadership Gift Conflict Rule No. 3: Move Toward Conflict

This is the third post in a series about conflict rules. I already discussed Conflict Rule No. 1: Disagree More and Better and Conflict Rule No. 2: Validate Other People’s Point of View.

Why move toward a conflict?

Because successful teamwork almost always involves two or more people remaining committed to winning together, even through disagreement.

In fact, Partnerwerks’ co-founder, Professor Larry Browning (University of Texas, College of Communication; Professor of Management, Nordlands University, Norway), used to say to me that “we bring people together on teams because we know they will disagree.”

The pattern looks like this:

  • compared to chain-of-command, team processes increase the number of perspectives toward a task since “teaming” gives members equal voice
  • more perspectives can lead to differences, disagreement, and conflict
  • compared to chain-of-command, team processes also increase the commitment of members since people tend to own that which they have a say in creating
  • so staying committed together through disagreements most often leads to a breakthrough solution.

For me, the lesson in this pattern — a pattern I’ve now seen repeated thousands of times on all sorts of teams — is this:

Moving toward conflict is the fastest way to resolve or clear it.

Here are some tips that can help you effectively move toward conflict:

1. Improve your willingness and ability to address “stuff” directly — your own stuff, other people’s difficult behavior, conflict, whatever.

The ability to confront is the first communication skill. Think about it: before being able to formulate and deliver messages, we first have to face an audience (look up “confront” in the dictionary and you will find something like “to face directly”).

We tend to think negatively about confrontation. Confronting is not a bad or negative thing. Criticizing and invalidating are negative things, but confronting effectively is very beneficial. If you doubt that, then think of some of the alternatives to confronting such as denying, avoiding, and smoothing.

Here is a helpful strategy I learned from Tony Robbins for raising your own level of confront. When you hear yourself saying, “I can’t” then immediately respond with “then I must.” For instance, “I can’t tell her the truth…oh…then I must tell her.”

2. Declare silently to yourself your intent to address, breakthrough, and resolve a conflict so the parties can move on.

Acknowledge your feelings of fear, doubt, and uncertainty, and make your intention stronger than those feelings.

3. Follow Leadership Gift Conflict Rule #1: disagree sooner, better, and more.

4. Follow Leadership Gift Conflict Rule #2: acknowledge that others make valid points from their own points of view.

5. Label the conflict from a neutral perspective.

Do this by saying something like “It appears we disagree, and the disagreement is over X (your point of view) and Z (other person’s point of view).” For help doing this, apply a negotiation principle called “Go to the balcony.” This means that if you are actually in the conflict, then mentally zoom “out” until your view includes both you and the other so that you can see the entire conflict as a system.

Get Started With This 5-Minute Stretch

Identify one major conflict going on in your life right now. It could be internal or it could be in a relationship.

  • How are you currently holding it? (denial, avoidance, smoothing, blame, other?)
  • What is your intention regarding the conflict?
  • What positive steps can you take to clear it?

Christopher Avery, PhD, is a recognized authority on how individual and shared responsibility works in the mind and an advisor to leaders worldwide.

Leaders and coaches: Get Christopher’s best team building and leadership strategies collected over two-plus decades of solving teamwork problems for smart people. Attend the acclaimed Creating Results-Based Teams workshop, or get this FREE Special Report while it lasts: The Five Flawless Steps to Building a Strong Executive Leadership Team.

Posted in Leadership on 04/11/2013 01:07 am
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