👊🏼 5 Tips for Effective Conflict

I’m not a fan of conflict.  Although sometimes useful, I can fall into the trap of trying to placate others. , If I constantly default to appeasing others, the conflict is rarely resolved and it usually just postpones it. As Simone Smerilli wrote for his blog, “For conflict to exist, there must be a perception of conflict between the parties involved. Conflict can arise from a clash of personalities, attitudes, circumstances. Our ego-driven brains often forget about getting to what’s true as opposed to pursuing “being right.” Every individual is capable of good and evil. There is this seemingly constant tension within each of us.” Conflict is driven by everyone thinking that they are right.

Here are 5 tips for effective conflict:

Ontological Humility.  The idea of ontological humility was first introduced to me by Fred Kofman’s book, Conscious Business. As Kofman wrote, “Ontological humility is the acknowledgement that you do not have a special claim on reality or truth and, that others have equally valid perspectives deserving respect and consideration. This attitude is opposed to ontological arrogance, which is the claim that your truth is the only truth. Even though it may make sense intellectually that people have different perspectives, most people do not naturally act from this understanding, especially in the midst of disagreement or conflict.” In reflecting on most of my training with CRR Global, it was based on understanding everyone has their own truth and that trying to either see their perspective by “standing” in their shoes, or understanding their role or experiencing the bridge the other is trying to cross brings about an empathy of perspective and experience.  Or ontological humility.  As the CRR Global precept says: Everyone is right… partially.

Identify Behaviors. This comes from Simon Sinek’s FBI model for dealing with conflict.  What did the other person or group do to upset you?  It’s important to make sure you identify the behavior specifically and not make it personal.  So, “Joe, you were late to the meeting yesterday and last Thursday.” Not, “Joe, you are lazy”.  Be careful not to speak in superlatives like “always, never and everyone”.  So, “Joe, I find you to be sometimes late.” Not, “Joe, you are always late and never on time.” Being specific with the behavior you are trying to address is really important.  “Joe, you raised your voice three times at the meeting today.” “Joe, it’s been five days and I haven’t heard a response to my request.” “Joe, you interrupted me several times when I was trying to present.” “Joe, I notice that you rolled your eyes when I suggested you take on the project.” “Joe, there were seven typos in the document.”  “Joe, you missed the deadline by seven hours.” This gives important information to the offending party and gives them something tangible to work on.

State Feelings.  Whatever Joe did, you need to state how it made you feel. When you state how something made you feel, it’s not debatable. It’s your experience.  As Sinek wrote, “Framing problems in terms “I feel”, or “It seems to me that” can be powerful. Not because of its persuasive nature. There is nothing persuasive about it. But because of the state of mind this framing can put us (and the other party) in.” So, if Joe being late made you feel disrespected or diminished or angry or upset, state it.  “Joe, when you rolled your eyes when I said my idea, I felt frustrated.” Or “Joe, when you raised your voice three times at the meeting today, I felt on the defensive.” Stating feelings is not the norm, especially in business.  It can feel uncomfortable; it’s just so much more productive than either sulking away from the conflict or making the conflict personal by implying judgement “Joe, you are such an ass!” Stating feelings keeps it honest without judgment.

Define Impact. As Sinek espoused, “Define the impact that the behavior of the individual has had on you, your surroundings, the people around you, the broad community or organization.” I can assume that someone knows if I get the report late, then my whole department will be behind on the project and we will miss the customer deadline. It’s rarely explicit what someone’s behavior’s impact is on the organization. Actually, tying even good results to impact is a great idea as well. “Joe, you being on time meant that we were able to get the new customer.” “Joe, your errors on the report caused five hours of extra work for Accounting.” Define the impact in non-judgmental terms. 

Going forward.  I think that looking forward is a great way to collaborate.  So, after you have followed Sinek’s model of Feelings, Behavior and Impact (FBI), talk about how you would like to change things going forward.  “Joe, you didn’t show up for the meeting today, I felt frustrated and the impact was that we were unable to make a decision on the widget project. Going forward, what ideas do you have to attend scheduled meetings.” I prefer asking for help in solving the problem since Joe is more likely to follow his own ideas rather than my prescribed solutions. Come to an agreement going forward.

There are other aspects like talking to folks privately, trying not to discuss things, if possible, when angry or triggered, and being OK with silence. I think having a game plan and a concise sentence or two in mind before having a conflict discussion can be invaluable as opposed to improvising. I find Sinek’s model to be relatively simple and easy to remember.  What tips do you have to resolve conflict?

6 Ways to Build Culture. The Third Entity™.

The Third Entity™ is concept developed by The Center for Right Relationship (CRR Global) to describe the relationship that connects us but essentially has an existence of its own. In an organization it’s called culture. If the founder leaves the organization, the culture (and Third Entity) change. This phenomenon isn’t isolated to corporations.

The same thing happens at home when my husband and I have had an empty nest for 6 months and suddenly have it disrupted by having an 18 year old at home. The Third Entity shifts. The relationship has more of a strain because there are more needs to be met (and more food to be purchased) and boundaries tested (dishes being washed at 3 AM). The Third Entity

I had the privilege to test out the Third Entity of my Rotary club a few weeks ago. I say, test out, because I had never used some of the tools that I learned from CRR Global until I used my Rotary Club as guinea pigs. I have to say it was an eye opening and inspiring experience. I’ve been a Rotary member for over 10 years but to actually work with this group to discuss our culture and aspirations was really gratifying. You just don’t know until you know.

So this is what I learned about the group culture that ties us together:

1. Alliance. It’s really important to clarify the team alliance. When was the last time you verbalized what your marriage or culture or relationship is all about. What is the basis for its existence. I asked the club what sort of culture they wanted to create and the first thing that anyone said was “Fun”. I have to say it’s one of the main reasons I enjoy getting up every Wednesday for a 7 AM (yes…7 AM) meeting; we always have fun. Always. There is always good natured ribbing, crazy birthday hats and a joke that’s just clean enough to tell but raises a few eyebrows. Clarify your team alliance.

2. Flourish. What will it take for your team or relationship to flourish? I was surprised that there were many viewpoints on this question. Some folks said we needed more members, others said more fundraisers, and still others said more participation. These are all very different tangents for a small club of some 30 members. When is the last time you asked your spouse or partner or organization at-large what it will take to flourish? I think you would be surprised at the answer. It might be time to ask.

3. Conflict. Find out how you want to handle conflict. As in Patrick Lencioni‘s book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, “All great relationships, the ones that last over time, require productive conflict in order to grow. This is true in marriage, parenthood, friendship, and certainly business.” If you can’t debate and raise some of the “Elephant in the Room” issues, it is impossible to progress. If you are surrounded by a lot of “Yes Men”…you are not likely to be making the best decisions. Create some ground rules on how to handle conflict and to make sure it’s not taboo.

4. Alignment. It’s not critical that we are in lock step as much as that we are headed in the same direction. You and I don’t need to be on the same exact path for us to succeed but we need to be in alignment. Marketing and Operations are going to take very different paths but if they know and are aligned with the overarching goal of “Outstanding Customer Experience” then we can succeed. Marketing might be creating authentic marketing collateral while Operations is making sure the quality and delivery times are superior. Different paths but aligned to the goal. Be aligned.

5. Listen. We need to be able to listen to dissenting voices. Some of the Rotarians wanted more members and others joined because we were a small group. These are dissenting views. But it had to be spoken. It needed to be acknowledged. This shows up all the time in parenting. Dad wants Johnny to go to the concert and Mom doesn’t. Let it be spoken so both sides can be heard. Listen to the dissenting view even if you don’t agree. Acknowledge the differing viewpoint. “So I hear you saying that Johnny shouldn’t go because there are likely to be drugs present”. Listen to dissenting views.

6. Decisive. Someone needs to make a decision; whether it’s the president of the Rotary club, the parent or the department head. Are we after more members or are we going to let it be? Dad acknowledges Mom’s apprehensions but they decide to say “Yes”. Decide and commit to move forward. If you don’t, there are back alley deals that will go on which will undermine the Third Entity. As Patrick Lencioni espouses, “Great teams understand the danger of seeking consensus, and find ways to achieve buy-in even when complete agreement is impossible.” Give up on consensus, make sure everyone has had their say, decide, commit and move on.

I think what surprised me the most about coming up with the team alliance with my Rotary Club is how much we were of the same mind. Here is a diverse group of professionals from varied fields, industries and backgrounds but we all had the same ideals. Service above Self. It’s the team culture that holds us together.