Posts Tagged 'Conflict Management'

Communication is the means by which you manage change

Communicate well, and you will manage change well.

Communicate badly and the change will go badly.

Either way, change will happen.

How would you like it to go?

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A Presentation on ProcessWork

Here is a very basic presentation to Process Work. I am running an introductory workshop on it tomorrow at UK Mediation Academy for the Professional Mediators Association.

It’s the tip of the iceberg of how people can start to change the way they look at situations in order to grow through them.

The Myth of “Personality Clashes”

When people step out of a conflict because of a so-called “personality clash”, chances are they are letting both themselves and the other person down.

“Personality clash” is a tempting label, but it is often lazy one.  More, it can actually sustain a conflict, by seeing it as “too difficult”.

Personality clash can also be a subtle way of demonising another.

However, with some more detailed awareness, this  seemingly intractable problem can actually be worked with productively rather than avoided through the typical generalisations and blanket statements. For example, what do they do or say? What gestures do they make? Be specific about one situation that stands out.  Go over what was said and how it was done.

Chances are there is a communication style difference that is escalating the Continue reading ‘The Myth of “Personality Clashes”’

Hedgehogs, Fortune Tellers and Leadership

We love to know the future.  We are drawn to people who have the answers when we don’t.  After all, we make decisions based on assumptions about the future, so it makes sense that we find comfort in those that seem to know the answers.  Take these questions:

Has the housing market bottomed out yet? How low will the pound go? Is it going to be sunny in the Caribbean this easter?

Although reassuring, “expert advice” is not necessarily what we look for in a leader.  Qualities of leadership often include boldness, confidence and certainty.  As Tetlock points out – people who acknowledge their limitations (Foxes) find less public support than those who proclaim knowledge of a “truth” (even when it is unrealistic to do so – Hedgehogs). And so it is that Hedgehogs are more likely to get votes.

However, is this  leadership strategy good for us? In his new book Obliquity, John Kay points out that these “truths” are mostly at odds with actual world events.  And, unfortunately, actions made by people with these qualities can be disastrous:

It is hard to overstate the damage that has recently been done by people who thought they knew more about the world than they really did. RSA Journal – Spring 2010

His examples include Iraq and the financial fiasco,  and even Gordon Brown’s focus on “defined and quantifiable objectives.”  While there are arguably rational justifications for the choices that led to these events, it is rare that such experts correctly predict the future.  That is not to say we cannot gather useful information when investing in decisions – whether they be buying a house or going to war.  We would be foolish not to gather outside information… However things do not go according to plan!

Is this our leader’s fault? Is it the fault of the systems that we employ?  Or is it just life? As Rumsfeld famously said of Iraq – “S*** HAPPENS”.  Unfortunately, this is true.  What is more, this implicit understanding between us all – that we can never be absolutely sure of anything – allows us to easily forgive and forget.

Yet this should not prevent us from developing our understanding of good leadership.  Kay promotes skepticism and humility in the face of both the future and our capacity to make decisions as healthy practices.  Unfortunately, we all get bored with lengthy debates about pros and cons and such skepticism isn’t enough.  However, more than that, Kay suggests leadership is about keeping track of high level objectives and practicing what I would call Reflexive Leadership – that is, the ability to learn and adapt as things change and new information comes to light.  Being proficient in reflexive leadership means being able to face unknown territory with confidence.

Confidence is also one of the more conventional qualities of leadership.  That is, regardless of what is said, people who appear more confident inspire trust and more importantly, following.  Those that have confidence to face the unknown will inspire those around them.  What is more, those that have skills, systems and strategies in place to adapt and manage change succesfully will lead us into the future.

As I suggested in the beginning leadership is not about being an expert, nor is it about being a fortune-teller: Leadership is being able to see the bigger picture and to navigate and adjust to the constant flux of variations we encounter.  Good leadership consists, not of being able to proclaim the future, but to recognise and respond to it as it arises in the present.   The qualities of adaptability and creativity combined with a perspective of higher goals will cultivate the confidence and integrity that we typically look for in a leader.

Crucial to both adaptability and vision is communication, but that is another blog…

“Managing” Conflict…

Conflict is never pretty.  Confronting conflict is rarely easy.  But leaving it alone can cause greater difficulties in the future.  Today, a colleague told me about a mishap of a growing company – on the brink of receiving £500,000 investment from a VC! Unfortunately, unresolved issues between the directors lead to a conflict that has ruined their business – and probably their relationships too.  As a result, not only did they lose the money, but are now looking at legal processes (and costs!) to salvage what they can for themselves from the business.  Its not pretty – and its not a productive use of energy.

Yet time and again, conflicts are left in the closet only to emerge at the most crucial stages.  Its happened to us all: whether it be at home, in relationships or with our colleagues.  We ignore, deny or sometimes are just oblivious to destructive dynamics that are affecting our lives.

Personally, this can lead to ill-feelings – at worst depression – and a breakdown in trust and, sometimes, lost relationships.  At work, the same can be true, but it can also lead to a loss in productivity and dynamism from the employees (and employers!)  No one likes these things.  And loss is a part of life.

Yet we can take steps either to mitigate loss OR to discover new opportunities to prevent unnecessary costs.  This itself can take energy, but most of that is overcoming the fear of being hurt, upsetting the status quo or of hurting someone else.  (See future blog “Roles” or contact me for ways to manage this.)

But more than energy, working with conflict takes awareness.

Management Structure

A typical hurdle to addressing conflicts is choosing to take responsibility for noticing them and then acting on them.  A subtle way this can be avoided lies Continue reading ‘“Managing” Conflict…’


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