“Peace is not the absence of conflict; it is the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means.” President Ronald Reagan
And that’s not just true on the geopolitical level, it applies in every team AND relationship! The truth is conflict is inevitable. Fortunately, there are ways to handle CONFLICT...ON PURPOSE! This blog will share steps to empower YOU to manage conflict NOT for conflict to manage you.
Let's Define Conflict...
Conflict is the "feeling" that occurs when another person or set of circumstances becomes an obstacle that inhibits one’s ability to live out their motivational values. (Have a Nice Conflict, p 95) People go into conflict about things important to them – values tied to their sense of self-worth. (Have a Nice Conflict, p. 130)
Let's get in the right frame of mind first...imagine if you will...
You're running late for a team meeting, and show up a few minutes after it started. While away, things have taken their usual course. Becky is raising her voice and pressing for action on her latest proposal, Helen is telling Becky she doesn’t have enough information to move forward – more data is required. Bob is leaning back in his chair looking uncomfortable, wishing the problem would just go away. As you enter the room, all faces turn to you, the leader. Your team has, once again, entered into conflict. Everything is normal.
As noted, the reality: conflict is part of our daily lives. Families experience conflict. Non-profits roll with conflict. Businesses and governments live in a sea of conflict. International relations are fraught with conflict. The news is filled with conflict. Conflict sells! (Just review the financial results from the news organizations after last year's U.S. Presidential campaign!)
The Elephant in the room...
All of this conflicts begs the question "If conflict is so prevalent in our lives, why aren’t we better at dealing with it?" Perhaps one answer is that we were never given the proper tools. Or, if we were given tools, they didn't stick. Regardless, as we grow up, we generally learn how to:
At the highest level, the "catch-all" impacts of conflict IN THE WORKPLACE:
Amazingly, the study revealed managers spend more than 2.5 hours per week (that's one full day of productivity per month — two and a half weeks per year) trying to resolve conflict, which translates into $359 billion in losses for U.S. companies every year AND 385 million working days lost each year due to workplace conflict.
Additional statistics from the study demonstrate how pervasive conflict is in the workplace:
Since 2012, U.S. Federal agencies have paid over $65 million of TAX PAYERS MONEY in court-directed fines, appeals and settlements. In the private sector, the situation isn’t any better. In 2015, 75% of all corporate litigation involves employee disputes, with 92,641 charges filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) costing the private sector $525 million.
Speaking of the EEOC and the volume of conflict charges...on March 13, 2017, they recently announced they're making it easier to submit claims to assist with the conflict onslaught when five of its offices launched a new system to make the charge-filing process easier. The new Online Inquiry and Appointment System will allow individuals seeking to file a discrimination charge to take their initial actions—submitting inquiries and scheduling intake interviews—electronically. Sweet!
Or, perhaps there might be a better way???? Keep reading!
What can we do with this data?
In this blog, I share 6 ways to allow us to mitigate and manage conflict - in other words - CONFLICT - ON Purpose!
The solution is based on Relationship Awareness Theory. The theory's premises:
PREMISE 1: Behavior is driven by a desire to achieve self-worth.
PREMISE 2: TWO stimuli affect patterns of behavior: when things are going well AND when things are in conflict.
PREMISE 3: Personal weakness is usually from overdoing strengths.
"The theory is based on the premise that one's behavior traits are consistent with what one finds gratifying in interpersonal relations and with concepts or beliefs one holds about how to interact with others to achieve those gratifications.", according to one of the key proponents of this theory Elias H. Porter, PhD who later founded PSP, Inc., the creators of the SDI (AKA Strengths Deployment Inventory) Assessments. In other words, the theory empowers people to make more productive choices in their relationships AND goes beyond behavior to VALUE differences.
The solution is bought to life in a book written by Tim Scudder, Michael Patterson, and Kent Mitchell titled "Have a Nice Conflict". Their book is based on work done by Porter, as well as decades of study, and experience using the SDI assessments.
Benefits realized when we approach Conflict...ON Purpose!:
If you want to deal with conflict, your challenge is to learn how to identify motivations and values in yourself and others, and how to communicate with the people involved in a conflict. Then, use that knowledge to build a path back to self-worth for all parties.
6 Steps to Practice Conflict...ON Purpose!:
1. Anticipate - it's about consciousness - being prepared. As you extend your knowledge beyond yourself, you gain an understanding of others, and how their motivations and values drive their behaviors. You also begin to gain an understanding of what causes conflict.
2. Prevent - things you can do to reduce the conflict. In other words, speaking someone else's language. It also requires we understand our-self. Be self-aware. Self managing. After-all, you can only manage yourself. These competencies are rooted in self knowledge–knowing oneself.
3. Identify - Porter, Scudder, Patterson and Mitchell point out behavior in conflict follows patterns. Although it's true human beings are not 100% predictable, it's interesting to note certain discernible patterns of behavior DO exist. Be able to identify the signs (verbal / non-verbal) that tip off conflict is occurring.
Three approaches people demonstrate when conflicts arise:
1. Rise to the challenge;
2. Cautiously withdraw; and,
3. Work to keep the peace.
4. Manage - one of the biggest challenges is to learn how to manage a conflict when you're already firmly entrenched in it, i.e. manage yourself and the relationship(s). One IMMEDIATE approach is to look for common ground. If we enter into conflict at a purely reactionary level, in other words, and bears repeating, if we follow our emotions, we tend to let the conflict manage us rather than us managing the conflict. We all manage conflict differently BUT the same! :) Partly because conflict will follow stages:
Stage - 1 - ME, YOU, CONFLICT;
Stage - 2 - ME & Conflict; and,
Stage - 3 - Me!
5. Resolve - by managing ourselves, and learning how to communicate with parties involved in the conflict, we can be more effective when we find ourselves in the fray. The art of compromise, give-and-take, WIN/WIN should be expected outcomes. (Although, maybe not all of the above at the same time.)
6. Learn - what did you learn about yourself or others? Preventing conflict within yourself, and creating conditions that allow others to manage themselves requires conscious thought. Learning. Conscious thought is much easier when you know what to listen for and observe (verbal / non-verbal) and how to respond to people who hold differing motivational values. It takes time to develop / enhance. Dedicate some time to learning about yourself.
In closing...Conflict...ON Purpose! Additional Nuggets:
I believe each of us is a gift. I create trusted relationships where individuals, teams and leaders NAME, CLAIM and AIM their gifts to achieve optimum performance.
Interested to Learn About Yourself or Your Team? Mark is a Certified CliftonStrengths Coach and TotalSDI Facilitator and happy to discuss your situation / team.
Below are links to tools for gaining an understanding of what it means to be you. Every tool has its supporters and critics. There is no “single best tool”.
SEE ASSESSMENT SERIES:
Why Workplace Assessments Fall Short...
How to Ensure Workplace Assessments DON'T Fall Short...
Workplace Assessment Summary - Running With Scissors...
Assessment Summary - Picking Your Scissors...
There are assessments that help you learn about yourself: CliftonStrengths; Myers Briggs; and Thomas Kllman for example.
For TEAMS a GREAT tool to increase both your self awareness, and your social awareness is the TotalSDI (Strengths Deployment Inventory). TotalSDI is the one instrument that takes on the question "HOW do I deal effectively with conflict?"
Have a Nice Conflict and SDI assessment give you insight into why you and others behave the way we do. It establishes a common language about behavior that can be used within the team when things get a little tense and, more important, creates a bond between team members.
The DiSC Instrument looks at styles and behaviors. It has been useful for helping teams identify their attributes. It becomes more powerful when used with the SDI to help the team members understand what to do when those attributes, or behaviors get in the way.
The Thomas Kilman Conflict Mode Instrument is for helping you think through critical situations where conflict might exist, and selecting a behavior or strategy that may be appropriate.
And, finally, the Myers Briggs instrument is always a tool for improving your self knowledge.
Regardless of which tool you might use, each should be administered with the assistance of a coach certified in the tool. That way, you and your group will gain the full understanding of what the assessment(s) indicate. (SEE The Power of a Coach...)
About Mark Myette
I believe each of us is a gift. I create trusted
Based out Roam - Buckhead - 3365 Piedmont Rd NE, Suite 1400 (2nd Floor), Atlanta, GA 30305
Can meet at other Roam locations if appropriate: Alpharetta; Dunwoody; or Galleria