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Category Archives: Leadership Development

When Narratives Collide

When Narratives Collide—Nations (and Businesses) Falter

It’s not just the politicians in Washington who can’t seem to agree on anything. Americans have lost their single-mindedness when it comes to core, basic values. This polarizing atmosphere is the topic of a recent letter to the editor in the Wall Street Journal by Michael Barone titled “America is Partisan – Get Used to It” (October 17, 2013).

Barone gives three key reasons for this change, and notes that it’s not going to get any better any time soon, as evidenced by the government shutdown. I’ve summarized the points he argues (and it’s the last point that I want to focus on in this blog):

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Definition of Role is Critical in Leadership (and Life)

When we think about the definition of role and success, there are three critical elements necessary for success in most human endeavors:

  1. Purpose
  2. Priority
  3. Passion

Whether in the workplace or in our home and daily life, it is important for us to have a great understanding of our purpose at that point in time, to have clarity in regard to our priorities, and to have a passion about our life in the process.

To Know One’s Purpose Requires an Acute Understanding of Oneself

To know one’s purpose at any point in time (given the circumstances) simply requires defining your role in the process. This is an especially good skill for leaders to develop, as they often find themselves playing different roles for their organizations at different phases of the organization’s growth, development and success.

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Resolving Conflict with Collaboration

One more style or approach to conflict resolution in meetings is one of collaboration. Collaboration is an open style whereby people are considered just as important as results. Conflict is handled in such a way that there are no secrets. Everything is brought out into the open.

People who use this style believe in basic problem-solving techniques and look for the consensus agreement. A collaborative approach is especially useful in handling conflict when:

  • The members are trained in problem-solving
  • The parties have common goals that need the cooperation of all to be achieved
  • The conflict arises from misunderstandings or communication breakdowns

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Resolving Conflict Competition Style

Competition is a style in which the meeting facilitator or leader views results as being more important than people. In this style, conflict is always ended with a winner, and a loser. Competition may be the best response to conflict in the following situations:

  • A decision or action must be immediate
  • The parties in the conflict expect and appreciate the force or power necessary in a win / lose situation
  • Combatants recognize a clearly defined differentiation and are looking for leadership
  • It’s not necessary at that point in time for the leader to assert him/herself in order to keep the meeting moving forward

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Compromise: It Works, But There is a Catch

When it comes to effectively leading a meeting and dealing with conflict that naturally arises within any organization, compromise is often touted as the best way to come to a resolution. Perhaps that’s because it is used so often, or because it addresses people’s emotions. Compromise is one way to resolve conflict, but there are drawbacks (more thoughts about the drawbacks of compromise here>> ).

A compromising style can be adopted when you want everyone to feel as if they’ve won. The objective of this approach is to strive for agreeable solutions. Compromise might be the best response to conflict when:

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Using ‘Accommodation’ as a Conflict Resolution Tactic

We’ve discussed that there are different ways to deal with conflict, particularly in meetings (face-to-face). The first tactic, avoidance, has its uses and pitfalls, particularly for leaders, as it can be interpreted as the sign of a weak leader. But when used at the right time, it can be a very effective way to keep a meeting moving forward.

Accommodation is another way to deal with conflict in meetings. This is a style regularly used by those who are deeply concerned for others. The objective of accommodation is to make everyone happy, and is a style often used by people who believe that open conflict is extremely destructive, and that good outward relationships must be maintained at all costs.

Accommodation may be the best response when:

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Using Avoidance to Deal With Conflict

Whether you realize it or not, you are probably employing one of five main strategies when dealing with conflict.

  1. Avoidance
  2. Accommodation
  3. Competition
  4. Compromise
  5. Collaboration

Let’s talk about the first strategy – avoidance – when conflict arises in a meeting or a small group setting.

Avoidance is a style that allows you or the person running the meeting to remain neutral and stay out of the conflict. Choosing this strategy is choosing non-involvement.

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Dealing with Conflict

Conflict is inevitable in any organization. Part of the responsibility of the leadership team, or any individual rising in the ranks, is to effectively resolve issues. One place where conflict can readily appear is in meetings.

Conflict in meetings is not necessarily bad. It can serve to stimulate new ways of thinking, new ideas and better solutions; however, there are times when conflict can be less than productive. You don’t want conflict to impede the productivity of a meeting. Everyone’s time is too precious to waste in meetings that get derailed.

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Does Your Team Have a Shared Context?

Does your team have a shared context? If they don’t, they may fall short of achieving their goals (both individually and collectively).

Leaders must own the context by which their teams operate. (The context is the general that lends meaning to the specific.)

Owning the context doesn’t allow you to change people, but it does allow you to shift the way they approach their work.

When teams have a shared context, their individual work has meaning…each individual can thrive. The team will have greater success. Remember, you can’t change another person’s mind, but you can help shift their perspective. Owning or setting the context is the key to that influence.

'Remember, you can't change another person's mind, but you can help shift their perspective.' Click to Tweet

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We Are Guilty of Our Training, And That’s OK If…

Our Trained Minds

We are all guilty of our training.  What I mean by this is that our past experience combines with the area of our expertise, and together they guide how our minds will consider problems and solutions. If we can be aware of this tendency we can free ourselves to think more creatively about problems and solutions. If not, our minds may not consider the problem in a manner that will lead to the optimal solution. In other words, the way you define the problem will limit the number of available solutions.

[From Plato and a Platypus Walk Into a Bar]

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