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Conflict: An opportunity for leadership

Written by: Allison Taylor | Posted on: | Category:

Strategies to generate a collaborative future

This era is a time when leaders can imaginatively create environments in which conflict resolution strategies generate a viable, collaborative new future. This future will be created by leaders who can cope with rapid, uncertain change and address social strains, psychological tensions, and chronic conflicts in cultures that foster collaboration, open and honest communication and conflict resolution.

Leaders need three skills:

  1. A capacity to exercise good judgement by making the right decisions amid confusing and frightening conflicts based on knowledge, wisdom and an ability to remain true to overriding values.
  2. To enlist others and to motivate them to seek resolution to seemingly insurmountable conflicts. This skill requires emotional intelligence, the capacity to understand and connect with the hopes and fears of those who are in conflict and to find common ground in the values they share.
  3. Respect to those in conflict signifies that they have been seen and valued for who they are; disrespect signifies that they are invisible and do not matter.

This leader creates respectful, ethical, innovative and productive work environments where everyone is encouraged to invent solutions to on-going conflicts.

The characteristics of these leaders include widespread alignment based on a commitment to deal with conflict in a straightforward manner; empowerment of all parties to identify and resolve the conflicts they encounter; and transparency that allows conflict to be viewed openly and honestly so that inquiry, integrity and reflection are generated and prized.

To do this effectively leaders, as conflict resolvers, need these competencies:

• Master the context contribution • Know yourself • Create a vision for the future • Communication with meaning • Maintain trust through integrity • Realise intention through action

Cross cultural conflicts have become a fact of life in many organisations

Due not only to the increasing globalisation of manufacturing, finances, services, and culture but to the development of diverse leadership and staff; to the growing interdependence of worldwide customers and, markets, vendors and supplier; and to the impact of technology on creating instantaneous global cross cultural communications.

Here are some powerful ways you can think globally and act locally and begin to shift the culture in your workplace, organisation, the school you have links to, your local community or family.

• Discuss disagreements publicly and don’t let them be swept under the carpet. • Be self-critical about the role you have played in your conflicts. • Encourage your opponents and colleagues to let go of ancient, unresolved grievances and create common ground with each other. • Build consensus, particularly over vision, mission, goals, ground rules and shared values. • Reach out to communicate across cultural boundaries or borders and resist the temptation to fall into ‘us and them’ thinking. • Seek forgiveness and reconciliation within yourself, with your colleagues and opponents, and let them know how and why you did so. • Collaboratively identify the elements of your conflict culture that are blocking or supporting resolution and continually improve them.

In these ways we can begin to change the conflict averse, avoidant and aggressive elements in our conflict cultures.

In today’s workplace problems are increasingly complex and paradoxical…

Yet the ways of solving them remain simple and one sided. Paradox means living simultaneously with apparently contradictory realities, which is critical for people working in complex team-based environments and for learning organisations. Paradoxical solutions are always at least two sided and contradictory. To do it requires a shift in our thinking about problems and how to respond to them.

Consider the following shifts and note the ones you want to apply to your own conflicts and problems:

• A shift from solving problems to learning from them. • A shift form blaming, cynicism, reactivity, and passivity to responsibility, optimism, proactivity and prevention. • A shift from adversarial to collaborative problem-solving processes. • A shift from knowing the right answers to asking the right questions. • A shift from disempowerment and infantilisation to ownership and responsibility. • A shift from conforming to past practices to experimenting and innovating.

To improve your problem-solving processes, you might want to break it down into discrete steps to help your thinking.

• Admit you have a problem, recognise it as a problem and accept it as needing to be solved. • Collaboratively define and clarify the elements and nature of the problem. • Jointly investigate, analyse, categorise and prioritise the problem. • Invent solutions that satisfy everyone’s interests without becoming attached to any particular solution. • Jointly act, evaluate results, acknowledge efforts and celebrate successes

How to collaborate in conflict

Once you have decided to use collaboration in your conflicts the next step is to learn how to respond to your opponents in ways that bring them closer, rather than push them farther away. The key to this is to find ways of combining a concern for results with a concern for people.

The Key Takeaway…

What we often experience as personal problems in the workplace can be disguising chronic predictable problems created by the systems and processes in the organisation itself. These environments have a direct impact on the problem-solving process making it easier or more difficult to implement solutions. Our coaches can help you recognize these issues and guide you to finding practical solutions. Alternatively, the full paper can be found on the Fearless Community Members area – this covers all areas above in further detail as well as delving into how to collaborate in conflict.

Insight Series blog posts are condensed versions of our full papers, to gain access to a free full Insight paper sign up below. All full Insight papers and other coaching / personal development tools can be accessed on the Fearless Community Members area of our website. If becoming a part of our Community is something that would interest you visit the Members area of our website https://www.fearlessengagement.com/

About the Author: Allison Taylor is an Associate Partner with Fearless Engagement and author of various strategic leadership articles about the topic of neuroscience in coaching and how this dovetails into leadership. She is an adventurer in all things, from photography to flying a Spirtfire. She does her best coaching with people who want to challenge themselves beyond what they thought possible.

The 3 words that sum her up are Courageous. Warm. Committed - 3 words that don’t: Wishy-washy. Thoughtless. Dogmatic. Allison’s best audience/coachees are those motivated to make a difference in their own lives and others’ – particularly senior execs whose example reaches far and wide and can have a significant impact… Her ideal superpower is – the ability to fly! So, if it’s time for you to find your wings, Allison is waiting on a mountain top – somewhere. Give her a call…

References: Kenneth Cloke


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