TAG Consulting

7 Questions For The Heat of Conflict


April 23, 2017

 

So,  your team is embroiled in conflict. Emotions are high. Anxiety is too. It’s clear that there are real competing values underneath the surface. Fangs may have been bared. You’re anxious too. You know you need to maintain a non-anxious presence, acknowledging your own anxiety but managing it so you can provide a holding environment for the anxiety of others.

The ability to manage conflict in a healthy and productive way is one of the hallmarks of a thriving organizational culture, the kind of place where people want to work and to give maximum discretionary effort.

Most of all you sense the need to DO something. Anything.

But, get this – your very best move may be to ask questions. Especially in the highest heat of conflict.

Yes, questions.

The great thing about questions is that they honor the people being asked, by reminding them that the work is theirs in the end, and that each one of them is responsible for their part in the conflict and for working towards a just and productive resolution.

Maybe best of all, question-asking genuinely reduces anxiety because it takes the focus off of the tensions, drama, and angst of the moment and puts it on self-reflection and the solution at hand.

Here are seven great questions to ask your team (and yourself!) when conflict is high:

1. What exactly does each team member have at stake in this conflict?
2. What specific results does each team member desire?
3. To what degree does each person hold power and influence and how are they exercising those things?
4. What are the core, underlying values each person holds?
5. Where are each person’s loyalties and obligations?
6. What potential losses are at stake for each person? (think status, security, power, comfort, influence, and the like)
7. What hidden alliances are at play in the team?

These are great questions for a team to grapple with. But before that happens you should grapple with them yourself for your team. If you go through the process of getting answers to each one, you will understand your team, yourself, and the issues at stake in the conflict with a lot more clarity.

Asking and answering these seven questions may not solve the conflict – but it will lead you and your team to greater levels of self-awareness and understanding and tee you up to clarify the values at stake – for the greater good.

Oh, and you can leave the boxing gloves at the gym!

Identify The Resistance


April 3, 2017

As a leader you are going to face resistance. We spend a substantial amount of our time reminding leaders of this truth and telling that they are not alone! Resistance is part of the process.

That said, it can be very helpful to identify the types of resistance you are facing as you lead.

  • Immediate criticism. “What a dumb idea!”
  • Denial. “I don’t see any problem here”.
  • Malicious compliance. “I concur completely and whole-heartedly (only I don’t, at all)”
  • Sabotage. “Let’s go get him”.
  • Easy agreement. “No problem”.
  • Deflection. “How about those Red Sox!”
  • Silence
  • In your face criticism. “You’re the worst leader we’ve ever had around here”.

When faced with resistance we can choose to act in either the Red Zone or the Blue Zone.

In the Red Zone, we assume the resistance is about us personally (Why doesn’t he like what I’m proposing? Does he think I’m incompetent?”), not about our roles. Feeling personally attacked we resort to subterfuge and maneuvering.

When we’re in the Blue Zone we welcome the resistance as a normal part of forward movement, seek to understand it and the underlying issues generating it, and work to be effective with those who are creating the resistance.

Want to know more? Download a FREE white paper on navigating and thriving through conflict by clicking here.

4 Steps To Leverage Conflict And Win


March 13, 2017

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Very few healthy people enjoy conflict. But wise leaders realize that pushback can actually be their ally because it surfaces tension within the organization and open up options for alternative approaches.

Here are four ways you can make conflict your friend rather than your enemy.

1.      Maintain clear focus – one eye on the moment, the other on the big picture. Persevere and hang in there!

2.      Embrace resistance. Move towards, not away from the sources of resistance. This is a learned behavior, so be patient with yourself. Remember that the voice of resistance is almost always representative of others and once you know what the problem is you can move ahead.

3.       Respect those who resist by monitoring your emotions, avoiding overreacting, and always telling the truth.

4.      Join with the resistance. Begin together, looking for common values and themes and patterns, looking together for ways the situation needs to change.

How about you – how are you doing currently with conflict in your organization – and in your life?

3 Benefits of Healthy Conflict


March 5, 2017

When we are in conflict we can choose to respond in one of two ways.

The first way is from the Blue Zone. This is where you maintain professionalism and you keep your emotional cool. You can tell you are in the Blue Zone when you are demonstrating several behaviors and leading a workplace where these behaviors are widely demonstrated by others.

Focus on energy and efficiency
This is a workplace where everyone shows up to do their job, they have the right tools, and they are motivated to do good work. They’re not distracted by drama and political intrigue. There’s a buzz and energy in the workplace. People are moving freely and enthusiastically, the conversation is focused and yet lighthearted. Stuff is getting done by focused people who seem to enjoy each other, at least most of the time!

Structures of the organization are closely monitored and respected.
Performance reviews, goal-setting, follow-up evaluation get done. Reporting structures are respected and honored. There is real accountability but it is not the accountability of soul-crushing bureaucracy and micromanagement. The workplace is characterized by the trust that exists when everyone agrees on standards and expectations.

Business issues are the top priority
When a business has a clear sense of mission, strong and vibrant core values, and a winning strategy it has a chance to succeed. This chance becomes reality when core business issues are seen as the first thing, not personal rivalries, territory-marking, and clawing for territory – all of the things that make for a miserable professional environment.

The Blue Zone is the place of emotional health and professional focus.

How about your workplace?
Are these three characteristics of the Blue Zone true of where you work?
Would you say that your workplace is a “place of emotional health and professional focus”?
What needs to change in order to make it so?

Check Your Ego At The Door!


February 28, 2017

Grandiosity is an enemy of leadership because self-importance cannot co-exist with servanthood.

When I succumb to the temptation of grandiosity I believe that my perspective is the only right one, that my way of doing things is the one true way, and that I know what’s best in all situations.

Strangely enough, this perspective doesn’t usually arise from bad intentions. It usually grows out of the normal  human need to feel important. We don’t know a single human being who doesn’t want to feel valuable.

But unchecked, this desire to feel important can belittle those the leader ought to be listening to and supporting, even if the leader seems to be solving problems.

The more we demonstrate our capacity to solve problems, the more we take them off of the shoulders of others, the more authority we gain in their eyes. Sounds appealing, right?

Only until that train leads right down the track to grandiosity; until “I want to help” becomes “I have all the answers”.

How does this fit with conflict? It’s simple. If I operate from the assumption that I have all of the right answers then I can’t navigate conflict with you. I can only win or lose.

Much better to assume that both myself and those I am engaged with are good-hearted and competent, at least until definitively proven otherwise.

And to assume that I might be wrong.

That’s the opposite of grandiosity.

Life In The Blue Zone – 3 Benefits


February 19, 2017

When we are in conflict we can choose to respond in one of two ways.

The first way is from the Blue Zone. This is where you maintain professionalism and you keep your emotional cool. You can tell you are in the Blue Zone when you are demonstrating several behaviors and leading a workplace where these behaviors are widely demonstrated by others.

Focus on energy and efficiency
This is a workplace where everyone shows up to do their job, they have the right tools, and they are motivated to do good work. They’re not distracted by drama and political intrigue. There’s a buzz and energy in the workplace. People are moving freely and enthusiastically, the conversation is focused and yet lighthearted. Stuff is getting done by focused people who seem to enjoy each other, at least most of the time!

Structures of the organization are closely monitored and respected.
Performance reviews, goal-setting, follow-up evaluation get done. Reporting structures are respected and honored. There is real accountability but it is not the accountability of soul-crushing bureaucracy and micromanagement. The workplace is characterized by the trust that exists when everyone agrees on standards and expectations.

Business issues are the top priority
When a business has a clear sense of mission, strong and vibrant core values, and a winning strategy it has a chance to succeed. This chance becomes reality when core business issues are seen as the first thing, not personal rivalries, territory-marking, and clawing for territory – all of the things that make for a miserable professional environment.

The Blue Zone is the place of emotional health and professional focus.

How about your workplace?
Are these three characteristics of the Blue Zone true of where you work?
Would you say that your workplace is a “place of emotional health and professional focus”?
What needs to change in order to make it so?

When Your Co-Authors Went To Prison (Part 3)


February 13, 2017

Conflict is common to everyone – parents, children, business leaders, public servants, pastors, inmates. We all face conflict. We can choose to ignore it, try to defeat it, or let it defeat us. We can try to simply survive it somehow.

Or we can choose to see conflict for what it is – a revealer of our true selves and a rare opportunity for growth and change – and leverage it as an experience that will help us to thrive.

We’ve seen these principles play out in therapy sessions and in boardrooms, in the halls of churches and in agencies of the federal government, on playgrounds and in penitentiaries. We’ve seen men and women learn how to embrace conflict, see it as their ally, and learn to lead others wisely and well.

This new perspective changes everything, just as our lives were changed that day in Solano.

We offer this blog and these principles and exercises in the hope that you will learn to thrive through conflict as well, and that all our lives will be better because of it.

 

 

When Your Co-Authors Went To Prison (Part Two)


January 30, 2017

As we interacted with the men David was influencing, we saw that these people had internalized the principles of our book like no one else we had ever met.

These were former gang members – violent criminals in many cases – people who had been excluded from society. And they were wise beyond belief. They bought tattered and underlined copies of our book to the meetings we attended, quoting passages and then teasing out the principles and applying them to their own lives and experiences.

They talked about their hope for rejoining society – hopes and fears. They were determined that this time they would know how to head off the conflicts that, in many cases, had landed them in Solano. They got it, and as the day transpired, they became our teachers.

When Your Co-Authors Went To Prison (Part One)


January 23, 2017

Two of your intrepid co-authors, Jim and Todd, were once in prison together.

But only for a day.

Several years ago we spent the day in Solano, California State Prison in Vacaville, visiting a friend, David, who had been influenced by a book we had written about how to thrive in – not just survive in – conflict.

David, now reintegrated into society outside prison walls and doing beyond great, was an inmate and at that time was leading classes for other inmates on the topic of conflict resolution, largely based on our book.

He had invited us there to meet some of the hundreds of students he had led in exploring the principles of peace-making.

On the appointed day, we went to the prison, passed through a gauntlet of metal detectors, and received our plastic whistles.

“Plastic whistles?”, we asked.

“Yes”, said the corrections officer, with a smile. “In the event that you get into a hostage situation or some such predicament, California can’t guarantee your safety or negotiate for your release. Just blow your whistle as loud as you can and hopefully we can get to you before things escalate”.

We looked at each other.

It was too late to turn back. We had walked into the heart of Solano Prison, and our worlds were about to change forever…

Face The Resistance!


January 16, 2017

Face it, none of us like it when our leadership is resisted.

But facing this reality that we hate to face is crucial to our success.

One of the most important components of Blue Zone living is learning to view resistance as your ally. Resistance shows you that your current strategy of leadership is not working – at least as well as it might – and gives you permission to find alternative strategies, using all of your creativity.

Here are four things about resistance that will help you view it as an ally, not an enemy.

  • Resistance is an expected part of change.
  • Progress without resistance is impossible.
  • We resist change not because we hate change, but because we perceive the change will be harmful to us in some way. For instance, when we begin to lose weight our body responds by slowing our metabolism, because it fears change.
  • Resistance alerts us to dynamics underneath the surface that are actually happening in the moment.
Download TAG's newest white paper - Red Zone/Blue Zone: Turning Conflict Into Opportunity Click here!
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