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!

Dealing With Conflict As A Team


December 12, 2016

Your team has a conflict to navigate. You’ve decided that conflict should be your ally, not your enemy, so you have committed to boldly engaging the process, getting competing values on the table, and working to find a solution that honors people and moves the mission forward.

So, where do you begin? As tempting as it is to jump right in, take some time to gather your team and work through these questions first.

  1. When all is said and done, how will we know that this process has been effective? Have each individual list two or three desired outcomes. As a group, reach consensus on a total of two or three desired outcomes.
  2. Based on those consensus desired outcomes, what do we believe to be the most critical issues or concerns to address? Reach consensus on the top two to three.
  3. Of these identified issues, which of these do we think will be the most difficult to tackle? Why?

Even before you begin to discuss the issues particular to the conflict, you have already done much of the foundational work for thriving through conflict!

Embrace The Resistance!


November 28, 2016

 

weight-superman

Call it what you will – resistance, pushback, challenge, opposition – it’s basically an opposing force that stops or slows movement.

Anyone in any type of leadership should come to expect resistance. In fact it is an element of leadership that should be welcomed. Welcome it, then learn how to handle it correctly.

All of us, from time to time, resist. It is a way of protecting ourselves from real or perceived danger, most notably when change is unfolding. In and of itself, resistance is not a bad thing – it is merely energy. The key is to effectively redirect that energy in the direction of change.

The first signal resistance sends to our minds is “I don’t like this change. In fact, I don’t like any change!”.

The second signal is “OK, I can tolerate a little bit of change but this is too much, too fast!”.

When we get these signals, our next step should be to interpret what they mean, instead of merely reacting to them. This is crucial.

Thriving through conflict requires mindfulness and a high degree of self-awareness. Here’s why…

Resistance always signals that issues lurk under the surface of the conflict. Rarely is the conflict about what we think it is. In fact, the surface conflict tends to point to a competition between our most deeply held values as individuals which are played out in the context of our organization.

Here’s the thing – this is good.

One of the great  benefits of resistance is that it signals to  us that deeply held values are at stake. When we surface these competing values and deal with them honestly, we have a real shot at gaining traction and moving forward as an organization. This is the stuff of leadership that is often obscured by simple explanations for conflict such as “He’s just being difficult”; “This is a personality conflict”; and “It’s all corporate politics”.

When we face resistance as leaders our job is to look for the competing values and the underlying themes in the struggle. This opens us up to new possibilities – for us as individuals, for our teams, for our organizations.

Where are you facing resistance today?

What might the issues and competing values underlying the resistance be?

What are some new possibilities that this resistance might open up if you embrace it rather than fight it?

Have We Met Before? Stop Having Conflict With The Wrong Person


November 22, 2016

hand-for-shake

When we were growing up certain people, beginning with our primary caregivers, create a lasting impression on our brains and in our personal stories.

These can be positive or negative – a nurturing grandparent or a distant and demanding father.

Those traits become woven into the fabric of our lives, part of our emotional furniture.

We think we’ve dealt with them but they keep popping up in the oddest ways.

When we meet someone later in life who reminds me of that primary early influence I place the first person’s characteristics on my new acquaintance.

My new acquaintance has a pleasant smile, just like my nurturing grandparent. I assume they are themselves nurturing and am kindly disposed to them.

My new acquaintance has the same political views and recreational interests of my overbearing parent. And they set my teeth on edge.

Our minds play tricks on us. Once we have ‘projected’ these characteristics of the primary person we then see the new person only through that lens, accepting data and experiences that confirm that bias and discounting factors that tell a different story.

So we don’t see the person as they really are.

Can you see why this might lead to unhealthy conflict in our lives?

Often we are in conflict with someone who isn’t really there!

We describe it like this: We keep meeting the same person over and over.

It’s that dominant primary person – whether they were a healthy or an unhealthy influence.

And it colors all of our experiences of relationship and especially conflict.

A key step in solving my conflict problems, then, is to recognize the people who have shaped me and to identify where I keep seeing them show up.

And, armed with this knowledge, determine to see each new person who crosses my path for who they really are.

How To Respond In High Pressure Situations


October 30, 2016

pressure-gauge

It’s a tight situation, full of tension and conflict. All eyes turn to you as a leader, or as a key member of the team. Problem is, your own blood is boiling or at least your heart is pounding. You know you need to respond in a calm, measured way. But, truth be told, you are worried about what is going to come out of your mouth next. How do you say – and do – the right thing when conflict is high and the pressure is on? How do you respond in a Blue Zone manner?

When we are thriving through and not just surviving conflict, we speak of living in the Blue Zone.

The Blue Zone allows us to have conflict, even heated conflict, around ideas, values, mission, and strategy. While Red Zone (unhealthy) conflict moves us away from the team, Blue Zone conflict moves us beyond the team to a common purpose. The Blue Zone begins when you become aware of your own Red Zone and acknowledge it as your problem, not anyone else’s.

Creating the Blue Zone is essentially the life work of anyone who aspires to lead a deeply meaningful life. It requires that we are completely honest with ourselves and all of those around us in identifying our own core issues, which lead to conflict.

The Blue Zone is the willingness to accept responsibility for all our behavior and the consequences of that behavior. It is where we simply refuse to shift responsibility for our own actions to any person, institution  or thing.

When we are living life in the Blue Zone we:
-observe our own reactions in the midst of conflict
-identify our own core issues which are being triggered
-decide on an alternative response

And we do this again and again, refusing to lapse into the Red Zone.

We can’t control what happens to us, but we CAN choose how we respond – this is the main characteristic of life in the Blue Zone: purposeful, mindful, self-aware response to conflict which allows us to live in  a way consistent with our values.

7 Questions For When You’re Facing Conflict


October 12, 2016

 

wrestlers

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.

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

But, get this – your very best move may be to ask questions.

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!

Healthy Leaders Know That They’re The Problem


October 12, 2016

In our work as consultants we are often called upon to help leaders and their organizations navigate conflict.

In virtually every instance the leader who enlists our help believes that he or she is not the problem. The real problem, those leaders believe, is “that person” or “those people” or “that policy or procedure” or “that department”.

We’ve seen a lot of jaws drop (and a few fists start to clench!) when we tell leaders “The problem is you!”.

Angry man pointing his finger

What we mean by that is that in every conflict, every individual involved has contributed to the impasse in some way or another. This is one of the fundamental rules of organizational life – that every member of the group is part of a system that is not working on some level.

Now, we want our clients to continue to employ us, so we finish the sentence beginning “The problem is you…” with an important clause: “…so know yourself.”

If I am aware of my limitations and failures and propensities to engage in unhealthy behavior at times then I can lead through the conflict with wisdom and skill.

The writer John Eldredge puts it this way: “What gets in the way is your way”. He means that we all have a way of relating, a manner of leading that we rarely question. And when you don’t question yourself you are not conscious of how your patterns of behavior are affecting others, creating resistance, and undermining the very goals you are committed to bringing about. But if you are willing to take an inward look, you can stop being your own worst enemy.

If you can manage yourself – know your heart and mind and understand how and why you can slip into unhealthy conflict – and then choose instead to put your ego aside for a bigger mission – you have the foundation for persevering through conflict and adversity in a way that bring about lasting change and a unified team and organization.

Do you want to take your team to the next level? Here are some of our options for team development and growth.

Ready to take your individual leadership acumen to a higher place? Check out our options for executive and leadership coaching here.

For more on navigating organizational and interpersonal conflict, read the book Red Zone/Blue Zone, which you can find here.

You Are Part of The Problem…And That’s OK!


May 30, 2016

In our work as consultants we are often called upon to help leaders and their organizations navigate conflict.

In virtually every instance the leader who enlists our help believes that he or she is not the problem. The real problem, those leaders believe, is “that person” or “those people” or “that policy or procedure” or “that department”.

We’ve seen a lot of jaws drop (and a few fists start to clench!) when we tell leaders “The problem is you!”.

Angry man pointing his finger

What we mean by that is that in every conflict, every individual involved has contributed to the impasse in some way or another. This is one of the fundamental rules of organizational life – that every member of the group is part of a system that is not working on some level.

Now, we want our clients to continue to employ us, so we finish the sentence beginning “The problem is you…” with an important clause: “…so know yourself.”

If I am aware of my limitations and failures and propensities to engage in unhealthy behavior at times then I can lead through the conflict with wisdom and skill.

The writer John Eldredge puts it this way: “What gets in the way is your way”. He means that we all have a way of relating, a manner of leading that we rarely question. And when you don’t question yourself you are not conscious of how your patterns of behavior are affecting others, creating resistance, and undermining the very goals you are committed to bringing about. But if you are willing to take an inward look, you can stop being your own worst enemy.

If you can manage yourself – know your heart and mind and understand how and why you can slip into unhealthy conflict – and then choose instead to put your ego aside for a bigger mission – you have the foundation for persevering through conflict and adversity in a way that bring about lasting change and a unified team and organization.

Do you want to take your team to the next level? Here are some of our options for team development and growth.

Ready to take your individual leadership acumen to a higher place? Check out our options for executive and leadership coaching here.

For more on navigating organizational and interpersonal conflict, read our book Red Zone/Blue Zone, which you can find here.