Tag Archives: Culture

Culture: unspoken, widespread assumptions

Conflict Management Always Begins With Myself

Think quick! How many people does it take to create a conflict???

Serious Reflection

Serious Reflection

One.

We are always torn inside, “of two minds” about our own differing values, needs, interests, approaches.

No wonder so much that is written about conflict on project teams feels so mechanistic. The helpful suggestions and techniques seem cast inside a framework that implies the project manager is the wise overseer who must reconcile these “kids” who can’t sort out their differences; when, in fact, the manager – and everyone of us – lives with the continuing awareness that often we are not really sure of the best way forward.

Engage

Engage

So, the best ways to prepare for and deal with conflict start with myself.

  1. Invest early and often in building trust, respect and connection. Conflict will come. Don’t skimp on the basics.

  2. Cultivate a healthy doubt about your own certainty. Openly question, analyze and evaluate your own assumptions.

  3. Whether or not you are the project manager, pay close attention to ongoing team work to identify – early – and resolve conflicts before they become serious.

  4. Encourage and support the exploration of alternatives.

  5. Focus on actionable solutions. Don’t belabor what can’t be changed.

  6. Make clear decisions with the rest of the team about what path and priorities are being chosen.

Security / Insecurity

Security / Insecurity

Since about a quarter of managers’ time is spent resolving conflicts, seize this opportunity to do and to model constructive, productive work. The six points listed above are a great recipe for just-plain gluten-free management.

So, why don’t we do this more often?

  1. We have a natural aversion to tension, disagreements, pain and polarization.

  2. This “people stuff,” the risk of getting entangled in others’ emotions, seems like tumbling into a bottomless pit without a bungee cord.

  3. Managers and consultants are often counseled never to show uncertainty or doubt.

  4. Today’s conflict may ultimately be rooted in a history of disappointments, betrayals and losses – which can seem overwhelming and way beyond our reach.

  5. Discussion in a conflict will often shoot off unpredictably into unforeseen, unknowable directions.

  6. Aggression and hostility are infectious, heightening feelings of aggression and hostility even among bystanders.

We have to acknowledge, but question, all these assumptions, too.

Habits - Feelings - Beliefs

Habits Feelings Beliefs

Basic psychological needs are at the root of almost all conflict. It takes courage to manage people respectfully. And what does “courage” mean here? The determination to step into the fire, to get singed – but not consumed – to feel a sense of accomplishment and to step back in the next time.

For more depth on this topic, I recommend several excellent articles:

How Do You Survive An Organization In Flux — And Flourish?

Imagine being a player, coach or employee of the Los Angeles Clippers these last few months. Everyone associated with the team felt not only a lack of leadership and uncertainty about their futures, but shame and humiliation.

How do you survive something like that?

491054373I think we can garner 3 lessons out of that extreme case of an organization in flux.

FOCUS ON WHAT YOU CAN CONTROL

Doc Rivers, the LA Clippers coach: “My focus is completely on trying to figure out a way of eliminating the distractions. . . . This is a situation where we’re trying to go after something very important for us. . . . It does [have an impact], but you’ve got to move on. . . . That’s adversity that we didn’t want, but we have it, we’ll have to deal with it.”

To counter discouragement and even despair and keep their people moving forward productively, Alcoholics Anonymous has long urged its members to focus on what they can control and let go of what they cannot.

To use another sports metaphor, star baseball players say that when their offense is in a slump, they need to stay focused on playing good defense, keep at it on offense and wait for a better day to click in.

ANGER – NOT RESENTMENT

Doc Rivers again: the team “was pissed.” “This is not anything anybody wants to go through, and this is never good for anyone. . . . They’ll grow from it and they’ll be better people because of it.”

Referring to plans to run an off-ramp of an interstate highway through a low-income Latino neighborhood, a good friend of mine, many years ago, emphasized the importance of making a distinction imagesbetween “being pissed” and getting resentful. Anger is a natural reaction to a threat. Resentment is settling into a life-negating spiral of outrage that ends up corroding yourself.

“Anger is not one thing. It is many things, loosely organized by language into a whole. It is . . . not the feeling of anger per se that has caused harm. Rather, the cold soup of enacted or contemplated self-righteousness or the hot energy of attacking others can easily lead to actions with negative consequences. But these need not be the core features of anger.” (1)

REMEMBER WHAT YOU LOVE

“When the [NBA] commissioner [Adam Silver] put this to me [becoming emergency interim chief executive of the Clippers], I said, ‘Hey, I love basketball,’ ” Richard Parsons said. “I don’t like basketball. I love basketball. It represents all the best in teams sports, and character building and it’s fun. I love basketball. I always have.”

The atmosphere may be foul, the future gloomy, prospects fading by the hour. But if I can dig down into what I truly like and enjoy about my work – not necessarily my job, but my work – then that may see me through some very difficult times and may become what transforms raw talent into polished skill, like tempered steel.

I know this is hard to do, a lot harder than fancy words make it seem. But if you walk into a factory, an office or a home where worry and uneasiness seem to rule, isn’t it the one bright, smiling, centered person there whom you will remember when you leave? Stay focused on what you love, and that energy may make you special.

images-1

And that is the part of all this about “flourishing.” Human nature seems to have this propensity for getting sucked into the “Sturm und Drang” all around us. Those who rise above that will stand out for their resilience and will find value either in the new organization or the next organization.

 

 

 

(1) ACT On Life Not On Anger, George H Eifert, Ph.D.; Matthew McKay, Ph.D.; and John P. Forsyth, Ph.D. 2006: New Harbinger Publications.