Leaders Aren’t Momma
Mom always hated it when the boys fought. There were three of us, until the last two came along, much later. I was the oldest. Sometimes we hated each other.
Tensions erupted when mom and dad were gone and I was left in charge. My younger brother hit me over the head with a broom, once. I’m sure I deserved it.
One brother was momma’s boy. He worked inside. The rest of us did the outside work on the farm. We teased him for working with mom.
Conflict frustrates leaders who:
- View it as distraction.
- Believe people should always enjoy each other.
- Want to fix it but don’t know how.
Successful leaders focus teams on things that matter. Conflict matters when it:
- Recurs persistently.
- Infects other teams or departments.
- Creates sides – battle lines that shift loyalties from organizations to individuals.
- Chokes productivity because of posturing, distrust, or sabotage.
Dealing with conflict:
- Hands-off when progress occurs. Monitor but stay away. Avoid rushing in to fix or save the day.
- Never expand scope. Don’t call a team meeting when it’s just two people. Cowardly leaders tell the whole team what two people need to hear.
- Reassign combatants so they don’t have to work with each other. Give up the notion that everyone has to get along.
- Pursue individual sweet spots.
- Expect respect.
- Honor strengths.
- Compensate for weakness.
Rejecting or soothing conflict short-circuits opportunities. Conflict presents opportunities for improvement and growth.
Improve processes and procedures when conflict reveals confusion about roles and responsibilities. Clarify authority and responsibility.
Personal conflicts are a matter of personal growth. The goals include:
- Expanding relational capacity not fixing others.
- Dealing with blind spots.
- Appreciating how strengths and weaknesses correspond and compensate.
Leaders see conflict and ask, “How can we be better?”
Bonus: “The Key to Healthy Conflict”
What are your strategies for dealing with conflict?
My brother and I fought over a sandwich. My mother’s advice: one cuts the sandwich and the other chooses the half he wants. She wisely taught us how to work out our own conflicts so in the future, she did not need to mediate our disputes.
Teach/train people to solve their own conflicts…. and expect them to do it.
When conflict comes to you be prepared to ask a series of prearranged questions that begin with: What have you done to solve this?
….and one might also ask…”what did you do to create this? Have you owned that?”
What are your strategies for dealing with conflict?
Conflicts are an opportunity to think about situations differently. If we can bring the parties together for open communication, everyone will learn something about themselves, each other and gain new perspectives on how things can work differently, and often better by incoporating some fresh thinking into a stale situation. If whatever were working well for everyone, there would be no conflict, and likely no growth, in the people, the processes or the organization.
I often get a sense of compassion when I read your comments. Thanks.
One essential must be the willingness and courage to speak the truth to each other. Sometimes combatants won’t say what they really think. A leader who steps in and says what they see may get the ball rolling.
Good stuff thanks Dan
I strive to have my own house in order.
If successful that creates a vibration of energy that attracts.
Pretty much it.
Have a good vibration day!!! Or don’t!!!
SP back to my good vibration now!!!! Bbbbbzzzz!!!
So often conflict is the result of finger-pointing rather than taking personal responsibility. Simple and powerful.
We support the notion that conflict is natural, especially when resources are tight,and that our professionals can be expected to work first to resolve issues one-on-one independently of management (momma). At first this feels like abandonment, but with coaching and a common language and roadmap for escalation, we hope to cultivate a mature and empowered team.
Making conflict normal makes it acceptable and seems to take some of the sting out of it.
I hear you on “abandonment.” It’s useful to be handy – let people know you care – without being an interventionist.
I’m not sure if any of you have ever worked at a Japanese owned business but there is often conflict designed for what management believes is success. Matsushita (now Panasonic) took it to the extreme by having multiple business units compete for the same product line–faxes and phones come to mind. There were 3 fax divisions and 3 phone divisions. Each fought against the other to survive. They actually encouraged internal competition and conflict. The winner kept the business.
I never worked there but have heard from so many former employees and studied this a bit. I don’t think it’s successful.
I did have a manager who had me competing with another employee, deliberately creating conflict between us, to get the same job done. This manager came from the above school of thought. All it did was poison the well and we all got ill.
You can’t be the momma-and you can’t be the silent bully either.
Good examples. This is the sort of management that GE practiced for CEO succession. As a result they had infighting, and lost their top men to other companies.
I appreciate your experience and observation. You’re making me wonder about healthy competition and unhealthy. Some competitions are energizing and fun…others, as you indicate, destroy long-term relationships and hinder long-term success.
Two concepts drew my attention- personal conflicts are the matter of personal growth and dealing with blind spots. I appreciate the two concerns that are perhaps ingrained at workplaces. I also agree that improving processes and procedures in case of conflict arise. Most of the time, reasons for personal conflicts lie in personal factors. Such personal factors could be anything ranging from perception,customs, gender, stereotyping or biased attitude towards people. And to deal with it, it is important to peel off blind spots. And this is individual responsibility. Leaders should also provide some kind of training and skills to people who can understand blind spots and know how to deal with it.
However, in case of idea generation or issues related to principles or ethics, conflicts are possible. And such conflicts are healthy sign of organizational and leadership effectiveness. Such conflicts emerge because people feel to express what they believe without fear.
Hence, my strategy to deal with conflict depends upon the issues- personal or principle centered. In case of first, making process clear will be helpful and in case of second, encouraging will be beneficial.
In both the cases, leaders provide proper tone and right mind sets either to encourage or discourage conflicts.
I’m glad you brought up conflict as a useful tool for generating ideas.
When we don’t “fight” for an idea it dies and when it dies, the ideas it may have generated die with it.
Fighting over ideas is successful when we don’t make it personal.
Thanks again for your insights.
Reblogged this on Movers, Shakers, Leadership Makers.
I absolutely agree with you. Too often, people view conflict as entirely negative. Sometimes, great creativity is born from conflict. If handled well…
It’s the handling well that makes all the difference.
I guess it is not a good idea to put them in a t-shirt together and make them wear it until they get a long.
Thanks Dan another good one. ;o)
YOu’re tongue in cheek comment reveals a problem some leaders have. They believe making superficial or surface changes fix deep problems.
Duane (in the first reply to your post today) touched on an important aspect of handling conflict . . . setting an example and helping give people the tools to resolve their own conflicts. We are all adults, so it would seem to follow that we should all be able to deal effectively with workplace tension/conflict. And, yet, it never ceases to amaze me how many people either don’t have the tools, aren’t able to recognize the signals, or just flat out refuse to acknowledge the situation.
There have been many times when I’ve had to resist the tempation to use almost the exact words as in your post’s title . . . “I’m not your mother; YOU need to resolve this.” I always stop short of saying it, though — well, at least since I’ve come to the realization that not everyone has the skills or inclination that enable them to resolve conflict without some coaching or assistance.
I was thinking you could say, “I’m not your momma” but “I am your daddy and if you don’t straighten up I’m gonna kick some butt.” Ahhhh… I guess that doesn’t work either.
When I first read the title of your post this morning, Dan, I immediately went to that oft-used — and shared — break room sign that reads: “Your Mother doesn’t work here . . . so clean up after yourself!”
The biggest obstacle with conflict is that it can erode relationships in the future. I have tried to embrace conflict and show that it is a good thing. Conflict just shows our differences and diversity of thought. The key is to not allow the conflict to negatively alter your feeling or respect of the person you’re in conflict with….especially family. We can argue and fight but you’re still my brother, co-worker or team member…nothing has changed.
Easier said than done. Not sure of any boxing or MMA fans out there, but I just love to watch after a brutal fight how at the end they hug each other and even sometimes literally pick the other one up. Each one realizes they are both champions and the conflict (fight) did not change that opinion.
Thinking of future relationships adds weight to the importance of understanding and dealing with conflict skillfully.
Another dimension to the relational concern is the problem of friends of combatants. I get mad at you because you’re having a conflict with someone I like.
I try to figure out why the conflict has occurred, which means stepping outside of your own ego and taking a realistic, outside look at the cause in order to come to a solution.
“stepping outside your own ego…” YOu’ve pointed out one of the main reasons conflict begins and then drag on and on. Powerful
This is a really useful article. I think it also helps to identify the 2 different types of conflict (task or relational) since they need to be managed differently.
We have an article on that here:
What has worked for me over the last couple years is ask to put the exact difference of opinion into writing. Not the reason of the conflict, not the history but just an exact description in maximum 400 words. They don’t have to agree about the solution, but have to about the content of the conflict. Funny thing is these papers almost never reach my desk: they have reached a solution long before that.
First, I love the idea of leaving all the baggage at the door and getting to the heart of the conflict by defining it. I’ve seen this strategy make a difference. It feels like a fresh start.
Useful article. Thank you for sharing.