How to Navigate Conflict Between Managers and Leaders
People who work together end up working against each other when goals compete and agendas collide.
The goals of leadership and the challenges of management create healthy friction.
Unresolved friction eventually turns to resentment and resistance.
- Moving targets and shifting expectations.
- System and process changes.
- Disconnected leadership.
- Feeling misunderstood, under-appreciated, and not heard.
- Knee-jerk resistance to change.
- Navigating short-term profits and long-term gains.
- Juggling conflicting agendas.
- Feeling misunderstood, under-appreciated, and not heard.
How to navigate conflict between managers and leaders:
#1. Celebrate the value of hard work. Success is always about facing difficult challenges.
Ease is boring.
No one drifts into the harbor of fulfillment.
Tip: Workhorses collapse without rest.
#2. Commit to help each other win without becoming sacrificial lambs.
#3. Honor the value of relationship building.
You don’t have to sacrifice relationships on the altar of delivering great results.
Strong relationships produce great results.
Create systems and processes that foster communication and collaboration.
- How and when will people talk about shared metrics and assessments?
- How will you respond to success, short-fall, or failure?
#4. Get in each other’s world.
Isolation and disconnection cause frustration and resistance.
Managers with dirty hands resent leaders with clean hands.
#5. Develop and define shared language.
Apart from shared language, teams talk past each other. Frustration goes up. Results go down.
Define success. Beware of winning at the expense of others. Success at the expense others on your team is failure. If everyone doesn’t win, in the end, no one wins.
- What does winning on a day-to-day basis look like?
- What does winning in the middle and long-term look like?
#6. Design shared metrics and assessments.
- How will we know we’re winning?
- What behaviors do we expect from each other?
#7. Define, develop and honor kind candor, courageous vulnerability, and forward-facing curiosity.
What makes strong relationships between management and leadership difficult?
How might leaders and managers build strong relationships with each other?
Your message today took me back to the days when we spoke a great deal about “Corporate Culture”. Much of the message kept me in the mental frame of communications and how effective we need to be in communicating the value of every aspect of the business and operations. Everyone needs to know how their work contributes to the collective outcome. Make it a win-win environment both within the organization and to the various markets you serve.
“Everyone needs to know how their work contributes to the collective outcome.”
As a staffer supporting a director & executive director, I cannot tell you the number of times I have been summarily limited in appreciating the ‘fruits of our collective labor.’ Why would a leader assume that’s not of interest or worst yet, determine I don’t need to see ‘it.’ An example? The entire office was involved in preparing a report of significant value to our unit’s success. It was completed. We received rave reviews. When I asked to see resulting comments, I was first told it was confidential. I know. I was involved in developing it. Second, I was told to wait until senior leadership reviewed and signed off. Finally, I was told that I could review it. I never received it.
Thanks Gregory. Maybe we need to re-ignite conversations about corporate culture. Frankly, the likelihood of prolonged conflict goes up as respectful communication goes down.
We’d do well to ask, “How can we help each other win?”
taking time to know what the win is for others is so powerful, excellent post.
Thanks Scott. I’ve been monitoring my responses to people. It’s important to share personal information. But I notice that I have to keep reminding myself to look at things from the other person’s viewpoint. It’s more challenging than you might think.
Thanks Dan. You must have been a fly on the wall throughout my day yesterday. Very timely.
Thanks Shane. I think it’s everywhere. 🙂
So true! If people don’t start with an understood common goal in mind, including the ever-true WIIFM explanation, new directives from Leadership may seem like engaging in the latest fad on a whim– and Management failure like deliberate resistance. It’s very hard to remain on that treadmill….someone’s got to steer to the right track. I’ve always held that if everyone on the Team doesn’t experience the Win, that’s at the crux of the problem: there’s no understanding of the Team rising, or falling, together. I’d prefer to rise. 🙂
Exactly, Mary. WIIFM and WIIFY (you) and WIIFU (us). I’ve noticed that people engage more fully and buy-in more deeply when they see a win for themselves and others. (Funny how that works)
Managers need to be open to the leader’s message and business reasons as to why some things need to change.
Leaders need to be open to the manager’s message and reasons as to why some things should not change.
Both need to agree–too much change is as bad as too little change. Finding the right amount of change to pursue and implement is critical.
Thanks Paul. Change is often at the heart of tension between managers and leaders. One factor to address is how do we continue to meet expectation and change processes, for example.
This should be part of the conversation, rather than simply saying, “Deal with it.” Or, “Make it happen.”
When change happens, things get worse before they get better. People have to learn new ways of doing things.
The sermon on the day after my husband unexpectedly passed away in May centered on “How Can I Help You Win Today”. That phrase has become a touchstone for my kids and me as we navigate this new reality. You never know when one of us will text that phrase, but it’s always uplifting to receive. The HCIHYWT attitude has begun creeping into my work life, so I was happy to see it in this and recent other leadership posts. Together we can make it! Thanks, Dan, for your work!
Wow! Thanks for sharing your story. I’ve decided to modify the standard phrase, “How can I help?” to “How can I help you win today?” 🙂
Perhaps we could say, “How can we win?” Or, “How can I help US win?” Depending on the context.
This one is going in my toolbox. Thanks Dan, really fantastic read this morning! Anything with questions that can help me facilitate and guide conversation concerning relationships and culture is very beneficial for my line of work.
Thanks Frank. Feedback like this helps me craft useful content. Best wishes for the future.
Dan, I sometimes think that if “corporate culture” grew on a Petri dish, it would have been autoclaved and irradiated for the safety of the human race!
To anyone who approaches me, whether they’re above or below me, I ask the same thing “What’s the goal? How I can I help meet it?”
The way to have strong relationships in work is for all parties to be clear about the aims, and be clear about what they can bring to the table.
Thanks Mitch. Brilliant. I especially love the idea you suggest at the end, “be clear about what they can bring to the table.”
#4 managers with dirty hands resent leaders with clean hands, leaders with dirty hands really resent managers with clean hands.
Addition to #7- compassionate patience
Thanks Dan. You rounded out the dirty hands statement. Much appreciated.
“Keep your nose clean and your hands to the grind” comes to mind, not sure why?
Dirty is dirty, so everyone needs to be clean, “Share the ball” don’t keep it to yourself.
Corporate can be full of ‘door blocks” ,need to learn to keep doors open so all sides win.
Thanks Tim. During these cold winter days in central PA you have to pay attention to keeping your nose clean.
Your first sentence seems to say be a good person and work hard.
Yes, be a good person work hard, you shall be rewarded someday! Learn patience!