Conflict management

Conflict management is one of the more difficult areas of our lives. Being bombarded by marketing messages mainly pointed at satisfying our needs or the search for individual happiness, we have allowed ourselves to be stressed about the needs of others or the world. Needs of others or the world became, ‘yes, but’ rather than ‘yes and’ in our language. Note the deliberate lack of a dividing comma in the former.

It is very much the same in leadership or managerial practice.

I have recently read a book and performed a few of the individual and group exercises written up in it. The book is: Nonviolent Communication Companion Workbook (Nonviolent Communication Guides) by Lucy Leu. I would like to share a few learnings from that experience today.

source: amazon.com

As managers and leaders we are trained to achieve a result. On the other hand we are supervising employees, who we need to convince on helping to achieve this result. Inevitably, this leads to some degree of conflict, when we the goals, expectations and results do not match. These conflicts might be any of employee-supervisor, employee-employee, supervisor-company or employee-company. The first lesson I have learned by applying the non violent communication to help achieve a result is … things take time.

Following Stephen Covey, who is one of the guru’s in terms of effectiveness: I learned that things take time because you first need to build a credit line for the rush times. A lot of leaders, who are longer in their positions, will be able to provide more short term great results, because they have built the credibility and trust credit line before things required an urgent action. They just utilize it, when a stronger push for a result is required.

Most of my time, as much as it is allowed, is spent on building that credit line. I have written a post about how to proceed with it, which is in line with what the book by Lucy states here.

The second thing I learned from the NVC book (which I am still working hard to learn) is to encourage people to take responsibility for their feedback and actions. And to encourage them to speak up freely. You can never build a very strong team, if people just continue to affirm expectations of others, or worse – of just the leader. Such a team will fall apart quickly and inevitably, when the leader leaves. It might also not wither more challenging times. It is imperative to allow everyone their space and help them to express themselves better. Even if what they say or initially do, is not to the liking of the leader.

And the third thing I learned. The ‘and’ is intentional here. Is helping others to try again and give it another chance, with an adjusted attitude, even if the few initial tries had failed. Building healthy and productive relationships takes time (as mentioned above). It’s like learning to sculpt or play a musical instrument. Multiple attempts will fail, just because we are re-learning (in contradiction to what most of product adverts teaches us) it’s not just about us. It’s about me, the other person and the world we both live in.

I’d highly recommend the book.


On the last note, I just wanted to repeat, what I believe to be the true and most important qualities of a good leader or a manager:

  • centering/opening attention
  • deep listening/proper naming
  • being touched by/touching
  • challenging/accepting
  • connecting with resources and traditions
  • developing multiple frames/practicing behavioral skills
  • cultivating fierceness, tenderness, and playfulness

And to remind, that the result is an outcome of the above, not the focus or goal in itself.

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