Stop Avoiding and Start Leading

by Jun 17, 2022

Based on our episode, Stop Avoiding and Start Leading with Marlene Chism

People think that conflict is a problem. In fact, conflict is not the problem. The mismanagement of conflict is the problem.

We all mismanage conflict because we don’t really learn how to do it well. Unless our parents are amazing at managing conflict, most of us don’t have that.

The reasons that we mismanage conflict has to do with two things:

  • Outer Game

Normally, if you don’t have the skills, you take courses on LinkedIn, go to college, take a workshop or a full day retreat. We think we’re going to build skills, but it’s not just that. There’s this outer game that we play that we learn the skill sets for.

  • Inner Game

It is being able to expand your capacity. If somebody says something really sarcastic, the ability not to hold back because you did not want to buy into that energy is your inner game.

Show up in a way that defines your leadership and, when necessary, use that one tool, but don’t overuse it. So, it’s only the inner game and outer game. Then for us leaders, it’s culture as well, because if the culture does not support that, you are going to struggle regardless of your inner and outer game.

One of the reasons bullying thrives is that the leader or whoever is in charge of that person is really avoiding stepping in, and there are all sorts of reasons some people are uncomfortable.

Convince leaders to care about this as an interpersonal skill:

Leaders really need to want it because they’ve experienced enough pain in damaging their relationships, whether that’s through several divorces, losing jobs, or whether that’s through “I want to be a different person but I can’t find out how to align myself with that.”

People do what they do because it works for someone. If they don’t want to change, and you’re not going to change that person, it has to stop working for them in some way. So the way that it would stop working is if in the culture, the upper leadership said “These are our values.” It won’t work. If you just hope they change and go, “Yeah, we’ve got these values but they’re really a high performer,” it’s not going to change because that’s cultural. So, as long as things work for someone, whether that’s through their value system or through manipulation and control, people do what they do because it works. We’re all going to face a time in our lives where we’re going to have an awakening and realize we’re only here for a short time. 

Competence is what’s driving that behavior. Either they’re scared of looking incompetent or they’ve been told their whole life they’re very competent. So, they’re really striving for that.

Can competence and conflict tend to be somewhat related? 

It relates to their identity as well as their willingness to be open. Nothing changes until someone’s willingness is the fulcrum point of change. If someone does not want to change and they have a belief and an identity, that is how it is. 

Having a high-conflict employee who is overly sarcastic or always arguing with others, even after you’ve asked them to stop thousands of times, happens. It means you’ve allowed the conversation or the behavior 999 times. You have to do it as quickly as you can because people’s behavior is so subconscious that we don’t know that we do it.

We want to understand how people are perceiving us. We want to match our intention with the way we’re seeing it. Feedback is valuable and we don’t see ourselves as others too. However, as a leader, we can state what we observed in their behavior and ask them if they agree.

Feel free to bring that forward to a meeting and have people go do that even in the moment. Say something like, “Hey, I didn’t want to catch you off guard, but I’ve noticed that a couple of times. Start changing that behavior. If you want to talk about it, I’m open. I want to hear your opinions that start changing that behavior. ” People will almost always say that you’re just too sensitive or that you just perceive something. Let them off the hook. When people are in denial, they go right into persecutor or victim mode. So they have to have time to process it. If we really want to help people, it’s not about pretending it didn’t happen, but it’s also not about beating them with the bad ball either.

Say things like, “I noticed a couple of times when I brought something up, you rolled your eyes and crossed your arms. Now, the story that I’m telling myself is that you disagree but you don’t want to bring it up because what I’m saying is my interpretation, but I’m also leaving space for you to say ‘that’s not true.’” 

If someone’s really in integrity, they’ll go, “Wow, thanks for bringing that up.” I guess I do disagree, but I’ll be honest, it’s even hard as I studied this for me to be that much in integrity at every moment.” 

We’re so in our subconscious patterns that until we have had time to process the way someone else perceives us, it can be really shocking and we can feel hurt and misunderstood. People are scared because it’s scary to be misunderstood in today’s time. It’s pretty volatile out there. We’re all learning right now, so it’s painful sometimes, but if you’re open to it, then you realize this is an opportunity for you to learn.

Difference between emotional intelligence or emotional awareness:

Emotional intelligence is the capacity to be aware of control, express one’s emotions, and handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathically. You have to have emotional awareness first of all to have either one of those. You’ve got to be aware of what’s going on in your body and how that translates into feelings. But emotional integrity means that you don’t pretend you feel something when you don’t. You can manage it and you can let people think that it doesn’t bother you. Emotional integrity is going a whole step further to say, you can only be as honest as your own level of awareness.

You must take responsibility for the only thing you can really take responsibility for, and that’s your inner landscape. Consider the possibility of your feelings. We must teach ourselves to be brutally honest with ourselves. Recognizing this can be painful, but it is for the best. It has to do with maturity and wisdom. Facing the dark side is the important part.

Even though there are hidden resentments and then someone that you have resentment against comes to you with a problem, it would be so easy to use that weakness to let them know that they’re not all that in a bag of chips. It’s knowing how you want to live and feeling such a responsibility. You must believe in yourself and understand that you’re still human too. Is it just a game with your identity to say you can shape yourself to be that person, or are you at the mercy of your emotions and desires?

Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” – Viktor Frankl

About Catherine Mattice

Catherine Mattice, MA, SPHR, SHRM-SCP is President of consulting and training firm, Civility Partners, and has been successfully providing programs in workplace bullying and building positive workplaces since 2007. Her clients include Fortune 500’s, the military, several universities and hospitals, government agencies, small businesses and nonprofits. She has published in a variety of trade magazines and has appeared several times on NPR, FOX, NBC, and ABC as an expert, as well as in USA Today, Inc Magazine, Huffington Post, Entrepreneur Magazine, and more. Catherine is Past-President of the Association for Talent Development (ATD), San Diego Chapter and teaches at National University. In his book foreword, Ken Blanchard called her book, BACK OFF! Your Kick-Ass Guide to Ending Bullying at Work, “the most comprehensive and valuable handbook on the topic.” She recently released a second book entitled, SEEKING CIVILITY: How Leaders, Managers and HR Can Create a Workplace Free of Bullying.

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