Max Dupree once said that the responsibility of a leader is to define reality. Reality includes speaking the truth. Part of the problems with leaders and their teams is that no one wants to “hurt anyone’s feelings,” or “step on anyone’s toes,” or create conflict. In our society today we are conflict-phobic. We are afraid of creating conflict, not knowing that progress is stifled when we try to avoid conflict.
According to Wikipedia, conflict is “when two or more parties, with perceived incompatible goals, seek to undermine each other's goal-seeking capability”. The word to focus on here is “undermine.” In speaking our truth, the goal here is not to undermine, but to lay all the cards on the table and come to a mutual agreement. If I have been wronged or offended in some way, I must speak my truth about this injustice, so that resolution can happen and then back to business. I find it difficult to work on a team when I have experienced one of the players as not being a true team player. It is then my responsibility to right the wrong, so that we can move on.
The biggest problem we have about conflicts and the work around resolving them is that we have not been taught the language around resolving the conflict. We only know a language of aggression and anger, instead of a love and peace. We also must remember that when these conflicts arise, to not take them personally – even if they have our name on them. What I mean by this is that when a co-worker is not getting her needs met, then an altercation is likely to erupt. Of course, it will take the form of a work-related project. But it probably has nothing to do with you or the project, but your colleague’s own unmet needs. When she lashes out, know that this is not about you, but about something outside of you. You just happen to be in the line of fire. Start by asking some questions: “You know, we are on the same team. We both want the same outcome. Yet, I feel that you are needing something different. Can you tell me what that is?”
Yes, it will take time. Yes, it does seem touchy feely. Yes, it is about treating the other as other and not as object. Obviously, when a conflict arises, someone is hurting. Take the time to find out what the hurt is. This is also about building trust among the team and building a solid foundation for the future. Then, when a conflict arises in the future, it will be easier to resolve because trust has been cultivated.
To lead is to serve,