December, 2014

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Turning conflicts into opportunities

Conflict_pointingConflict is not new. It has been with us since the beginning of our history. What is more? It will continue to be with us in the future. That is why we should better accustom to it and know how to turn each conflict into an opportunity.

Organizations that don’t have mechanisms to handle conflicts appropriately, they suffer the consequences of their negligence. These companies, rather than tapping into the opportunities conflict presents; they bleed daily because they haven’t acknowledged the importance of conflict, and also failed to deal with it smartly. This shouldn’t happen to your organization.

The million dollar question is “How can we turn conflicts into opportunities”? There is no one-size-fit-all suggestion. Conflicts differ from circumstance to circumstance, from organization to organization. And there are so many factors playing that it is unfair to prescribe blanket solutions to all conflicts.

One thing, however, is pretty clear. The lion share responsibility rests on the leadership. The latter should invest on conflict management. Here are some of the tasks you should engage with to play your share in managing conflict:

  1. Raise the awareness of your people. Don’t assume that everybody understands conflict. Most importantly, many people may not know how to prevent and manage conflict. As a leader, you should give some scenarios to explain to your people the nature of conflict that may occur in your organization. You may also need to arrange trainings, mentoring, and coaching to empower your people in managing conflict.

 

  1. Create mechanisms to prevent conflict. Conflicts could be averted before they cause serious damages. Conflict arises when things aren’t clear. If your mission, vision, values, programs, strategies, and so on aren’t clear to your people, chances are high that they may find themselves having conflicts of interest and priority.
  1. Once it happens, put in place channels to manage conflict. Here is where you turn each conflict into opportunity. Even if the previous two approaches may reduce and mitigate the prevalence of conflicts in your organization, it is impossible to completely avoid conflicts. You cannot create a conflict free organization. You should rather put in place channels to turn each conflict into an opportunity.

Let’s stop it here for now. We will continue to blog about this theme. We will cover topics like: Some general facts about conflict, Understanding your conflict modes, How to mitigate the impact of conflict, and so on.

Stay tune.

Earning the trust of others take time and consistency

trustA couple of weeks ago, some friends called and shared with me a change of heart of a leader who has been against working together. They said that this particular leader has been undermining other leaders in the metro area, whom he thought are competing with his organization. They added that, for many years, many leaders tried to convince him reconcile with his rivals but he refused.

Suddenly, he publicly admitted that he was wrong, and now he seeks reconciliation, and unity of purpose. What is more, he took an initiative to contact leaders he have had issues in the past, and arranged a conference in a hotel. The purpose of the conference was to let bygones be bygones, and work together from now onward.

My friends had been wishing this division among the local leaders resolved long time ago. Now, they got it but they doubted whether he meant it. They said they would wait and see before they jump ship. My friends’ hesitation prompted me to further invest time to figure out what is going on. I believed that, first; I’ll learn some lessons. Second, as a leadership expert, I thought, I’ll share whatever lessons I will get from this story to my mentees. That was why I decided to contact a couple of other leaders who are familiar with the issue (some of whom have very close involvement with the case), and got the same kinds of reactions.

All of the leaders that I contacted are happy that this leader admitted of his wrong doings, and pledged to change course. Nonetheless, they have some reservations. They wondered whether this is just a stunt or for real. They wanted to see some fruits before they totally buy into the change of heart of this leader who has been known, for years, as a strong force against working together. It is very hard for them to quickly forget his hostility against them for decades.

The main lesson is that building trust takes time and my friends’ dilemma not to trust a change of heart of this particular leader right away is understandable. They need time. It is fair that they decided to wait and see until fruits that generate trust will back this change of heart. They want to see real changes first before they jump and join the wagon and consider this change of course of their counterpart authentic.

While I was reflecting on this story, and drafting this blog, I shared the following two statements on my social media accounts, and I would like to share them with you:

  • PROMISING, VOWING…cannot earn us trust. Trust can’t be generated overnight. No SHORT CUT! It takes DOING over a very long period of time.

 

  • It takes a fraction of the time it took us to generate and build to tear down the trust that we have developed over the years.

 

By the way, this issue has been a talk of town among my community. For his followers, he is known for his commitment to serve others for years. They consider him very humble, caring, visionary, and resilient. For many others, nonetheless, he is known for his animosity toward other leaders and organizations, and as a strong force against working together.

Of course, we may not cause a widespread conversation among our community when we turn a page in our life and organization. But, wherever we are in life, the people we influence- even if they may not be thousands, they need time to trust us.  This is especially true if we have a bad reputation in the past on that particular issue we are claiming we have changed.

The most important emphasis is that we cannot earn trust automatically even if we earnestly ask our people to trust us. We should earn it. Even if people would love to take us at our words, it takes time, consistent efforts, and making genuine changes before we reclaim and/or earn the trust of others. Trust comes when people know, really know, that we have their best interest in our heart.

The authors of ‘The Trusted Advisor’ David Maister and et al. noted, “There is no greater source of distrust than advisors who appear to be more interested in themselves than in trying to be of service to the client.  We must work hard to show that our self-orientation is under control.” Trust isn’t only needed from an advisor but also from leaders like you and me. And this is our duty to demonstrate to the people we influence that we are genuinely interested in serving their needs and aspirations. Otherwise, they will be led to second guess every move we make thinking that we say what we say and do what we do to serve our own needs and priorities.

In the above story, some people doubted the change of heart of the leader because they are not yet sure whether he has their (all parties involved) best interest in his heart as he takes this road of reconciliation and unity.

Therefore, this is leaders’ duty to go out and deliberately earn trust by doing, not by vowing, promising, and talking- by demonstrating that they have the best interest of others in their deepest heart.

Hope, this article inspires you to further hold the importance of TRUST high as you lead your family, organization, business, other relationships, etc.