Thanksgiving and Leadership
During Thanksgiving it is a time to stop and reflect on all the things that you are thankful for as a leader. As you look back on the year and open up your heart to the wisdom which has developed over the year - what are you most thankful for? What has been the most valuable lessons for you thus far? How can you lean into all of the positive expressions of leadership and appreciate how far you have come?
In leadership we are often looking forward, anticipating things, looking for ways to create the next big opportunity and yet at this time of year it is important to look backwards and also celebrate how far you have come. What are you grateful for? What are you celebrating this year? How can you create a habit of celebrating the moments as they arise?
Happy Thanksgiving to you all!
Often we want to avoid conflict. It his hard, it can be emotional, it may bring up topics that we are not wanting or ready to face. And yet it can lead to deep transformation of partnerships, relationships, and groups for it pushes us to truly get to the root of issues, face deeply held emotions, and truly move through to build harmony.
How do you face conflict if you typically want to avoid it? It takes practice, shifting a habit which is ingrained can take time. First notice that you are avoiding the conflict and notice how that is impacting your relationships, your interactions, your ability to course correct if things are not going properly. In fact it dealing with the conflict and/or the emotion that you are avoiding will move you through to letting it go, bringing forth what is honest and true for you, and no longer take things so sensitively. There may be misinterpretations and/or lack of understanding which if talked about can be resolved.
The second step is to begin to lean into bringing up issues and discussing them in a non-emotional way. It is through honest communications that both parties can feel safe and authentic and truly discuss an issue that may have arisen. If both parties are invested in the relationship they will want to work through it. Third, keep doing it. The more you practice and work through issues the stronger the foundation of the relationship becomes. It creates trust, authenticity, and the value of communications is given its true test.
Lean in and speak your truth in a way that the other person can hear (e.g. - in a kind, open, and centered way). Then true communications can develop. What can you do to begin to stop avoiding conflict?
Do you ever find that you are cycling on issues with your partner, with a colleague, or in an organization? Do you feel like you are arguing about the same things? It is often the sign of lack of trust in the relationship and/or lack of understanding the other side. As Steven Covey says in his Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, "Seek first to understand before being understood."
People need to feel deeply listened to, paid attention to, as then psychologically they can relax with you. It takes work to truly listen to someone and to pay attention to their deep thoughts, emotions, or even fears for it can be scary to hear that much authenticity or take that much time to truly go deep with that person. But in the long run it builds trust, shows caring and understanding, and eventually develops a strong emotional bank account. Through that strong emotional bank account you can then seek to be understood as well. The other person then will also want to reciprocate, pay attention, and truly step up to build that emotional bank account with you as well.
At the end of the day trust is the foundation of any good relationship whether personal or professional. Do you have trust in your relationships? If not what can you do to truly listen to people and make them feel safe with you?
Conflict in an organization can often be challenging, and yet if handled well, can be enhance the health of the organization. Conflict is unavoidable as people will have differing opinions and styles, however, when conflict is resolved effectively it can actually enhance group dynamics, work environments, and the transparency/honest levels within an organization.
Leaders often have different styles of operating during conflict. Two researchers in the 1970s created a tool called the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI) which identified five different styles of dealing with conflict. The instrument says that people typically fall into one of these styles, however, it is often best to use varying styles depending on the situation. The styles are:
Competitive: Leaders who use this often know what they want and go for it. They often work from a position of power either by position, expertise, or ability to persuade. This style can be useful in emergencies or urgent situations, but can often leave people feeling resentful or hurt in non-urgent times.
Collaborative: People who use this style try to meet the needs of all involved. They can also be assertive, however, recognize that everyone is important. This style is most effective when a leader needs to bring together a variety of viewpoints, when there has been previous conflict, and/or when the situation is important to have input into.
Compromising: People who use this style try to find a solution that takes into account everyone's needs partially. This is useful when the cost of conflict is higher than losing some ground, when there is a deadline looming, and/or when those with equal strengths cannot come to a conclusion.
Accommodating: People who are accommodating often surrender their own needs for those of others. They can often be persuaded to surrender their position even when they don't need to. This person is not assertive, but highly cooperative. This can a good style when the issue is more important to the other, when peace is more important, and/or when you want to be able to collect on a favor later. Sometimes however people do not reciprocate and this approach is not the one to give the best outcome.
Avoiding: These people avoid conflict entirely. They often delegate decisions which are controversial or accept default decisions so as not to hurt other people's feelings. It can be useful if victory is not possible, when the issue is not that important, and/or if someone is in a better position to solve it. But typically this can be an ineffective approach.
Which style are you? Do you use different styles in different situations or do you have a default style? Is your style effective?
Monica Thakrar has over 18 years experience in business focused mainly on strategy, change management, leadership development, training and coaching resulting in successful implementations of large scale transformation programs.