It is impossible to truly separate oneself from all the political conversations, analyses, and disagreements currently happening in our culture. It is everywhere. You read in it in your social media threads, view it in news articles, hear it on the radio heading into work, and hear snippets of it in others’ conversations as you move through your day. It can be distracting and draining.
Some leaders take the “head down” approach and ignore it all. To be clear, leaders should not engage in political conversations at work or outside of work with their employees. Yet, paying attention to political discourse can reveal significant conflict management tools that will help your team during their own stress and tension. This is live-action analysis of how conflict can be handled for best outcomes or how it can be disastrous when others are stuck.
Difficulties are meant to rouse, not discourage. The human spirit is to grow strong by conflict.
– William Ellery Channing, Unitarian Preacher
Here are three lessons that can immediately shift your team’s conflict savviness:
What is Happening in Politics: Messaging occurs without facts to support it.
Lesson: Take a high-level view of the conflict and support it with facts that can be tested and verified.
Teach your team to review their viewpoints and opinions for accuracy and reliability. Have them ask themselves these questions, “What supports this opinion?” “What refutes this opinion?”, “What other way could someone interpret this?”, “How can I test this viewpoint before stating it?”, “What other variables could make this conflict dissipate other than the one I am focused on?” The point of this tool is to drive a more panoramic view of the conflict and to look at it from different angles. The result for your team is a strengthened analysis muscle. They will focus less on stating opinions and spend more time analyzing their thoughts from different vantage points.
Listen first. Give your opponents a chance to talk. Let them finish. Do not resist, defend or debate. This only raises barriers. Try to build bridges of understanding.
- Dale Carnegie, Writer & Lecturer
What is Happening in Politics: The faster the better – drive quickly through conflict.
Lesson: Most conflict benefits from slowing down and making sure the other party is truly heard.
Conflict is messy and uncomfortable. Your team may respond to it by getting through it quickly because of the profound “yuck” factor. Teach them to slow down so they can “hear” each other better. They need to ask one simple question: “This is what I heard. Is this what you meant?” Your team needs to strengthen the art of checking that they “hear” what is being stated. The other party will feel understood and ready for a deeper discussion.
There are two ways of meeting difficulties: You alter the difficulties or you alter yourself meeting them .
- Phyllis Bottome, Novelist
What is Happening in Politics: There is only one right side.
Lesson: Delve into the other side’s viewpoint – What do they think? What is their perspective? What motivates them?
Too often, when in conflict, team members can only experience their side of it. They look at the conflict from the lens of what seems important to “them” and what will make “them” the winner. Teach your team that all conflict has an “other” perspective that is worth understanding. Ask them questions such as, “Why do you think they need the conflict resolved this way?” “What motivates them?” “How do you think they are experiencing what is happening?” There is tremendous value when your team looks at the conflict from others’ points-of-view. Creative and innovative solutions can be generated.
The Law of Win/Win says, “Let’s not do it your way or my way; let’s do it the best way” .
- Greg Anderson, Author
Conflicts can certainly be unpleasant and make people feel ill-at-ease. As all the political disagreements are demonstrating, conflict can bring out the worst in people. This can happen to your team also. They get stuck in being right, focus on what works for them only, and miss opportunities to view the conflict from different angles that can produce fresh and interesting solutions.
Your role as their leader is to teach them how to question and verify their perspective, to value others’ perspectives, and to use this understanding to generate better solutions.
Phyllis Reagin, High Performance Strategist and Executive Coach with CSRH Consulting, guides senior leaders and high-potentials with mastering their leadership. To receive bi-monthly blogs that examine leadership lessons from the entertainment, business, and political worlds, join At The Coach's Table blog.