The Press Announcement
My wife and I love a good fight. Research shows that how often parents argue has no bearing on their Children’s academic, social or emotional development. What matters is how respectfully parents argue, not the frequency.
When I took up my current role about two months ago, one of my most important and urgent tasks was to form a team that I would work with. Naturally, as I was taking up a role previously held jointly by two people, and involving multiple teams, seeking their (previous officeholders) advice and review of the current team members were inevitable.
Eventually, I had to make the tough decisions of who to include and whom not to include in my team; some didn’t take it well and took their exclusion as a personal vendetta and attack on them. The truth is, I too would be hurt if, as a salesperson, the Accounts I have worked on over the years were to be taken away and redistributed. With one particular individual, let us call them Hawi, the conflict escalated to the extent of Hawi attacking my character as a person. Making allegations that were not true made me question how I handled the situation and Think Again. We had and still do have a relationship conflict.
There are two types of conflict; Task Conflict and Relationship Conflict. As the names suggest, task conflicts revolve around ideas and opinions, whereas relationship conflicts mostly Centre on characters, values, emotions, etc.
A meta-analysis (which is the study of studies) of various studies show that relationship conflicts, unlike task conflicts, are generally bad for performance. However, objective task conflicts can be beneficial in the long run. The absence of conflict is not harmony, it is apathy, and for leaders, those who do not listen will eventually be surrounded by people who have nothing to say (remember the story of the naked King?).
The Ring: Tense but Secure
Psychologist Robert Albert says this “ The creative person-to-be comes from a family that is anything but harmonious, one with a wobble.” These families or organizations aren’t physically or verbally abusive, but they don’t shy away from conflict either. Instead, people are encouraged to stand up for themselves and learn to dish it out with respect and consideration and take it with grace and humility. They are “Tense but Secure”
Round 1: Confident Humility
To be able to Think, we must risk being offensive. However, to learn, individuals must attain what Adam Grant calls Confident humility.
The ability to have faith in our capabilities but at the same time appreciate that we don’t always have the right solution and may not even be addressing the right problem. This dichotomy gives us the ability to hold enough doubt on our status quo and confidence to pursue new knowledge and insights.
For Leaders, it is being able to have faith in our strengths – Confidence and being keenly aware of our weaknesses or limitations – Humility.
Last Round – Final Word
As I try to find a way to resolve my current Relationship conflict, I am travelling on this path fully aware and constantly learning about my limitations. I would like both my team and I to have the courage to put up a Great fight for our ideas and the resilience to lose a fight/disagreement without losing our tenacity and trust in each other.
I don’t want a team where my most passionate people become quiet because they don’t feel safe to speak; I don’t want to be the naked King. I want to grow a team and an organization at large where individuals are not only happy to discover that they were wrong (like I have discovered looking back at how I handled the relationship conflict) but also learn from the discovery.
Key Ref: Think Again, Adam Grant, On Conflict, HBR