Disagreements are a dime a dozen. Productive resolutions – or shall I say, resolutioners – to engineer the creative solves to those disagreements, however, are harder to come by.
Yet, as leaders, we lean all the way into the hard things that others retreat from or resign themselves to.
We rise to the messy occasion with intellectual curiosity rather than sink to the common crutches of complaining or avoidance cop-outs. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t be leaders.
When conflict, dispute, or contention inevitably rears its head, we have a choice to make. We can travel the path that’s easier in the short term.
This looks like trying to “win” the debate, protecting your ego, villianizing the other side, or just avoiding the problem area altogether.
While this might pacify problems in the short term, it allows issues to fester and grow to an eventual breaking point – fractured trust, splintered alignment, lost composure leading to outbursts that can cause long term personal brand damage.
Bluntly, this approach to conflict is for the average. This is the way of mediocrity. This is not you.
So what’s the alternative?
Maxime Lagacé said, “Curiosity and questions will get you further than confidence and answers.”
When we lead with curiosity, we see conflict as a classroom, not a boxing ring.
It’s a place to learn, not a place to fight to be right.
Curiosity allows us to gain altitude, rising above the circumstances and helping us to see things from a perspective that finally makes sense,even if we still don’t like what we see.
From this place, you can find the power to act as a brilliant, sophisticated, empathetic problem solver and sensible strategist. These curious-cats are common ground builders which makes them the go-to, stand-out influencers in any sphere.
Here are a few ninja-level nuggets of advice to keep in mind when approaching conflict:
1.Emotions are not intelligent.
So often, emotions tell us captivating stories about our circumstances, and those involved, which leads to judgments and entrenched opinions.
Judgement, however factual it may be/seem, is always the period at the end of the sentence of any situation, bringing our learning and progress to a halt.
Where as choosing curiosity acts as a semi-colon, enabling us to continue the conversation, further the lines of dialogue, and eventually resolve the dispute in a way tha tbuilds a new highway for future collaborations to run on.
When we indulge in our own emotion-stories, it inhibits our ability to see, think, and hear accurately which are imperative to being a world-class leader, coach, and strategist.
Emotions are simply information to cause you to reflect, not react.The most valuable kind of emotional information to pay attention to is that of the other person(s) state of mind on the matter. This is the place where you will find common ground.
2.Do your homework.
It is your due-diligence duty to genuinely research other people’s positions and perspectives. Assume nothing. Enter in with an exploratory mindset – what do I need to know that will help me see what they’re seeing?
Know the other side(s) of the story so well that you could argue on their behalf if you needed to. Walk a mile in their shoes, because when you get back, you’ll see more clearly where each of your roads are now and how to bridge them together.
3.Options are a secret weapon.
Learn to let go of the single-track mind that we so often get into. There are usually a dozen “right” ways to get something done. Let go of old paradigms that divide you to embrace what is. Conflicts are often multiple-choice tests.
Present and work through various options when disagreements or stalemates happen, and find a path forward that meets the ultimate objective you all share in common. When we are more concerned with orchestrating collective progress rather than winning or sidestepping the obstacle, common ground will appear.
4.Disagreements are predictable.
Always anticipate conflict. Predict what you don’t want to see happen and engineer your plan (and pre-plan) accordingly.
Humans are tangled creatures. Lots of hands on deck means lots of people who want to be heard. And some will find ways to make noise just to know they have a voice.
It’s going to happen so don’t get caught in reactionary(emotion) mode. Plan well for a battle to find common ground.
From your research, boldly state the concerns, objections, and desires of those on the “other side” right up front, and share how coming to understand those valuable points of view helped you further enhance and optimize your thinking.
You might just find that your curiosity has paid off in helping you speak the native language of all your stakeholders – a built-in advantage towards lasting common ground.It’s time to convert conflicts into conversations. Let’s suspend our egos, fire our emotionalism, and lead with curiosity. In this, everyone gets to be a part of the win.
For more learning on this topic, click here for two great reads: