In this episode, I want to talk about the third mistake companies make when it comes to strategy execution, and that is avoiding conflict.
Conflict avoidance is something we see in a lot of places. It’s pretty natural to want to avoid conflict. We really value harmony. We want there to be good working relationships with people, and that conflict can kind of feel bad, and perhaps disrupt the harmony. But if you’re avoiding conflict for the sake of harmony, you end up with kind of a false harmony, if you will, because what’s really going on is you’ve avoided this conflict, and this conflict hasn’t gone away. So, it’s just been kind of put into the background, and eventually it’s going to re-emerge when the organization tries to do something to make decisions, and if this conflict hasn’t gone away, then you end up in a situation where the organization is just going to face this conflict over, and over, and over again.
You have to really prioritize clarity over harmony. And that means working through conflict in a way that gets people on the same page. And this is an important part of the alignment process.
If you have conflict that’s in there, you don’t have alignment. This can be very difficult, and it’s something people want to avoid.
What I have found is that people always often assume conflict or disagreement is somehow personal, or they don’t like me, and in some cases there are the situations where it’s a power play. But often what’s going on is we might, there could be two reasons, or I guess three reasons we’re disagreeing.
One, we don’t agree on the end goal. And that’s infrequent, actually. People really do want their companies to be successful because that will help them be successful. So they may have some differences in the shape of what that success looks like. But, that’s the first place to start is to get alignment on the end goal and make sure that that’s not the source of the conflict.
The second place, that’s more common, and this is the one I find to be the most common place of conflict, is that we have a different perspective on how to get to that end goal. And that’s because we have this different perspective because we have different assumptions about how the organization’s going to react, how the world works, how customers will react. There’s a whole set of unstated assumptions that drive our beliefs about how something works. And I have one set of assumptions and set one of beliefs, and you may have a different set of assumptions and a different set of beliefs, and that could lead us to believing that, I might believe that this is the right way to do it and you might believe that that’s the right way to do it. And this and that aren’t compatible with each other. But if you actually start to peel back the onion to understand that underlying beliefs about why it won’t work and what the issues are and what the underlying assumptions are, you can often find a way of actually reconciling those two things so that we can achieve. Perhaps, say if the conflict was one of safety. Maybe there’s a way to do the way we were describing of doing it, but adding in an element or a set of ways to mitigate any safety risks. Understanding the two sides, understanding the risks that are perceived and how you close those risks off in mitigation, through mitigation methods, can help get more alignment and help conflict get resolved inside of the organization.
And it ultimately, the third way can actually be the issues is one where it’s a power play or it’s somebody who’s a bad actor in the organization. In that case, the only way to deal with it is to actually remove that person from the organization. Even they’re a high performer, if people are acting in a way that’s again the interest of the company, you don’t really have much choice.
To the extent that you still can’t get conflict to be resolved in that, it’s important for whoever’s leading the organization to make a decision and ask the team to commit to living with that decision. Again, even if it means someone leaving, it’s more important to get their commitment and buy-in that you understand they may disagree, but here’s the decision and you’re asking for their commitment to get behind it and get on board and get on with it. And that is a very important way of actually resolving conflict in the end, to extent you have conflicts that are fundamental, that can’t be resolved in any other way.
I hope this podcast has been useful and helpful to you in your work. My name is Alex Nesbitt, I’ll see you on the next podcast.