Got conflict? Resolve it with this simple method.

Blog | November 17, 2020

At your level, as a leader, the ability to successfully influence and collaborate with people with whom you might not always agree is crucial.

I get that, Rachel, you might be thinking. But what do I actually do when I’m railroaded at meetings, or when a direct report hijacks my most important project and takes it upon themselves to ‘take the lead’?

As a coach to tech leaders, I’ve heard stories like these, and more, as well as experienced them in my own business and when I was in-house.

And appreciating these difficult personalities as whole leaders, seeing the positive they bring to the table, is next to impossible when you really can’t stand someone.

So how do we deal with people who trigger us? AND keep our sanity? 

Avoiding the issue is not an option; the problem is, we get riled up by this colleague, and it gets in the way of our work.

Here is one of the most effective methods for defusing conflict we share at MettaWorks, when facilitating or mediating interpersonal disputes such as these.

Grab a pen (or keyboard or fave implement) and write “I” statements from the perspective of your arch-nemesis (or as I like to say “my not best friend”), whoever they may be. Like a Mad Libs for interoffice warfare, fill in the blank for phrases like:

> What is most important to me is ________________________.

> I’m most afraid of ___________________________.

> I wish that ____________________________.

Again, you’re writing from the POV of your difficult colleague. It sounds simple, but without fail, the results are profound.

For a moment, you walk in another person’s shoes. It’s an instant emotional intelligence booster. 

The relationship hasn’t changed, the person’s behavior hasn’t changed, but you now have a deeper level of empathy.

An example of such dynamics can be found with a recent client:

Tech leader: “My VP is a sell-out. He’s not being honest. He knows the company line is bullsh*t and here he is parroting it anyway.”

After applying this shift to their manager’s perspective, we’ll hear revelations like:

Oh… This guy is under so much pressure from above.”

“They feel really threatened because the organization hasn’t set them up for success.”

Suddenly, it becomes obvious that their VP is human, and dealing with his own stressors and motivations. Such understanding provides this tech leader clarity on how to interact with this individual while also mitigating the interpersonal emotional charge.

The next time a conflict comes up for you at work, or between team members, try this method.

In a “perfect” world, many of us would prefer there be no conflict—but in reality, as leaders, we need colleagues and team members who offer different perspectives from our own to better serve the overall organization, even if that means that sometimes we butt heads with executives we then call “difficult.” 

(You, yourself, at one time or another, you may have been the target of that word!)

If you’ve been stuck at an impasse with a tough colleague, just know there IS a way out of it. We can help. Explore how by scheduling a complimentary discovery call with one of our coaches.

Rachel Rider
Executive Coach, Leadership Consultant