Be honest…do you run from conflict or hit it head on? Maybe you aspire to navigate conflict in a productive way but things still go sideways.
In this episode, host Tim Reitsma is joined by Marlene Chism—a seasoned speaker, coach, consultant, author, LinkedIn Learning Instructor, and an expert on the topic of conflict—to talk about a framework on how to navigate conflict.
- Marlene is a speaker, author, and consultant. She works with drama-free leaders who drive growth and reduce costly mistakes. [1:21]
- Marlene loves to work with leaders in organizations to create more aligned cultures.
- Marlene’s first book was called “Stop Workplace Drama“.
- Conflict is only increasing, and our best shot at reducing it is to work on our inner game as well as our skills.
- Marlene has courses on LinkedIn Learning.
Every big problem can almost always trace back to a conversation that should have happened but did not.Marlene Chism
- What’s at stake for mismanaging conflict as a leader.
- There are 3 different ways that leaders have dysfunctional behaviours. Marlene called it “the 3 A’s” — avoiding, appeasing, and aggression. [4:06]
- We typically assume the problem is something personally related to us. [5:08]
- You need to have an understanding of what’s going on below and above you.
- The conversations that should have happened lead to assumptions and personality issues.
- The root cause of conflict.
- In our minds, we define conflict without really clearly understanding what it is. [7:33]
- We define it as a war, a win-lose thing. As long as you see conflict like that, you will struggle.
- If you start to see conflict as opposing drives, desires, and demands, it makes you more curious.
- The more you grow, the bigger your conflicts because you have to grow into conflict capacity.
- People are afraid of the emotions that come up. We don’t know how to handle that queasy feeling, and then we’re going to ruminate. We hate that feeling. We don’t like the feelings that conflict brings up for us. We have coping methods to cover what we feel. [9:19]
- We don’t have the skills to know where to start and how to stay on track in a conversation that starts getting derailed. [10:18]
- In our minds, we define conflict without really clearly understanding what it is. [7:33]
- Some of the techniques to reduce resistance to conflict.
- First, clear up your inner conflict before you try to address something with someone else. There is no conflict unless there is first an inner conflict. Which means, you may need to talk with someone but you want them to like you. Address small things quicker and give people a chance to fix it. [11:52]
- Second, set up a strong intention. What’s the subject of the conversation? And how can you turn it into something positive? Set a positive, forward moving intention, not an intention about the past. And then hold the intention of the meeting. [13:09]
- Part of being a leader is making decisions that people aren’t going to agree with. You have to get to a place where you’re not about people-pleasing but rather alignment. [17:44]
- If you can let people be heard, and tell employees the truth of where they have power and where they don’t, that’ll help. [19:44]
- The relationship between workplace culture and conflict.
- It’s about increasing the conflict capacity and monitoring yourself and having someone observe you as a leader. [21:43]
If people are afraid of you, that might feel good to you, but that’s a lack of personal development.Marlene Chism
- Some leaders just fire people when there’s conflict. They can have some personal growth in that area. [23:12]
- There are a lot of yes people, which will lead to a lack of alignment and integrity. When we worship the leader more than we do the values, that creates a problem. [23:42]
- Things someone can do when dealing with conflict.
- Strive for leadership clarity first. Don’t go unprepared into a conversation. Set an intention & clean up your own energy, and view that person as another person on their own journey. Come in as equal people. [25:01]
- Achieve leadership clarity: the ability to articulate the situation (what is happening that should not be and vice versa), then identify the outcome you need, then you have two points of attraction (the boat and the island). Then, identify the obstacles (resources, skills, willingness, a person, a client, etc). What are the obstacles that will get in the way of reaching the outcome? [25:26]
- Don’t wing it. Don’t say “we’re all adults.” Get really clear on what the conversation looks like, and set up accountability. Without that, it’ll go back to old patterns. It’ll get really uncomfortable if you think it’s resolved and then it falls back into old patterns.
- The outcome will come through the conversation, not before. So you have to have the conversation and lead enough space to figure out what’s really going on.
- Every time you change your mind or get new information, when it affects other people – you have to close that loop. [29:12]
- If we agree that there is going to be a measurable or observable outcome, then you need to put it on your calendar that they’re going to check back in with you. If they don’t, it’s not a character flaw, it’s a skills issue. [29:21]
Meet Our Guest
Marlene Chism is a consultant, educator, and the author of Stop Workplace Drama and No-Drama Leadership.
She works with executives and business owners to improve leadership effectiveness and transform culture in the workplace.
As a speaker, Marlene attracts audiences from diverse industries, and her message of clarity, alignment, and personal responsibility inspires a global audience.
Her areas of expertise include leadership development, strategic communication skills, and stopping workplace drama. Her personal mission is to help people discover, develop and deliver their gifts to the world.
Anything that makes you afraid shows you where your capacity is.Marlene Chism
- Join the People Managing People community forum
- Subscribe to the newsletter to get our latest articles and podcasts
- Connect with Marlene on LinkedIn
- Check out Marlene’s website and books “Stop Workplace Drama”, “No-Drama Leadership”, and “From Conflict to Courage”
Related articles and podcasts:
- About the People Managing People podcast
- Prioritizing Conversations & Connections Will Build A Better World Of Work
- Navigating Conflict
- The Importance Of Data-Driven Decision Making
- Having Difficult Conversations Can Help Build A Better World Of Work
Read the Transcript:
We’re trying out transcribing our podcasts using a software program. Please forgive any typos as the bot isn’t correct 100% of the time.
Tim Reitsma: Welcome to the People Managing People Podcast. We're on a mission to build a better world of work and to help you create happy, healthy, and productive workplaces. I'm your host, Tim Reitsma!
Let me ask you this: do you run from conflict or do you hit it head on? Be honest. Maybe you aspire to navigate conflict in a productive way but things still go sideways.
In today's episode, you will learn practical insights on how to navigate conflict. Marlene Chism is a seasoned speaker, coach, consultant, author of four books, LinkedIn Learning Instructor, so I'd say she's an expert on the topic for today's episode.
Stay tuned to learn a framework on how to navigate conflict!
Marlene, welcome to the People Managing People podcast. Thanks for joining us today.
Marlene Chism: Thank you so much for having me, Tim.
Tim Reitsma: You know when I saw this forum come through our website, all about the topic of about how to move from conflict to courage as a leader. It just intrigued me because the world of work right now is full of conflict and I know leaders and managers are just getting beat up and are struggling.
And so this is a timely topic. We're gonna have a great conversation about this, but before we get into this, tell us a little bit about who you are and what's top of mind for you these days.
Marlene Chism: Wow. I'm a speaker, author, consultant, and my kind of water is wet statement is that I work with leaders that want to build drama-free cultures that drive growth and reduce costly mistakes.
So really everything is contained in that. And it can come out in my writing, it can come out as coaching or consulting or even training, virtual training. So we really just look at what are the problems, what are the outcomes you want, what are the obstacles? And then I design a program, whether that's a one and done, or whether it's a three-part training, or whether it's consulting in six months or a year.
So really, I just love to work with organizations and the leaders in those organizations that they can create a more aligned culture. What's top of mind for me is that, I think I've been seeing this coming for a long time. My first book was "Stop Workplace Drama", which was in 2010. Now we're into, you know, getting ready to go into 2023 and conflict is really only increasing.
And I think it's due to the speed at which we're operating covid, technology. We're losing some of our language in a way. We're changing things up and changing the rules. So we're in fast change and I've got this thing, this saying like as within, so without. And it's not my saying it, it's something that's been out there for a long time.
So we have to, what's top of mind for me is that conflict is going to increase and our best shot of reducing it is to really work on our inner game as well as just the skillsets.
Tim Reitsma: There's just so much impact into that about what's top of mind. And I love what you're about drama-free cultures. I think anybody who's listening to this is now going, Ooh, okay. I'm intrigued about how do you actually do this? And we're gonna get into that. We're gonna get there. And I also want to say, you know, a little plug for you is LinkedIn Learning. You've got a number of courses up there.
Now I said just before we, we hit the record button, I was going through the conflict management one and it is phenomenal. It's practical. It's insightful. So for anybody who's listening, we'll definitely be putting those links in the show notes. Go check that out as well.
Marlene Chism: Thank you.
Tim Reitsma: So we're talking about conflict and courage as leaders, but I think we need to start at kind of the foundation.
What is at stake for mismanaging conflict?
Marlene Chism: In a nutshell, I can say that every big, big problem — every big blow up, every lawsuit, every EEOC complaint, whatever it is that's showing up in your organization, whatever it is, that's huge. It's big, it's bothersome. You're losing people. There's absenteeism.
There's negativity. It can almost always be traced back to a conversation that should have happened but did not.
Tim Reitsma: Yeah. It's then filled with assumptions is what I'm hearing is like, you know, conversation should have happened. We assume somebody, everybody can read each other's minds or read between the lines, and then all of a sudden there's a conflict that has come up. And yeah what's your thoughts on that?
Marlene Chism: Well, not just that, not just the assumptions. If I as a leader know that someone's performance or behavior needs to be addressed, there's like I talk about three different ways that leaders have disfunctional behavior. I do that just to categorize it so that it's easy to remember and I call it "The 3 A's" — avoiding, appeasing, and aggression.
Until we're aware of that, we've got these disfunctional ways of behaving as leaders that actually add to the drama and make someone feel misunderstood, which is what you're saying, the assumptions.
But let's say that I've seen, this is what I've seen happen in real life. This is practical application. Let's say there's a person or two that feels not heard, not included, and then they attach it as we all do.
Well, it's because I'm a woman. It's because I'm of color. It's because I'm disabled. It's because I'm old. I mean, it can be anything. Whatever the issue is that's going to right in these days, it's gonna be the first assumption. The assumption's not going to be well, that person doesn't know how to guide this conversation.
Or maybe they think I'm hard to get along with, or maybe they haven't had this contract. We never assume that. We assume it's because of something personal against us. When that happens and that leader, they don't wanna tell their executive because after all, I'm hired to handle these problems, so I'm gonna look incompetent.
So there's a conversation also that I'm not having because I'm afraid for my own job. So what I do is I go and tell 'em there's a little bit of stirring and they say, look, you're the leader, handle it. So then I do a reorganization and I move these people to a different department, or they go work in the basement, and now it really seems like you're not listening to me.
So that's the conversations that should have happened that didn't because I'm too afraid to say I'm not sure how to solve this problem. I hate it that you feel that way. Let's look at policy. Let's try to co-create, this feels bad. We don't know how to do that. So therefore, because I'm moving the chess pieces on the board, because I'm avoiding letting my own boss know because of the ways we think culturally, like I'm not a micromanager or I don't handhold, but sometimes you have to a little bit, not micromanage, but you need to have an understanding of what's going on below you, above you.
And so because we're afraid to address these things, these decisions get made and we appease. We say to someone, I'll get back with you later. Great idea. We will talk about it. I will take this forward. And then we don't.
We like to make people happy in the moment because it feels bad to say, I don't know, or this feels awkward. We will figure it out. Thank you for bringing it to me. I do wanna keep it top of mind. Let me put it in the calendar for next Tuesday at two to get back with you. We don't have those skills, so therefore the conversations that should have happened lead to all these assumptions and personality issues and it's all about me versus we just have opposing drives, desires and demands, and we need to be able to hold space for each other while we work through it.
Tim Reitsma: Is there one, like is there a root cause? Like I know we talk about communication. And, but I'm also hearing, you know, we're afraid, we're avoiding, we're appeasing, there's aggression. And what is in, in, in your thoughts, is that root then for that conflict, you know, it's like, and maybe that's a three or four pronged question.
You know, what's coming up for me is that, that level of being afraid. And, and one of your courses you talk about that salesperson who is like hitting their numbers, but is super aggressive and causing conflict within the culture. And so, you know, so yeah, what's your thoughts on that?
Marlene Chism: Yeah, there are some root causes and while it will seem different, like the context will seem different or, you know, we have to put it into context what's going on, and I have processes for doing that, but I believe at the very root, there's a couple of things.
The first thing is how we view conflict to begin with. We define it in our minds without really clearly understanding what it is. So we define it as a war, a win-lose, I'm gonna, I'm gonna lose something. They're gonna lose something. We can, we'll not be friends. So as long as you see conflict like that, you will struggle.
If you start to see it as opposing drives, desires and demands, it makes you more curious. So I, in my book, I talk about two arrows going in opposite directions. So if I say, well, apparently there's opposing drives, desires and demands, I now want to know what your demands are, what your desires are that hasn't been spoken.
I want you to understand mine instead of assuming that you're against me, you have a character flaw. It takes the personality out of it and makes it more about the curiosity of what's driving you to want this, what's driving this disagreement? What's driving your need for this much budget when I need X amount too.
Unless I ask you, I don't understand and I'm assuming that you're at war with me, which could be true, but at least getting curious will resolve that. So we've got to redefine conflict, not in such a way that we, oh, I embrace it, it helps me grow. That's true. But I never really embrace it myself. Especially, you know, the more you grow, the bigger your conflicts, because you have to grow into what I call conflict capacity.
So as you grow, it's not like you never have conflict, it's just that they're bigger, they're different. And so anything that makes you afraid shows you where your capacity is. For some people, their capacity is if someone raises their voice one piece, you know they can't take it. Where is your capacity for disagreement?
Where is your ability to trust yourself and set boundaries? So you've got to expand that in order to be able to move forward in it and to be able to handle bigger conflicts. So the first one I think is in that way we define it. And I think the other route, and there may be three, I haven't thought about what could be three routes, but the other one I do know well.
Yeah, there is. I thought of it now. So the second one is exactly what you just said is people are afraid of the emotions that come up. We don't know how to handle that queasy feeling. Then we ruminate, then our mind is gonna make up stories. That's just what the human mind does. We're gonna make up assumptions and stories and narrative.
And we're gonna ruminate and it's just gonna be what we talk about. And so we hate that feeling. It's just like opening up a bill that you don't think is yours. Like, there's a bill from this company. I don't wanna look at it because I'm gonna get upset and then I am either gonna blow up or I'm just gonna go out and shop because it makes me feel better in the moment.
So we don't like the feelings that conflict brings up for us. It affects us at the core level of attachment theory when we were a kid with mom and dad. So we don't like the feeling that conflict brings up. And so even aggression is a way to avoid real intimacy. It's just, I'm gonna win and you're gonna lose.
And that's just my coping method. It doesn't mean that I'm really that strong. It means that I'm, I don't wanna be vulnerable. So we have these coping methods that have to do with covering what we feel. And then finally it is that we don't have the skills to know where to start and where to, how to stay on track in a conversation that starts getting derailed.
So I'd say that's the three routes, the way we define it, our inner game, like the feelings and emotions and the skillsets.
Tim Reitsma: I couldn't agree more. It's just even that definition of conflict, we're afraid of that emotion, right? Even what you said earlier is if we're defining conflict as, well, we're this is just a win-lose or we're at war now, you know, somebody's gonna lose here versus, Hey, let's get curious. What's coming up here? Using some simple coaching techniques of, you know, tell me more about what's happening. How are you feeling?
Instead of jumping right in and potentially blowing something up that's, you know, that, that shouldn't be blown up. I'm not saying that needs to happen in all situations, right?
If somebody has said something or a behavior is totally out of line or contradictory or, you know, maybe not even legal according to your employee rights, like, you know, we, you gotta navigate that carefully and cautiously. But I really want to talk a little bit about some of the techniques, reduce resistance of conflict, because I think it ties into that third point, the skills to navigate.
We're not here to say, Hey, guess what? If you follow these techniques, there'll never be conflict ever again. That's just not gonna happen. But what we can do is become more aware, but also reduce the resistance to that conflict instead of digging our heels in and saying, let's go. What are some techniques that you can teach us or tell us about?
Marlene Chism: I have so many, I don't even know where to start. One technique is conceptual, so I'll start with that one. One technique is to, first of all, clear up your inner conflict before you try to address something with someone else. What I mean by that in my book, I make this profound statement that some people disagree with until I think of it further.
There is no conflict unless there's first an inner conflict. And what that means is I may need to talk with someone, but I also want them to like me. So there's my inner conflict is I'm afraid that in talking with them, I lose favor with them. I have to change the desire for revenge or the desire to appease and change my desire for us to work together.
So that has to do with clarity of intention, which leads to my second point. If I can clear up all my other stuff, because so often we think, well, I'm gonna have a conversation to help them improve performance.
But the real conversation is I couldn't wait to document you because I've been holding some things against you for the last year and now it's time for that, a yearly performance review and I'm gonna document all this versus we should've had a conversation six months ago. I noticed something, I didn't bring it up, and now I'm using the performance review to justify documenting, which will lead to firing. I find that to be like, one of the skills is clean up your own inner conflict first, and then address things quicker. Small things, address it quicker and give people a chance to fix it. Secondly is when you have a conflict to really set a strong intention.
Where are you going in the conversation? What is this conversation really about? Is this conversation about participating as a better, more effective team member? Is this about being more effective in your job and completing your documentation? Is this conversation about a behavior that I see in meetings where you interrupt and you roll your eyes? What is the, what's it about and how can I turn that into something positive?
I wanna talk about how we can have more productive meetings and then I wanna get underneath why this person is doing what they're doing. So you want to be able to set a really positive forward moving intention, not an intention about the past. I wanna know why you're rolling your eyes at meetings. I wanna know why your sales numbers are down. That's not a positive intention.
That's very accusatory. It's gonna create a lot of red flags. A lot of the spikes are gonna go up, so you wanna say, you know, the intention of this meeting is to explore ways that we can get on the same page as a team. And in the book I have a method that I share, so I'll just kind of go through some of that. But it's like my intention of this meeting is X. That means that we've now put an island out there to say we're rowing to this island.
If in that conversation someone says, well, I don't think that's fair. You didn't get onto Mark. Mark did the same thing. Now we're gonna get distracted if we hang onto that.
Oh, well yes I did. You just didn't know about it. No, I know cuz Mark said to me, and now we're in a conversation about someone else. So you wanna be able to say, I understand you may feel that way, but that is between me and Mark and what I'm talking about today is you, I'll deal with Mark later. So we wanna be able to hold the conversation to the intention.
So what I, my intention of this conversation. What I've observed, so that is the observable behavior. Another correlating skill with that is the story I'm telling myself about that behavior. The story I'm telling myself, the feeling I have when you're saying my perception or my feeling, or my story, my narrative. I'm saying, please correct me. I'm not saying you did do that on purpose. I'm not saying I know your intention. I'm saying how I'm processing what I saw. Almost always someone will go, oh no, not at all. You're just too sensitive. That's your chance to say, perhaps I am, but this is what I need instead.
You don't argue the point and go to the island playing verbal ping pong. No, I'm not. You do this to everybody. Everybody feels you don't get into that. You say perhaps, you know that's valid. However, here's what I need. Because what will happen is that behavior will start to subside just because the awareness of it has been brought into the room. And that person's gonna say, no, it's not. I never do that. But now, every time they do it, they're gonna notice it.
So you're, it's my intention, what I've observed. You know what I want? I want us to all work together. You know what I don't want is to think this is just you. You know that you're the only one. This is not about that. This is about us as a team going back to intention.
Because the way this affects our business, the way this affects our team, the way this affects our customer service, you then talk about the business case. And if you haven't thought that far, you really need to because if it's just irritating you, that's a different issue. But if it, as a leader, if it's affecting customer service, it's if it's affecting, people are quitting and I have a suspicion that the toxicity, you know, I don't know that it's just you. I don't want you to think it's just you. I plan on talking to everybody, but we have to put a new stake in the ground here. So you really keep it about the team, about everybody, not just about you, but about your behavior was this, and that's what I can work on with you.
And so you're walking through this linear kind of skillset. With that skillset, you can use these skills independently. So there's a lot of skills and it's used as a blueprint. But you could also just say, let's say that you're at a meeting and someone folds their arms. Kim, I've noticed you. You just fold your arms when I mention the new initiative.
Do you disagree? I'd love for you to speak what's, walk me through. Kim might say, I don't know, I'm just confused. Now you're opening up a conversation. Or Kim may say, no, I'm just cold. Okay, well please come to me if you're concerned about it, I just misread that.
When you learn how to use these skills independently, you're having conversations and perceptions much sooner versus the story in my head is that you don't disagree, and now I'm gonna avoid that because it feels too bad and we're gonna do it anyway. I get to let you say you don't like it, and it's okay for you not to like it. It's not my job to make everybody happy. In fact I was just at a conference where I asked people what they'd like to get out of it was a big, long, general session and someone said, my goal is to make sure that when we have conflict, we can get everybody to be unhappy and agreeing and being on the same page. And I said, well, unfortunately, I'm going to disappoint you. Because part of being a leader is making decisions that others will not agree with.
They will not understand. It won't benefit their end game. And you have to understand the bigger picture and let them be okay with their dissatisfaction. And then they get to decide, do they stay on board or not? That'll be their decision, but at sometimes the upper level makes a decision and it's something that we on the front lines do not understand.
But we still have choice to stay or not to stay. And so you have to get to that place where you're not about people pleasing, but more about alignment.
Tim Reitsma: So much good stuff in there. Again, the intention, observe. I'm hearing things like the language we use. I'm hearing things again, like that coach approach, like, Hey, I've noticed this. Tell me about that.
And maybe you, maybe, like you said, maybe you've completely misread the room. But at least you're not walking away going in your example, oh, well, Kim's just annoyed and doesn't like this initiative where she was just cold and just wanted to cross her arms and stay warm. If you're noticing this...
Marlene Chism: And Kim may lie too.
Tim Reitsma: And Kim may lie.
Marlene Chism: Yeah. And Kim may not tell you the truth, so like you can't be attached to that. You're just attached to bringing the observed into the room and giving it space. And Kim may then think about that and be kind of bothered by it.
But then start to correct behavior so you're not attached in just the observed to say this has to change. They may deny it. Later in the conversation you will talk about changes that need to happen. But if it's just a one-off, I just noticed this, the way I interpret it is that you just, you really disagreed and they're gonna say, I did. Well, I'd love you to bring that to me. Like, don't feel afraid. And I, while the meeting was not the place for that, let's have a conversation.
You can still have those conversations. It's just that you have to get comfortable listening to things you don't agree with, and you've got to stop yourself and let people be heard because very often, once they've been heard, they can then accept the decision. Very often, it's just that they don't feel heard and that feels worse, and now they wanna win.
So if you can let people be heard and say, I understand I might feel that way if I was in your position. You know, are there any choices you see on how like that's coaching? Once again, are there any choices you see how this could be, make it easier for you, give you more support while we make these changes?
If you really tell employees the truth about where they have power and where they don't, that's gonna help versus making them think they have a vote when indeed it's already been decided. I see that a lot.
Tim Reitsma: Yeah, I've seen it before. I've been in, at exact tables where somebody says something and, you know, the, in, in this particular example, the CEO just came out and blatantly said, I don't agree with you. You're wrong. This is why you're wrong. This idea is a dumb idea and then just perceived to move on. But yet now this individual, and I remember sitting across the table from this individual who just basically just curled up and didn't speak about, didn't speak out ever again.
I've been on the receiving end of that, where there was not that sense of a healthy conflict. So what I'm hearing and what's coming up for me and also coming up in like when I'm researching you and this topic is a direct correlation between the workplace culture, the culture that we have in our workplaces and conflict. And do you agree with that?
Do you agree that we have to have a culture set up to be able to handle conflict? We can't just say, oh, we believe in radical candor, but you get around the exec table and everybody's just wrong, and the CEO's always right. So tell me your thoughts on that.
Marlene Chism: Well, they're more about the candor than they're about the kindness. And I love that book as well. But I think it's about, it's really about the awareness of the very top level. And very often they don't have that because they don't need to have it. And when people are afraid to voice an opinion, then it becomes, we're all just worshiping the emperor who has no clothes and that works as long as the leader's visionary tactics are growing the company.
Eventually though I do believe it will implode in some way. It'll implode in different ways, like there'll be turnover, there'll be everybody's a yes person. So this is really about increasing that conflict capacity and monitoring yourself and having someone observe you as a leader to see what that's producing.
And while I admire someone that has that vision and that strategy, and they're crystal clear on the other end of that, it can be so much clarity about what you think is needed that you're not hearing or listening to other voices. So there's this balance beam, I think that leaders have to walk that's really difficult.
They want to streamline the meeting. They don't want people talking while they're talking, but if people are afraid of you, and that's the key, if they're afraid of you, that might feel good to you, but what that really speaks to me is a lack of personal development.
Tim Reitsma: Yeah. We could have a whole conversation about if people are afraid of you. Because what's coming up for me is, well, how do I know if people are afraid of me? And, oh, you know, that's a whole other conversation. I think that would be a good episode for a part two because, you know, that is, in my opinion, like the culture of the environment we're creating, whether it's remote or hybrid or in person. If we're not having ourselves set up to have some healthy conflict, because I, there is healthy conflict.
There's healthy debate.
Marlene Chism: Absolutely.
Tim Reitsma: It happens in our personal lives all the time where, you know, we, I was in a conflict with my partner, you know, just recently. Not gonna go into it, but we've worked past it, you know, and we've continued to work past it for the last 12 years. So there's things that we can work through.
But in our workplaces, we need to address this conflict head on or even the ability to have a conflict.
Marlene Chism: Yeah. Because I mean, at the top, what I see with people that are conflict averse, but they're very powerful, strong leaders. They just fire people. You know, they just move people out of departments. They reorganize. And this shows where they could use some growth. And I'm not here to debate whether or not that works for them. It does work or they wouldn't keep doing it. However, is there an even bigger vision and what are you missing in your own growth just by not being able to calm it down two or three notches?
I just see a lot of yes people, and actually a lack of integrity. It will lead to a lack of alignment because when we worship the leader more than we do the values, that creates a problem. And I see that a lot.
Tim Reitsma: Yeah. I see it a lot as well, and I think as we look to wrap up our episode, I think, you know, we've kind of walked through the, that drama-free culture. That's what we want to, that's our North star, what we're trying to achieve. We've talked a lot about avoiding and appeasing and aggression, those three A's. I love that. I'm gonna remember that, I wrote it down.
Addressing it as that inner conflict with ourselves, right? If we find ourselves just, somebody says something and we just feel the, are blood's starting to boil, just take a pause, you know. Are you going in guns blazing? Or, you know, maybe you need to take that pause.
Maybe somebody who's listening today who's on their way to work, maybe who is coming out of some conflict. Somebody who's listening, but maybe they need to communicate something that will potentially stir up conflict.
What is that one thing that they can do? So our audience is quite diverse, but I think we often end up going into hard conversations where we can control the words. We can't necessarily control the reaction. What is that one thing that, that you can leave us with when we're communicating something that's potentially gonna stir something?
Marlene Chism: I would say strive for leadership clarity first. Don't go in unprepared to a conversation. Do some preparation first. We've already talked about setting an intention, figuring out what that intention of the conversation is, and cleaning up your own energy. Really try to view that person is just another person on the journey, trying to figure their life out to, try to come as equal beings of importance and yet they still have their role. So before you have the conversation, there's a method that I teach called "Achieving Leadership Clarity" and Leadership Clarity is the ability to articulate the situation.
So what is the situation? And by that I mean what is happening that should not be happening? What is not happening that should be? That takes it outta all these assumptions and personalities. So that's your situation. Then it's about saying, what's the outcome we need in this? Like, what's the best outcome for, you know, based on where we are now, we have two points of attraction. I call it the boat and the island. Then the next place that you wanna, this is your prep work before you have the conversation. The next piece that you wanna answer is, what are the obstacles?
Is it resources? Is it skills? Is it willingness? What, is it a person? Is it a situation? Is it a client? What are the obstacles that's gonna keep us from getting to the outcome? If you come with that knowledge before you start, you're gonna have a better conversation. Otherwise, it's easy to get triggered into the aggressiveness that you're afraid of or the tears that you're afraid of.
So you've got to have a clarity within yourself before you have the conversation. Don't wing it. Don't say to yourself, we're all adults. This'll be okay. Well, they're just gonna have to like it or not, but get really clear about what this conversation looks like, and then get really clear about the follow up for accountability.
Because without that, even a great conversation where you feel like you had the courage, you did it, you said that they agreed you're hugging or singing kumbaya without meeting again in two weeks or one month or whatever that is, it's going to go back to old patterns. So otherwise it's gonna be really uncomfortable if you think it was resolved, and then it starts filtering back into old patterns.
So you wanna set up a time to revisit and to talk about their growth or their stuck places. And I always say that the answer will come through the conversation. Not before. So you have to have the conversation and lead enough space to figure out what's really going on.
Tim Reitsma: Such good insight and advice. And I'm, you know, processing this myself as as you know, I'm a father of kids and I'm a partner and I'm work at an organization like conflict comes up, you know, within our week. I love that. Articulate the situation, the inner work. Cuz if we aren't prepared, things are gonna go off the rails. It just happens. Because now we're speaking out of emotion versus collecting.
And for some people you can prepare really quickly, 10, 15 minutes.
Marlene Chism: That's all it takes.
Tim Reitsma: For some, like myself, you know, sometimes I take a lot longer to prepare. I was in a conflict a while ago and it took me days to just articulate and just talk things through with a trusted advisor to just to ensure like, Hey, am I out to lunch here? Am I like misinterpreting things? And because I wanted to make sure that I'm approaching this with levelheadedness, so do that inner work.
Marlene Chism: Absolutely.
Tim Reitsma: You know, even if it's as simple as, you know, I know you have plans. Everybody has plans tonight, but we have to get this software update pushed out today, that's gonna stir up conflict.
Just navigate that, the obstacles. I love that insight. It's crystal clear, and for again, for those who are listening, you know, it's articulate. Figure out what you think is the best outcome, the obstacles or barriers. Don't wing it and follow up. Often we have a good conversation, right, Marlene? We've had a 30 minute conversation.
If I think the conversation went well, but I didn't follow up, let's say with an email and say, Hey, can you gimme some feedback? We don't know. So follow up with an email, document it down, making sure everybody's on the same page because we wanna avoid that, that miscommunication and that those assumptions.
Marlene Chism: And every time you change your mind and it's good to change your mind, it's not bad, but every time you get new information and you say, oh, it was really this. Okay, well then we're gonna do that. Every time you do that, there's three other people that affects.
So every time you make a change and it affects more than one person, which it almost always does, you have to close that loop. And I think that's a skill that's missing. Another skill that's missing is if we agree that there's going to be an outcome that's measurable or observable, then I need to put on my calendar as the leader. I've told them to check back in with me in two weeks at two o'clock. Do I just let that go? No. I put a note in my calendar.
They should be checking back in with me two weeks, two o'clock. Let's see if they do it. If they don't, that is a skills issue. It's not a character flaw. They didn't put it on their calendar. Now, you know, there's a skills issue that this needs to be standard operating procedure. When we make a commitment, we put it on the calendar.
So it's very much either skills, resources, clarity, willingness you need to find out what the issue is, and sometimes it's really about giving someone an additional resource for a while, so that they can be supported versus they don't care and they've got a bad attitude.
Tim Reitsma: Yeah. I couldn't agree more. It's that follow up, that accountability piece that is just good practice, especially when there's a conflict or even when you're leading teams or assigning those initiatives.
Marlene, I've learned a lot in this episode. 30 minutes of jam packed insight from you. Tell us how people can reach you. Well, where can people get a hold of you if people need to hear more?
Marlene Chism: You can email me, Marlene@marlenechism.com. Go to my website, marlenechism.com. It's my name is everywhere. LinkedIn, I have a lot of followers and connections. You can say, you met me on this show, on this podcast. If you want to, you can follow or connect on LinkedIn, Marlene Chism.
Tim Reitsma: Perfect. And in the show notes, we'll also put all those links, we'll put a link. I know you've referenced one of your books. You've got four, you've referenced one of them here. We'll put a link to that as well for those who are listening and want to learn more.
If there's a conflict that, that you've been avoiding or you just don't know how to navigate, or maybe you're stuck in, you don't need to go at it alone, you know, reach out to myself, Marlene, look for some advice.
You can find us. Reach out to a trusted advisor, not somebody who's gonna tell you what you want to hear, but somebody who's gonna say, no, I think you're wrong. And and here's how to navigate it. So with that, if you are struggling with this, you know, now's the day, tackle this this conflict that you've been avoiding.
If you like this episode or have an idea for other episodes, please reach out to me, Tim@peoplemanagingpeople.com. I'd always love to hear from you and love to connect with you also on LinkedIn.
So if you like this episode, please like and subscribe and give us a rating. You know, that shameless plug, we like ratings and with that, I hope everyone has a great day.