Yesterday I was interviewed by Michele Price on her Breakthrough Business Strategy internet radio show about our book, Humanize. In the conversation Michele asked about my background in conflict resolution and we talked a bit about how training in conflict resolution might be a good idea for people engaging in social media. I, of course, think conflict resolution training is good for everyone, but it’s my field so I’m biased. But there is a connection between the work of social media and conflict.
For example, Maddie and I, mention conflict quite a bit in Humanize. It’s a key skill in developing more “ownership” behavior among employees, which is part of becoming more Open. Conflict also needs to be addressed at the process level if you want your processes to deliver more truth in your organization, which is a part of becoming more Trustworthy as an organization. In short, if your organization gets into social media, it’s going to be giving up control and getting more and more people active in the conversation. With that expansion, conflict is inevitable, so you’d better be equipped to deal with it.
But the more I talk about the role of managing conflict in both doing social media better and in running organizations more effectively, the more I come back to one of the biggest problems with our collective inability to deal with conflict: it prevents action. Consider the idea of having your employees take more “ownership.” You want them to go out there and take initiative, solve problems, delight customers, etc. That’s ownership, and that goes beyond just following orders or reading a script. But as soon as you leave the script or make your own decisions, you invite conflict. Someone might not be happy with what you’re going to do. That’s inevitable.
But when you are afraid of conflict, then right at that moment, you flinch. And you reconsider your action. And you decide maybe to think about it for a while, or to ask someone’s advice. You pause. You don’t act.
Now, I’m not a fan of continuous, random, compulsive action. Thinking and gathering more data are hallmarks of mine, actually. But you need the self awareness to recognize when you need more data and when you are just afraid of potential conflict. Remember, the conflicts that we create when we are doing our work are very rarely life and death ones. They’re not even cuts and brusises ones. When you learn how to deal with conflict, you gain the confidence to take action. You know you’ll be able to handle these conflicts as they emerge.
And we need more action right now. We need people to step up. We need people to live bigger than they have been. If conflict resolution skills can help us move in that direction, then yes, we all need that.