In this episode of Relationships at Work, communications and leadership nerd (and host) Russel Lolacher highlights the second of the seven deadly sins of leadership ecosystems: being too conflicted with conflict.
In this second in a series of seven, Russel discusses why leaders might be afraid of conflict, the impacts of not addressing conflict, why lack of training has a role to play and things we can do to make us more comfortable in uncomfortable situations.
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Welcome back to Relationships at Work, the leadership mindset guide to creating a workplace we love. I'm your host, Russel Lolacher, a communications and leadership nerd with a couple of decades of experience and a whole heap of curiosity on how we can make the workplace a better place. If you're a leader trying to understand and improve your impact on work culture and the employee experience, well, you found yourself in the right place.
Every week on the show, I talk with a local or global leader on topics that are here to help us improve the workplace. We've tackled Tons, tons of topics, diversity, negativity, communication, empathy, activism, re imagining leadership, imposter syndrome, mental health. These are topics that we will certainly revisit.
From a lot of different angles, but they're all evergreen. So you can go back and listen anytime you need to, to sort of shift that mindset as you do. And now as an added bonus, I'll be sharing an additional episode pulled from the pages of our weekly raw note, which you can still subscribe to. It's just this, this episode is just a quick and valuable bit of information on top of our regular show, a mini episode as it were.
So for our raw note that I'm passing on to you. Oh, it's a, it's a special one. It's the second in our series on leadership ecosystems or rather the conditions that lead to bad leaders. This is the seven deadly sins of a leadership ecosystem. Episode two, conflicted with conflict. A study conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management, or SHRM to his friends, in 2016, they found that when conflict is managed effectively and embraced constructively, it can actually have positive outcomes.
Specifically, 60 percent of the employees surveyed believed that addressing and resolving conflict improved team dynamics, led to better decision making. Moreover, 53 percent of respondents stated that conflict resolution actually increased creativity and innovation within their teams. So that's the good side of conflict resolution.
What happens when you don't do anything? Why do some leaders just stand on the sidelines of conflict when they can have such positive outcomes? And it happens in some organizations far more than others. You see, when there are bad leaders doing bad leadershipy things, And no one says anything. No one does anything or they defend the behavior or minimize it or, or pretend to listen about complaints about that bad leadership, but don't really plan on doing anything all for fear of conflict.
Well, what are the big reasons they don't do anything? Those leaders. It's actually not their fault. There is a lack of consistent training for leaders. And one of those pieces of training is conflict resolution. It's difficult conversations, but those in leadership positions get there a lot of the time because they fix somebody's problem or did a thing for someone higher up in the food chain, not because they actually have leadership skills, not because they're trained in things like I said, conflict resolution, no human skills.
But because they did a thing, well, they get an opportunity, according to a survey conducted by training magazine in 2020, only 12%, 12 percent of organizations reported having a formal leadership development program for their managers and leaders. That means, reverse math time, 88 percent do not have, are not provided, structured training, specifically tailored to help them develop their leadership skills.
Ouch. Now, here's the thing. I bet you there's a few people listening that said, but wait, wait, Russell. What about informal training? We have a lot of informal learning training. What about that? That's much more prevalent and much more important than any formal training. It actually takes up more time.
Totally understand that. Okay. Fair point. But I have a question back to you. How do you know you say it exists, but how do you know that your informal leadership Is working that it exists Just because you believe it exists doesn't make it so, or that it's effective. Is providing the learning our leaders need to create other leaders and build a healthy organization happening through that informal leadership training?
I can't answer for you, but I can say probably not if you don't know the answer to that. So while we stew on that, let's head back to the idea of conflict. Things like difficult... Conversations, conflict resolution. How about positive conflict? Cause that exists. It's called creative conflict. I actually have a show about that coming up soon.
So to improve the organization through this kind of conflict, shaking it up in a productive way, that's important too, but it's all just so uncomfortable for leaders, positive or negative conflict. It's just so uncomfortable, icky. And that is how bad leadership is allowed and perpetuated because to do something about bad leaders.
We have to talk to them about how they can improve. We have to get them to take training. We might have to fire them. Hell, we may even just have to highlight ways that they may need support. Well, that's torture for some people. Or at the very least, very uneasy. And guess what? We avoid the uneasy. Because that just rocks the boat.
A lot of the time, it's leaders just waiting for things to resolve themselves. That's not leadership. We know that just makes things worse. That's passive. That's not intentional. That's absenteeism. If organizational leaders can't handle conflict, that means they're also not okay in feeling uncomfortable for themselves or causing others discomfort.
I mean, if we get uncomfortable or make others uncomfortable, then we'd have to, uh, do something. If we want to be good leaders, conflict is something we just have to embrace. I did a presentation once and I've mentioned this on the show before where I was really sharing some serious truths about leaders and their impact on workplace culture.
And it wasn't comfortable for those in the room to hear some of these things because it wasn't. Their own experience or things that they really wanted to, you know, admit. And I had one person stand up and she said, I'm feeling really uncomfortable and I have to ask why I'm feeling so uncomfortable. And she saw it as a learning moment, a learning opportunity.
And I just fell in love. I swooned that that person would be so vulnerable and so admitting of that uncomfortableness being uncomfortable in it and doing it anyway. So what's a leader to do to solve the sin of fearing conflict? Well, a few things actually. First, get really good at open communication.
Actively listening to everyone involved in the conflict, seeking to understand their viewpoints without judgment. This way we create an environment that encourages constructive dialogue and facilitates that conflict resolution. And it helps the leader, us, not feel so alone in addressing the issue. If it's openly being talked to, we're part of a solution.
We're not the only one that's facilitating it, and that might make dealing with conflict easier. Second, practice some of that active mediation and facilitation skill. We have to take an active role. We have to provide guidance and support to help those team members navigate through things like disagreements and conflict.
We can still act as a neutral party and maybe we should ensuring there's fairness and equal opportunity for all participants to voice their concerns and collaborate on finding those solutions. By being that guide, that mentor, leaders can actually help create a sense of understanding, compromise, and mutual respect among team members.
And being neutral can actually create a more comfortable environment that we might be a little bit okay entering. Lastly, cheer on and promote a problem solving mindset, not a win lose mentality. Emphasize the importance of finding common ground and seeking solutions that benefit. Everybody involved encourage individuals to focus on the underlying issues and interest rather than any personal attacks.
I love the idea of that. It's not us versus them. It's us versus the problem. And this is an example of that. This shifts the focus from blame to resolution to which fosters a collaborative environment that values things like compromise and constructive outcomes. Now, collaboration, compromise. And constructive.
Those are way more positive and appealing words than conflict. Sorry, but to be a leader, we have to lead. And sometimes that calls for some uncomfortableness. Now, these examples hopefully minimize that fear of conflict and help us take steps to address problems in conflict. If we don't get good at getting in there and helping to resolve bad leadership, then that bad behavior is basically being condoned through inaction, lack of conversation or discussion.
Embracing conflict, like I've illustrated, it actually has a bonus to it. It models the behavior of good leadership. If others see us figuring this out, open communication, collaborative, uh, constructive, well, it actually models good behavior, good leadership, that everybody wants around them. So conflict, it could very well be our new best friend.
This raw note was originally published on June 8th, 2023, and that will do it. That will wrap up another raw note episode of relationships at work. The leadership mindset guide to creating a workplace we love. I'm your host, Russel Lolacher. Thank you so much for listening. I've gotten so much positive feedback lately about the show and how it's helping others on their leadership journey.
I love it. And, and please keep letting me know, but I'll also ask that if you think it's, it's valuable and it will really help others. Please share it in an email or a text or in a conversation you may be having with another leader, an emerging leader, anyone that's in their leadership journey, I think can benefit from some of the topics we've covered and some of the amazing experts we've talked to.
So yeah, please spread the word. Really appreciate it. It helps the show grow. Take care.