Perceived slights, divergent goals, misunderstandings, arguments, different roles, unique experiences and background. A recipe for collaboration? Or for sparks and conflict? Sounds like a description of many of our work sites. And also perhaps a group even more familiar.
I grew up with two brothers. Yes, three boys (and a dad!) growing up and now adults. There were a lot of sparks and very little collaboration. Yet we kept talking through our conflicts and now can count on each other to work together and focus on the common good. As leaders we also need to keep talking if we want to build a collaborative work environment, despite all the sparks!
Last week at our Luoma Leadership Academy Annual Professional Development Gathering we partnered with the Conflict Resolution Center to explore why Conflict is a Beautiful Thing. In one of our breakout sessions we learned about the Four Agreements we need to make with ourselves to keep talking even when there is conflict. (Adapted from Glenn E. Singleton & Curtis Linton, Courageous Conversations about Race: A Field Guide for Achieving Equity in Schools. 2006. pp.58-65. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.)
- Stay engaged – don’t give up even when it feels hopeless.
- Speak your truth – say what needs to be said, respectfully!
- Experience discomfort – be prepared for and embrace the natural divisiveness and sparks that will arise from dialogue.
- Expect and accept non-closure – starting the conversation is only the beginning and you need to demonstrate persistence and comfort with the uncertainty.
Pushing through the sparks of conflict can forge stronger relationships. In fact the sparks usually are a clear indicator of the passion and energy available for working on the common good. That’s why it is worth the discomfort.