Change Interpersonal Conflict to Positive Action

who wins

Rocca** is a leader who often finds herself trapped in the middle of interpersonal conflicts. She is a likable and fair-minded leader. Her ability to listen well is helped by an analytical and introverted nature – as you talk, she is patiently sorting the data and making sense of what she hears. Rocca is a calm and rational leader who has proven she can find good solutions to complex business issues.

This way of leading – like any of our strengths – can easily become a default position and create problems. For Rocca, who is trusted by many, it has placed her in the position of conflict mediator. In our coaching session, she describes a few “she said/he said” situations that leave her confused. As she wades into these interpersonal conflicts she becomes cynical and mistrustful. Frustrated by her inability to sort what’s “really” going on, she is started to ask: “Who is lying?” This is a dangerously negative mindset. Her default strategy – listen carefully to gather all the facts and decide – is not working. How will she get out of the middle?

Here’s what we cover in our coaching sessions:

  • All organizations are “human systems” which, by nature, are dynamical. This means they are not static nor linear. As Rocca learns about the normal and invisible aspects of organizations, she begins to loosen her grip on finding out who’s right and who’s wrong. She understands that back-tracking to find cause-and-effect is a waste of her time when several people can have valid perspectives and differing experiences of the same event.
  • Recent studies in positive psychology highlight the role of a leader in creating “safety” in organizations. It means that Rocca’s ability to listen – her open-door and accessibility – is an asset. She knows that closing her door or sending people away is not a good response. She wants to continue to be trusted without becoming a hero to others’ victim.
  • Rocca begins to consider that she can move from passive sounding-board and truth-seeking detective to an empowering coach. After hearing other’s stories about what is going on, Rocca can validate their experience without agreeing or disagreeing with it. She can be a receptive listener and, at the same time, engage energetically.
  • In a spirit of hope and optimism, Rocca can then increase their confidence around taking positive actions. She can ask, “I understand that’s what you are experiencing. The important question is what are you prepared to do about it now?” She can treat others as responsible adults and use her problem-solving skills to look forward instead of to the past.

Within six months, Rocca has found that self-accountability in her team is increased. One particularly unhappy employee has left the company, and she feels that their negativity is not missed.  She continues to seek information about how people are experiencing the workplace, but she notices her time is no longer wasted listening to people vent, gossip or whine about work.

**This fictional account illustrates common leadership challenges and how coaching addresses them.

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