IN TOUCH : Coming in from the cold

Conflict is bit like cooking – at least in terms of temperature range. If the temperature is too hot (shouting and aggression), everyone gets burned; too cold and you have to stoke the fire or nothing gets cooked.
Mark Gerzon often starts his workshops with bit of fire-stoking – getting people to name and act out the conflicts happening in their organisation. In corporate climates and in New Zealand’s culture they’re apt to be bit on the cool side.
“You need to heat it up bit. I get people to rehearse and perform their conflict scenarios, then show how they could use specific set of tools to handle them differently. What happens is that people find the most inefficient parts of the organisation can be turned into opportunities for real effectiveness – if they’re willing to dive into the conflict and transform it.”
An American mediation specialist who has worked as facilitator and leadership trainer for the United Nations and US House of Representatives as well as host of private and public sector organisations around the world, Gerzon has been hailed by the New York Times as an expert in ‘civil discourse’.
In New Zealand as guest of Excelerator’s NZ Leadership Institute (University of Auckland) and The Centre for the Study of Leadership (Victoria University) he says most adults are conflict illiterate. Few have had any training in conflict resolution and lack the tools to deal with it effectively.
That at time when the need has never been greater. As the world gets smaller, differences seem to loom larger and we increasingly need leaders who can “lead across boundaries”, turning conflict into opportunity, says Gerzon.
Often that means letting go of attachment – to one particular way of seeing things, to being right – or even to harbouring the notion that you might have all the answers. Most situations leaders deal with today are “inherently overwhelming”, says Gerzon.
“So when they say I’ve got to figure this out – I’ve got to lead this company – I’ve got to take us through this crisis, they think they’re showing dedication to solving the problem but they’re actually part of the problem. Or that ‘I’ at the beginning of the sentence is.
“The truth is they probably can’t – and that’s their own blind spot. What I say is ‘how do we work together to solve this’ because I believe the intelligence you need to solve some of the conflicts we have today doesn’t just come from one person. We need to be smarter faster – which is why I believe so much in team and collective intelligence.”
He also has specific set of tools to use – qualities that help people deal with the divisions that create inefficiency, separation and unproductive friction. There are eight:
•Integral vision is the ability to acknowledge and ‘hold’ all sides of the conflict in our minds and hearts;
•Systems thinking is about identifying all the significant elements of the conflict situation and understanding their inter-relationship;
•Presence is applying all your mental, emotional and spiritual resources to grasping the issues;
•Inquiry is asking the sorts of questions that draw out information vital to understanding how the conflict might be transformed;
•Conscious communication is becoming aware of our full range of choices about how we speak and listen;
•Dialogue is communicating in way that inspires participants’ ability to get involved and work through the conflict;
•Bridging is building alliances and partnerships that cross the borders dividing your organisation or community; and
•Innovation is fostering breakthrough solutions that create new options for resolving the conflicts.
These tools are outlined in detail in Gerzon’s book Leading through Conflict: How Successful Leaders Transform Differences into Opportunities (Harvard School Press 2006).
It also explores the three faces of leadership: the demagogue who leads through fear, threats and intimidation; the manager who operates on an exclusive, limited definition of ‘us’ and tends to be paralysed by conflict; and the mediator who “strives to act on behalf of the whole not just the parts”.
As the book points out, there’s no “10 easy steps” to fix conflict or make it go away.
“Like the sun and the tides, conflict is powerful force that only fool pretends to have mastered,” Gerzon writes.
But what people can do is learn to use conflict constructively in way which can ultimately enrich their lives and transform differences into something productive and life-affirming.

Visited 4 times, 1 visit(s) today

Business benefits of privacy

Privacy Week (13-17 May) is a great time to consider the importance of privacy and to help ensure you and your company have good privacy practices in place, writes Privacy

Read More »
Close Search Window