by Lynne Reyes, ACC
Benchmark ACTP and Advanced Coaching Alumna
HARNESSING THE POWER OF CONFLICT FOR GROWTH & LEARNING
What’s a movie or a novel without conflict or tension? How does a narrative get developed in a way that the story becomes involving and engaging? In the end, the protagonist rises above the conflict and emerges as a strong and wiser person. One leaves the movie theater or closes the book with a light, satisfied feeling over a happy, victorious ending.
The sweetest of couples or the best of friends get into arguments and disagreements. Yet when these arguments are handled well, it paves the way for valuable lessons and leads to a deeper understanding of each other and flourishing relationships.
If conflict spices up relationships and can lead to happier endings, why are many averse to facing it and tackling it?
Merriam Webster dictionary defines conflict as follows:
1: FIGHT, BATTLE, WAR
2a: Competitive or opposing action of incompatibles: antagonistic state or action (as of divergent ideas, interests, or persons), a conflict of principles.
2b: The mental struggle resulting from incompatible or opposing needs.
Nothing about its definition seems to be positive. It invokes images of an unsettled mental and emotional state, disharmony, fierce conversations, dismissive and silent treatment, pain, and discord. Conflict, when not handled well can potentially lead to crisis! No wonder many try to avoid conflicts arising from disagreements.
The following are some of the ramifications of conflict avoidance:
|Harmony and peace are preserved.||Issue remains, however, and may fester and manifest into other potentially destructive behavior.|
|Minimizes stress. Removes awkward or tension-filled situations.||May stunt personal and professional growth as new realizations, new ways of thinking and of doing things are not brought to life.|
|No hurt feelings.||It closes the door for an even better way of collaboration.|
|Tendency to become people pleasers at the expense of own happiness and ideals|
|Emotional woundedness and escapist attitude|
Managing conflict whether at home, in school or in the workplace is never easy. Fact is, we are all unique individuals who are wired differently from each other. We all have our own set of values and beliefs, DNA make-up and grew up in varying cultures, situations and environments all shaping the person we are today.
We can find ourselves clashing with each other for varying reasons. The good news is, there are potential positives in conflict and the key to drawing the good out is in viewing it from the lens of growth and learning.
As a life and executive leadership coach, I have seen many of my clients face internal and external conflict. The following are some of the realizations that helped them find the right solutions.
- Respect for diversity – we may not always share the same opinion. We can beg to differ and allow each other’s voice its own airtime. Disagreeing without being disagreeable can turn the conversation into a healthy one that churns out mutual benefits.
- Open mindedness and curiosity – no one has the monopoly of good ideas. Being open and curious to hearing differing thoughts can lead to new and innovative, even game-changing ways of doing things.
- Going back to one’s purpose and being deliberate in the way it is demonstrated. There are authentic leaders who truly want to make a difference in the lives of their people. Being highly aware of this purpose helps get ego out of the way and helps us listen more with empathy.
- Objectivity – Tackle the situation, the behavior, and the facts, NOT the person. Support your position with data and empirical evidence. Do not judge the person. This leads to mutual objectivity rather than putting the other person in a defensive stance.
- Courage to speak up – not being able to express one’s thoughts can lead to internal conflict. Gaining the courage and confidence to speak up can be liberating and encourages more ideas to come out.
- Listening more and becoming less critical help in understanding each other better and giving the other the sense that he is valued despite a differing opinion.
- Clear communication. As you listen and receive, you also give and express yourself in clear and concise terms to avoid ambiguity or wrong interpretations.
- Mutual Trust – Trust is earned and when exhibited without any hidden agenda, openness follows.
These are just some of the realizations which have led to better working relationships, new ways of collaboration, innovation at work and on systems, better productivity for individuals and organizations – all spelling out learning, growth, and progress.
In end, let me share you this: “Every conflict we face in life is rich with positive and negative potential. It can be a source of inspiration, enlightenment, learning, transformation, and growth-or rage, fear, shame, entrapment, and resistance. The choice is not up to our opponents, but to us, and our willingness to face and work through them.”
HOW TO MANAGE CONFLICT IN YOUR TEAM
Tips from Master Coach Julius Ordonez, MCC, ACTC
As a team development practitioner and having been part of teams for over two decades now, I have learned that conflict must not be avoided but should actually be encouraged. However, people behave either constructively or destructively during conflict situations, so learning how to handle conflict is crucial as this will determine whether the conflict is going to be helpful or harmful to the team.
Here are some ways leaders can resolve conflicts within their teams:
- Encourage all parties involved to express their perspectives, feelings, and concerns without interrupting or judging.
- Look for areas of agreement or common goals that can help shift the focus towards finding mutually beneficial solutions.
- Foster a cooperative environment where all parties work together to find creative solutions and win-win outcomes that can address everyone’s concerns.
- Encourage empathy and understanding among all parties involved so they can recognize and validate each other’s emotions. This can foster a more empathetic atmosphere, helping to bridge gaps and build rapport.
- In situations where the conflict seems unresolvable through direct negotiation, consider involving a neutral third party, such as a mediator who can help facilitate communication, maintain objectivity, and guide the parties towards finding a mutually agreeable resolution.
- If emotions are running high and are exhibiting destructive behavior, it can be helpful to take a break and allow everyone involved to cool down, reflect and gain clarity.
- Do not dwell on the past as this will lead to blaming. Instead, focus on the future – finding possibilities and resolutions.
- Consider the option of investing in a conflict style assessment for your team, like the CDP (Conflict Dynamics Profile).
I will be speaking on Resolving Conflicts using Team Coaching at the Benchmark Leadership and Coaching Conference “Thriving Today, Transforming Tomorrow” on September 5, 2023, and will be discussing these bullets and more. If you want to improve how you handle conflict as a leader, that session is ideal for you. For more details on the conference, and to register, visit: https://benchmark-consulting.com.ph/2023conference/.
PRO BONO COACHING: THE UP COACHING HUB PROJECT
Last May, as one of its initiatives for International Coaching Week, Benchmark Consulting launched its pro bono coaching project with the University of the Philippines. We have brought together 55 of the top coaches in the country, all Benchmark Coaching Alumni volunteered to facilitate individual one-on-one coaching sessions for students of the university from different fields of study. These students represent the future leaders of the country, and as coaches, empowering them to dream big and reach their goals is our contribution to nation-building.
We are elated to share that after all their coaching sessions, the students rated the experience a whopping 9.4 out of 10!
Here are some highlights of their feedback:
“I really like the one-on-one approach. I think I learned a lot about myself with only a few sessions. It helped me verbalize my thoughts, things I wouldn’t otherwise acknowledge. The coaching also helped me remind myself to always set a goal whether for short term or long term.”
“My coaching conversations with my coach were incredibly helpful. She was so genuine. I liked her line of questioning, because it allowed me to know more about myself that I wouldn’t have otherwise known. I also liked how productive our conversations were. She would help me make sense of the problem and then help me create plans of action to resolve them. I also like how much agency I was given in this coaching engagement. I had the liberty to choose what to talk about, and what to focus on. Overall, the coaching sessions went really well!”
“The coach really helped me think about the pros and cons of my decisions. The coach asked questions that allowed me to think logically. Very effective and smart. Felt safe in the sessions.”
“I liked how my coach really probed me to reflect. By doing so, she showed me how I already knew the answer, I just had to realize it.”
“Aside from achieving my goal, I learned a whole lot about myself and I felt safe to share my troubles and burdens to my coach.”
“Even though the issue I was talking about wasn’t completely resolved, the act of discussing it during the session had a positive impact. It provided a sense of relief and acceptance, which in turn helped alleviate my worries and made me feel better about the situation.”
“I am grateful for how my coach helped me organize my thoughts and helped me understand that the answers in life are always within me.”
Thank you so much to all the professional coaches from our alumni community and our partners in UP, especially Chancellor Carlo Vistan and Vice Chancellor Lou Jaye Sonido who devoted their time, energy and effort to this project. Kudos to all!