Last week was the anniversary of President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. The words of wisdom spoken 152 years ago, specifically our ‘new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal,’ certainly should have us thinking as business leaders. Although the divergence we experience within our organizations pales to the struggle for equality and a nation in conflict that President Lincoln encountered, we can apply the lessons learned. How do we bring together ‘a team of rivals’ as portrayed in Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln within our organizations?
Sources of conflict typically come from differences in functional orientations based on behaviors, expectations and focus. Simply put, people just not getting along! Going into a resolution with a position of equality increases the possibility of an acceptable solution. Organizational relationship equality begins with basic principles for success including: focusing on the process, issue, or behavior, not the person; maintaining the self-confidence and self-esteem of others; providing constructive relationships; supporting strong partnerships with your internal and external customers; holding yourself and others accountable for commitments; and leading by example.
From a leadership perspective, consider the steps demonstrated in Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Specifically, Habits 2 & 5 state respectively ‘begin with the end in mind and seek first to understand, then to be understood.’ Next, place emphasis on common goals; focus on interests, not demands, and finally, humbly determining what’s fair. This can be accomplished through accommodation, collaboration, compromise, and a positive competitive spirit through the stages of conflict (latent, perceived, felt, manifestation, and aftermath).
Although there is some science to it, effective conflict resolution is more of an art form; good luck!
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