Hi, my name is Sari van Poelje. I am the Director of Intact Academy and the Director of Agile Business Innovation. You can find me anywhere if you Google me. If you look up www.intactacademy.com or www.agilebusinessinnovation.com, you can find out what I do. Usually it’s to do with change. Change at the individual level, group, team, or organizational level, in the hope that that way will create a better society for all of us.
It’s really important to remember, the conflict is in the relationship, but the conflict is also usually in you. One of the things that’s really important to understand is that you’re actually in some ways acting out whatever split you’ve got in yourself. It’s good to check. Is this really a fight I’m having with this other person? Or is it a fight I’m having with me? Then the other person is just handy to have around. The path to resolution is really sometimes just making contact, it’s just talking about “where are you at? Where am I at? Do we actually need each other to resolve this or not?”.
There are different types of conflict. These are in types of importance, I would say, because you can say there are conflicts about priorities, rules and procedures. I call those instrumental conflicts and there, if you keep your head about you, they’re pretty easy to resolve. I mean, you just go, “What do you want? What do I want? Can we meet in the middle? Is there a different way of doing this?”. The best way to resolve the conflict is if there’s actually a third way, which is even better than my way or your way.
I remember I used to sail with my family. And there used to be a little sign in the cabin, saying, “you can do it any way you like, as long as you do it my way. The Captain”. In business in traditional dominant leadership, people used to resolve conflict this way. I don’t think it’s of this time anymore because if we resolve conflicts that way, we’ll never innovate. There’s always someone who’s right and someone who’s wrong. That’s not really the path to innovation.
The second level of conflict is really social, emotional. It’s about values, trust, and relationships. In Holland, we have a saying that goes “trust comes on foot and goes by horseback”. What we mean by that is that usually for most people trust is slow to develop. But for some people, once you feel betrayed the doors close very quickly, and it’s really hard to recover.
Trust and relationships are precious commodities in this world, where relationships seem more fleeting. It’s really important to keep your relationships healthy. So social emotional conflict is important to pay attention to. If you don’t, what happens is you collect stamps. Do you remember those little booklets we had in supermarkets where you had these stamp books? If you had enough stamps, you could get a towel or something like that. We do the same in social emotional conflict. You know, if you don’t express it and don’t resolve it, people start to collect stamps. When their book is full, they actually hand in the relationship. This is why it’s really important to figure out what’s going on at the social emotional level.
One of my colleagues said, “without a virus, you wouldn’t have a vaccine”. In some ways you could say, any conflict or friction makes your relationship stronger, but only if you own your responsibility and what’s your part in it and are willing to change who you are or what you do.
The last level of conflict is conflict about power. It’s about position and influence. I have to deal with a lot of those types of conflicts. Almost 90% of my executive coaching clients are men in CEO positions, who are ambitious, of course, you have to be. You also have to be a little bit narcissistic, because you have to believe you’re right. Otherwise, it’s really hard to run a company. However, you have to be anchored as well. If you are really for positional power, again, it’s easy to run a production or a volume company. It’s very hard to run an innovation company where you have to actually empower other people and make sure that everybody has leadership in your company.
Types of conflict can be instrumental, social emotional or about power. Power is one of the things that we’re dealing with a lot in the world now. There’s a lot of “who’s right, who’s wrong?” going around nowadays, just look at how the Trump campaign went. Look at what is happening in Russia with Putin or Orban and Hungary. We really have a sense of people wanting to be right. Wanting to be right creates conflicts about power and I’m not sure if I’m ever right, are you? Ask yourself that question.