When the guy above walks into your office, will you be ready?
Some tasks are inherently unpleasant. No one likes rinsing out a garbage can after the bag has leaked. I’d wager that very few people enjoy scooping doggy-doo from the backyard, no matter how they love their furry friend.
Similarly, most of the tasks that surround workplace conflict are never going to be the tasks we look forward to or inherently enjoy, at least in the usual sense of the word.
However, there are some things in life that simply need to be done. Developing the humility to do them regardless of our own fears, tastes, and preferences is the key to leading conflict.
This reminds me of a quote by legendary boxing trainer Constantine “Cus” D’Amato. Cus trained some of the greatest champions of the 20th Century, such as Floyd Patterson, José Torres, and “Iron” Mike Tyson. Reflecting on the contradictions inherent in purposely entering a ring where you know that you will experience danger and pain, Cus is reported to have said something like:
“You have to do what you hate, but do it like you love it.”
As I cover in Move Toward Fear: Leading Conflict Principle 1, Cus encouraged his boxers to view fear like fire. Fire can rage out of control and destroy, or it can be used to create and do useful work. An eighteen-year-old kid who wants to be a champion only has two choices: either let that fear control you and run away, or face it, master yourself, and make it work for you.
Check out Cus’ take on the power of fear.
Psychologically, there’s very little difference in our response to physical or interpersonal danger. Our first and natural response is to avoid and run away – unless you’ve trained yourself to do otherwise. That is the hardest part of learning how to box or lead conflict.
Skipping rope, practicing proper form, and getting up early to workout, pale in comparison to the bigger challenges such as: performing while under attack, relaxing while moving at full power, and working through the personal demons and weaknesses that every fighter fears the most.
Similarly, learning how to structure a supervision meeting or utilize a simple feedback method is relatively easy compared to developing the ability to act under pressure in the face of uncertainty and intense negative emotions.
Learning how to operate and make wise decisions while under psychological and emotional duress requires a simple set of skills that you practice so frequently, you’ll be able to deploy them under pressure without having to think much about it.
Conflict skills that require everyone to be in a calm and Zen-like state of reflection are useless in most real-life situations. Authentic human behavior is unpredictable and un-scripted. Leaders should train and practice accordingly.
A boxer doesn’t see a punch and then think hard about ducking, rolling, and counter-punching. He just does it. He does it because he’s practiced it so many times in similar situations that the behavior becomes automatic – overriding his natural fear and hesitancy. The content of this blog is structured to develop those skills and instincts:
The Leading Conflict Principles are simple and easy to understand fundamentals of interpersonal conflict.
The Creative Strategies section will help you practice those principles repeatedly in common everyday situations.
Core Concepts applies those fundamentals and skills to the bigger picture of life and organizational culture.
And finally, the Toxic Behavior Profiles help you prepare and game-plan for the toughest challengers you’re likely to face at work and in everyday life.
Here’s a final bit of wisdom from Cus on what really makes a difference when the interpersonal chips are down:
“The ability to do what needs to be done regardless of the pressure and do it with poise, with no reflection of his inner feeling or conflict if it exists, is what makes a professional. It has nothing to do with their knowledge.” – Cus D’Amato
When it comes to real-life conflict, what you know is not very important. It’s what you can do that makes all the difference.
Get in the ring and practice! Check-out these fun upcoming online events.