In Jeff’s last post, he reminded you of our Leaning Into Healthy Conflict model and the importance of not avoiding conflict.
In my last post, I reminded you of the path to low impact that we teach in LEAD 365 and how that path is initiated by attempting to avoid conflict.
Today’s posting is a reminder of the path to high impact—which is what all of us on the Leading by DESIGN team expect of ourselves—and also of you, our alumni.
This path starts with a willingness to engage these difficult conversations using the developed skills needed to do them well. And like all skills, these will only develop with practice. So the willingness to engage difficult conversations is critical to learning to do it well.
This willingness to engage in difficult conversations leads to much more effective communication in your key relationships. This, in turn, leads to a better understanding of the other person and yourself as you find yourself challenged by how they view the area of disagreement. This will cause you to test what you believe and/or how you behave.
Because you end up knowing yourself and the other person better, you end up with a richer and more robust relationship. This new level of strength in the relationship means you’ll be able to give and receive feedback without having to worry about it severing the relationship.
Of course, there is a slim possibility—I think less than 5%—that the person won’t be able to handle the healthy conflict and, as such, the relationship will suffer from the attempt. Sometimes the truth, or at least your understanding of it, is too difficult for someone to explore. You may remember the line from the movie A Few Good Men, when Tom Cruise gets Jack Nicholson to yell “YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH!”
Well, it’s true that some people just can’t handle the perceived truth you’re attempting to share, which could lead them to distance themselves from you. If you have engaged the difficulty with love and truth, then this inability to engage the topic well will be more about that person than anything you’ve done.
Susan Scott, the author of Fierce Conversations, describes this pursuit of what is true as “interrogating reality.” I like this expression. My contention is that interrogating reality in a loving way almost always leads to robust relationships, which then leads to people feeling secure in their belonging. This results in them being more open to constructive feedback and loving encouragement.
This leads to the sixth step of the path: becoming clearer about the best direction to take in any situation, and having more courage to pursue that direction, which ultimately leads to a life of continuous improvement and high impact.
Below is a copy of the Path to High Impact slide you saw in LEAD 365, in case you want to see it again:
If you want to take a deeper dive, you might read Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott.
In closing, I’m convinced that growing our abilities to effectively lean into healthy conflict has so much impact on leadership that it alone can move us 80% of the way to making West Michigan the Silicon Valley of leadership. This depends on each of use doing it frequently and getting better at it as we practice.
Thanks for being a leader worth following!