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Just a Thought

tug of warThe word Argument is heard often in the field of conflict resolution. It is one of the words heard most often when a conflict is examined during the course of a mediation or even a post-mediation lessons learned process.

It is an important word with broader application that one gets by listening to what goes on around them. Many of us hear every day that someone got into an argument with so and so. All of us can benefit by the reminder that the most common understanding of this word is well down the list of definitions. There are a total of six definitions for this word, but one is obsolete, so only five are relevant today.

For this post, I believe the strongest benefit for us in our everyday considerations is number two on the list which is “a reason or set of reason given in proof or rebuttal”. Closely following this definition is the third definition which is “a coherent series of statements leading from a premise to a conclusion”.

Defining an argument as a quarrel or disagreement is well down the list. My point in this post, in a sense, is a continuation of my earlier post. As executives, leaders, managers, your goal is not to avoid or mitigate disagreements, but deal with them through reasoned persuasion or by reasoned argument. And lest anyone forget, reasoned argument carries with it the obligation to listen using both active listening and empathic listening skills.

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The Conflict Peril

concept with matches- chain reactionThe companies I consult with fall into one of two camps; they know they will have problems if they are not proactive, or they have a problem and it needs resolution now.  I have far too few of the first, and more than I should of the second.  Periodically I remind my readers that there is real peril in not resolving conflict in a timely manner. I have written before about the adverse impact on profits, on organizational cohesion, and the impact on quality and reliability of a product or service.

Many studies over the past 25 years give ample empirical evidence of the damage resulting from conflicts that are ignored. So why do so many companies shy away from explicitly preventing conflict or confronting conflict once it begins to impact the organization. What is it about a company’s culture and the leadership that shapes that culture? Let’s face it folks; a conflict produces a lot of early warning signs, and it’s the leader’s job to heed those warnings and change whatever is producing those clear warnings. When they fail to act, to adjust, they are failing as leaders.

When I meet with a CEO or his key executives I ask each of them some simple questions.

Do you avoid talking about conflicts that inevitably  appear?

How proactive are you in promoting procedures and processes for training managers and employees in conflict resolution?

How aware are your employees of the various techniques and tools available to them to prevent, mitigate, or resolve conflict?

The responses to these three questions varies greatly, and that is why I stay busy.

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