I don’t like that man. I must get to know him better……

Abraham LincolnWhilst scanning through a book of quotations, I noticed “I don’t like that man. I must get to know him better.” Abraham Lincoln. These words are a perfect reflection of my vision for a better world, where an attitude of openness and affectionate curiosity existed between people and individuals were accepted for who they were rather than judgements been made about them before even getting to know them. You may think that this is a wonderful philosophy but somewhat unrealistic, but is it really that big a leap to hope for less conflict in our workplaces and home? Emotional Intelligence, Behavioural Styles and Mindfulness are all terms we are familiar with, yet few have learned from. I work with leaders, and their teams helping them to be more accepting and less judgemental of each other and would like to share a few ideas of how workplace conflicts can be minimised and a culture of valuing the diversity within a team be nurtured. Create understanding and appreciation of differences, when the conflict is based in clashes of behavioural styles and working preferences, simply telling team members that they are different is seldom enough, they already know that much! The key is to demonstrate that each of the preferences and styles are normal and that each brings unique qualities and strengths contributing to the overall effectiveness of the team. Each style and preference is equally valid and important to the success of the team, however don’t tell them show them! A simple yet powerful activity, I use is to bring together the individual’s or teams and ask them to reflect upon what they need to be productive within their workplace taking into account their working preferences. Debriefing the lists in terms of behavioural styles, illustrates the significant, yet normal differences in working preferences. At this point comments such as “So that is why you do that. You are not just doing it to be awkward.” Having identified the differences, a few minutes reflection about how the individual preferences contribute to the effectiveness of the team, is a worthwhile activity to reframe the differences as valuable strengths. The next stage I move to is to facilitate discussion between the individual’s or teams to move them towards generating ideas for working out the situation and enable them to be more tolerant of differences, see beyond the differences and work more effectively together. Non judgemental acceptance of others. A natural reaction when we don’t like someone, is to have as little as possible to do with them, we exclude them from conversations and other activities, only including them when we are forced to do so. The action of exclusion then creates an even bigger rift between the two parties, conflicts escalate and atmospheres can develop which impede upon the whole team. Practitioners of Mindfulness refer to the Seven Pillars: Non Judging, Patience, Beginners Mind, Trust, Non Striving, Acceptance and Letting Go. The Seven Pillars provide some very valuable lessons which can be applied into the workplace, to help address issues such as conflict management and being more accepting of others. I referred earlier to having increased awareness of self, with regards to behavioural styles and working preferences. We also need to be aware of the judgements we make all day every day, judgements which influence the way we treat individuals, which influence whether we include or exclude our colleagues. Having increased awareness of our judgements means we can make a conscious decision about our actions. A beginners mind enables an openness and affectionate curiosity about the way we approach a situation or the way we communicate with our colleagues. It creates a deeper empathy and understanding of how the other person is feeling and what is going on for them and enables us to get to know them in a whole new way. Another valuable lesson is “Letting Go” or as my colleague Sian says “Drop the bone.” Don’t carry grudges and resentment, let unpleasant and conflict situations go as soon as you become aware you are holding onto them. Don’t let them get in the way of getting to your know your colleague better. So as Abraham Lincoln said “I don’t like that man. I must get to know him better.”Abraham Lincoln  Could be very good advice we should take heed of in the workplace as a way of reducing conflict and improving team effectiveness.

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