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March 4, 2024 46 mins

Tired of conflict stifling your team's potential? Discover the transformative power of healthy disagreement in this enlightening episode of "Manager to Manager." Join host Kamaria Scott and guest Phillip Sparrow, a veteran HR professional and conflict resolution expert, as they discuss the art of turning workplace discord into a catalyst for innovation and growth. This episode offers a roadmap for leaders eager to foster a culture where diverse perspectives thrive.

Kamaria and Phillip share how to create a psychologically safe space for open dialogue, understand different conflict styles, and employ strategies that balance assertiveness with empathy. They provide practical tips for improving team dynamics and harnessing the creative potential of conflict.

This episode is a must-listen for anyone looking to enhance their leadership capabilities and build stronger teams. Tune in now to transform the way you and your team navigate challenges, propelling your organization towards unprecedented innovation and success. Show Notes:

Connect with Phillip Spearo on LinkedIn


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Episode Transcript

Available transcripts are automatically generated. Complete accuracy is not guaranteed.
Conflict is neutral. And in fact, Ralph Kilman, he's considered the godfather
of conflict. He says it's essential.
If we don't have conflict, we as human beings could not function.
Think about all the great things that have been produced and the thoughts and everything else.
It usually stems from conflict, different ideas coming together to make even better things.
And to put it in a more modern context, we talk about diversity, equity, and inclusion.

So diversity, as you know, all the of studies indicate either diverse teams
do way worse than homogeneous teams, or they do way better.
There's really no in between. Why is that? Well, inclusion is really the key
in being able to harness that diversity.
And so people are able to bring their whole selves to work. They're able to

communicate. And that's what conflict is.
We're able to get those different perspectives, those different backgrounds,
and apply that to whatever we're working on. That leads to innovation.
Welcome to Manager to Manager, a podcast about the experiences of people leaders

and how we can enable them to lead engaged, healthy, and high-performing teams.
I'm Kamaria Scott, your host, and I'm thrilled to have you join us as we learn,
lead, and succeed together.
Hello, friends, and welcome to another episode of Manager to Manager.
One of the things I really love is bringing you people leaders from my own community

because I know them as people and I can verify for you that they are amazing,
amazing managers and people leaders who are always going to have something insightful
to share with you from their own experience.
Today's guest is Philip Sparrow and he's going to help us all become a little
bit better at something that maybe isn't a frequent part of our role as people

leaders, but it's very, very important. So Philip, welcome to the show.
Hi, Maria. Thank you so much for having me. It is a pleasure.
So as always, let's start with chatting a little bit about you.
If you would, tell our listeners a little bit about yourself,
your experience as a people leader, and what are you doing today?
Well, again, thank you for having me here today. I come from Wisconsin,

specifically a place called Door County, Wisconsin.
It's the Cape Cod of the Midwest. And the reason that's important for me is
that's where I got my break as a people leader.
About 30 years ago, I was 15, 16 years old. I had a chance to run a restaurant.
I did that for most of high school and into the college as well.
And along the way in my professional career as an attorney, a longtime HR leader,

and now I'm a workplace investigator.
And so I get to see the unfortunate side of where conflict goes bad within organizations.
And most of my investigations, the root of the problem is actually a breakdown
in the ability of people and teams to handle conflict.
So I'm hopeful today's conversation will present a couple tips and tricks that

I've learned over the years to hopefully prevent investigations,
because I do believe healthy conflict leads to better better innovation,
and less investigations in organizations.
All right. Wow. So we're going to learn a lot from you today.
And listen, I don't want everybody listening to get scared and be like,
what? Workplace investigations?
But be thinking about this as when conflict goes well, what happens for us?

But also when conflict doesn't go well, what happens to us?
So we're going to just jump right in. Through these conversations,
I always get to learn so much about a topic that my guests are talking about,
But I also get to learn something about my guests. So...
You as a guest talking to us about conflict, what's something that I would learn
about you through this conversation?

Maria, I have a confession to make. I was not good at conflict growing up and,
quite frankly, early into my career as well.
And I think it's based on a couple different things. For most people,
it's where you grow up, who's around you, and the times that we live in.
So I, again, grew up in Wisconsin.
We have a saying here in the Midwest. It's called Midwest Nice.
There's a lot of really good things about Midwest Nice. Nice.

We're very gracious with our time, our energy. We would do anything for a friend,
for a neighbor, even for a stranger.
We even say like, there's no
such thing as a stranger. They're just people we haven't met yet, right?
But there is a downside, I believe, to Midwest Nice, and we are chronic conflict
avoiders here in the Midwest.
I grew up with things like, mind your own business, keep your head down, stay in your lane.

Those are very powerful things that that I learned growing up.
And I think avoiding conflict in the short term can lead to better productivity.
We see that here in the Midwest. We're generally recognized for our manufacturing
and being more productive than maybe other parts of the country and the world,
but we're not as innovative, in my opinion.

And certainly these are generalizations, but I had a joke with a lot of my friends growing up.
We would always be wishful thinkers thinking, be nice to somebody Somebody in
California or somebody in New York came up with whatever, a new toy or a new
invention, because in a couple of years, we'll see it here in Wisconsin.
So it always started on the coast and would eventually get to the Midwest.
So that is the downside to Midwest nice. That's actually pretty interesting.

Midwest nice reminds me a bit of Southern Hospitalities being a Floridian.
We're very like, bless your heart.
And we may not go the direct route into conflict, but we kind of have this Southern
way of like wheezing around what we want to say and still getting to the point.
So I could totally relate to you on Midwest nights and maybe being a smidge conflict avoidant.

I think a lot of times when we learn our behaviors, we learn them from people
around us, from home, from things like that.
Did you find as you sort of grew up that there was a way that you learned to be Midwest nice?
Yeah, absolutely. In my family, there was three basic archetypes.
One was that person that would avoid conflict.
And so the person I'm thinking about within my family, she was very much mind your own business.

She would bite her tongue. She wanted to share things.
She would share things in private about other family members or concerns that
she was having, but wouldn't address people directly.
She had, she continues to have a fine life to this day, right?
But I think there were some things in our family.
Had she spoken up, I think we would have been better for it.
I could totally relate to that. Years later, I learned that that behavior of

going to other people instead of the source is called triangulation.
And so many of us are like that in in our family lives, or at least I can tell
you from my personal experience, that scenario sounds relatable.
And it's easy to go talk to someone else, but then to get the courage to directly.
Handle it head on, a lot of us don't learn that growing up.

Yeah. And then there's always those unsaid things and those rumors in the family,
and nobody addresses those head on. So it creates its own problem.
And if you carry that into the workplace, then there's some ramifications for
that as well, which I'm sure we'll get into. Yeah.
What's another one? Yeah. Another one was what I would call win at all costs.
This individual, everything was a fight and would see it through that lens.

So a big chip on their shoulder.
It was very binary win or lose.
And the result was there were some big wins, but there was also some big losses, a lot of heartache.
And they lost a lot of friends too, because they couldn't separate the issues
or the discussion from the friends.
If they disagreed with somebody, then that person was no longer somebody they

wanted to associate with. And it was a shame. Yeah.
Yeah. That's another relatable scenario. It's weird because as you're mentioning
this, actual people are coming to my brain. So these are real architects.
I think it's interesting to your point that even before we got to work,
we saw conflict at home or in our personal lives.
And to some extent, maybe even brought some of that to our work life.
So yeah, it's interesting. I know you said there was three archetypes.

What's What's that third one?
Yeah, the third one is probably more ideal for here in 2024.
And it's what I would call the collaborator. This was somebody that was willing
to discuss tough things.
It doesn't mean it was easy for this person. They fully acknowledged it,
but they were willing to bring things up. And we were all better for that.
This person was able to keep the friendships and the issues separate.

And so the end result for this person was a very successful career and also
able to have a lot of friends.
And so, I mean, the collaborator type, I would say, is somebody that was able
to have it all, the friendships and also the really hard conversations and a successful career.
Yeah, it's interesting to see all of those things at once.

So I think about, again, what you just said, and I can pinpoint in my head people
that remind me of each of those types of archetypes.
Not only do I think about them, but I think about what happens around them.
Like, is there chaos around them? Are there healthy relationships around them?
And I can see the impact of each one of those on how they navigate through life.

That's really interesting. Interesting. So this was your early life.
This was before you were anybody's employee.
And then you took all this Midwest nice and you went to work.
And so then what happened?
Yeah. So I actually chose or subconsciously chose win at all costs.
It was my personal, I was an athlete growing up and I would say it would be

a combination of win at all costs and avoiding.
I was very strategic in the fights, quote unquote, that I would pick.
But if I got into a situation where I felt competitive, I would try to win at
all costs. And that means somebody loses, right?
And avoiding was certainly there for things that I didn't care about.
And I just, I stay in my lane for those type of things. But I would say my default

is when it all costs. And that came at a price.
And I'm happy to tell you more about that price.
Yes, yes, yes, yes. Well, yeah, tell us more about that price.
Give us an example of when it all costs, because I think that a lot of us have
that competitive nature and we may not even see it as conflict.
So if you could share an example of what that looks like for you,

I think that could be tremendously helpful.
I've got a little journey for you. So we'll start back in my restaurant days.
I was still in high school and early college.
As I was getting to be a little bit older, 17, 18, 19 years old,
I started having younger employees work with me as well.
And so I started noticing this dichotomy that the younger employees,
they wanted more feedback.

They wanted me to work directly with them. Saw me more as a peer than just somebody
giving them instructions in the workplace.
Contrast, and I would say those individuals are millennials as we have come to know them now.
But then I would also notice I had a lot of baby boomers in the workplace.
And they would just say, I'm here to punch the clock. Tell me what to do.

I just want to do my job and go home. So it was a really interesting contrast.
And what I took away from that was like, okay, I have a certain leadership style.
And so I need to attract individuals that kind of fit with my leadership style.
That is not where the world is here in 2024.
That was my misreading of how to lead and how to manage conflict in my younger years.

And that created some bigger problems for me later on in my professional life.
Okay, so you had this early experience of entering the workplace and really
seeing that people who were more older and experienced, they treated work and
the way they influenced one way.
And then you had sort of a younger generation that influenced work maybe a different

way or had a different sentiment about work.
And you started realizing that perhaps the way that I work with one group and
the way that I work with another group might actually be different.
They need different things from me.
And so in the vein of conflict, how did that roll into this aha moment for you?
The aha moment came when I was leading a couple of different staffing firms.

And so again, one staffing firm tended to be older employees,
the boomers, and very much like the restaurant on days, tell me what to do.
I'm here to do my job and then go home.
But then I moved to a staffing firm, took over a staffing firm where there was all millennials.
So big, big culture shift for me.
And it was an organization that was challenged. So my job was to turn it around.

So there was a lot of pressure on me and I conveyed that pressure to the team, unfortunately.
And so one particular meeting, I remember this very vividly,
I gave very concrete instructions on what I wanted done and how it was supposed to be done.
And then somebody spoke up and suggested a different approach.
And I have to tell you, I was livid. I saw it as insubordination.

I had just told you guys what to do, and now you're questioning me.
So I snapped. I really did. And it's the least proud moment of my career.
Interesting. Well, and I have to tell you, I almost feel like you're You're
not a good people leader until you've had a least proud moment of your career.
And we all have those moments where we're just like, yikes, was that me?

But I want to unpack that experience just a little bit because I think the conflict
came from I gave a direction, perhaps it was not followed.
And I'm going to take liberties that you and I are probably in the same age group.
And so when I think about earlier in my career, a lot of leaders above me had

almost absolute unquestionable authority.
So if they said, take two steps to the left, because they said it, that was the directive.
And so it was almost like you couldn't
have conflict because you couldn't question what the directive was.
As our generation became leaders, that leadership style, that unquestionable,
there is no conflict because I said so, had gone by the wayside.

And that's no longer the way that we can lead people. And it probably wasn't
effective, even for them, to be honest with you.
It probably wasn't effective as an approach, but even the acceptance and tolerance
of it has probably kind of waned away a little bit.
So does that resonate at all? Or is that what you think kind of contributed
to that aha moment for you?
Yeah, totally. So a couple of thoughts around that. I think when When we were

growing up, we were all taught everybody's a leader, right?
So of course, people are carrying that to the workplace and starting to question authority.
And I realized in that particular moment, because I lost the team at that point,
like the team rebelled against that.
And it was not a good result after that. And I transitioned to a different company shortly thereafter.
But what I vowed to myself is I needed to become a better leader. Times were changing.

I was recognizing that. And I needed new tools and a new approach in order to
be successful as a leader. Thank you for watching.
It's interesting that you said, that's the moment where I lost the team and
there was no coming back from that because I've never really heard a leader
admit, hey, this is the pivot point for me.
But even acknowledge that when we don't necessarily handle situations the right

way with care, that we can cause irreparable damage to our relationship,
to the people that we lead.
And so really thinking about how we manage conflict is very,
very important for that particular reason. And how did you work that yourself first?
And then how do you help other people understand the gravity of perhaps not
dealing with conflict properly?
Yeah. So one of the tips I always give people is don't try to practice on yourself.

If you realize that you're in that moment, seek out help, go to HR, go to your manager.
I didn't do that at first. I recognized that this was a problem,
but it was this tension that was building up between me and this other employee
and the other employees were experiencing as well. well.
So it was kind of a tug of war within our little organization.
Eventually our boss came in

and talked to us and we had a mediation and I apologized for my actions.
But after a couple months, it was just simply too late. I think in retrospect,
would have addressed it in the moment and would have done the repair work that
we would have needed to have done.
I would have to shift my leadership style at that point. And I would have probably
appreciated some coaching around how to to be that leader that I needed to be

for that team in the moment because I didn't have those skills.
And so I was really hungry for it. That's a really good point.
A lot of times we start leading teams and we don't have the skills.
All we have is what we grew up with, right?
And that's work. I remember being in a meeting with someone on my team and there

was conflict in that there was behavior that really wasn't conducive to our
team performing well. and things of that nature.
And I remember sort of being taken back by just the way that she approached
the situation. And I almost reacted to it.
But then at the same time, I could see that the rest of the team was looking at me.

And so whatever way I responded or whatever way I chose to handle that situation,
it said something about me just as much as it did that particular team member.
And that's one of the reasons why handling conflict can be tricky,
because if I don't come to the situation with a background of properly knowing
how to handle conflict, when When I find myself in one, when I find myself in one at work,

I'm going to revert back to what I used to do, even if it wasn't healthy.
And it's funny, I always tell people, I honestly didn't even learn how to manage
conflict until I got to corporate America.
I remember taking the course Crucial Conversations and being like,
oh, is this how you're supposed to do it?
But so many of us come to our roles as people leaders, and we don't have any
formal training in conflict.

We just have what we colloquially learned how to do growing up.
Absolutely. So the next company I joined, there were some really good leaders there.
I was really struck by one individual in particular. He was always asking me for my input.
We try to get ahead of things. And there was just some really good modeling
there. And I'm sure you've had that in your career as well.
We learn from our leaders and we try to emulate the good stuff that we see in

our leaders because we ultimately want to, if it's not the golden rule,
then maybe the platinum rule, like treat others how either we'd want to be treated
or treat them how they'd want to be treated.
And so by having really good examples, that's a big step forward.
And then in my journey, I was able to get some additional training at this next
company that I was able to use as a leader.

And we also, from an HR perspective, we applied it to other leaders with great success as well.
Oh, I love that. I love that. Well, definitely we want to learn vicariously
through you and maybe the Cliff Notes versions of some of the things that you learned.
I want to start by talking about conflict in general.
As you and I have started this conversation, we've kind of talked about the

horror stories of conflict gone awry.
But in reality, and please correct me if I'm wrong on this, conflict in and
of itself is not a terrible thing.
It's not something that we should be afraid of.
It's actually healthy for a team. Yeah, conflict is neutral.
And in fact, Ralph Kilman, he's considered the godfather of conflict. He says it's essential.
If we don't have conflict, we as human beings could not function.

Think about all the great things that have been produced and the thoughts and everything else.
It usually stems from conflict, different ideas coming together to make even better things. things.
And to put it in a more modern context, we talk about diversity, equity, and inclusion.
So diversity, as you know, all the studies indicate either diverse teams do
way worse than homogeneous teams, or they do way better.

There's really no in-between. Why is that? Well, inclusion is really the key
in being able to harness that diversity.
And so people are able to bring their whole selves to work. They're able to communicate.
And that's what conflict is. Like, we're able to get those different perspectives,
those different backgrounds, and apply that to whatever we're working on that leads to innovation.

Motivation what i'm hearing you say is like another way for us to think about conflict.
Is it's really just differing opinions it's different
viewpoints whenever we look at something and i
say we should go left and you say we should go right that's really conflict
that in and of itself the different view or the different perspective about
something is not a good or bad thing and it's actually when handled correctly

can be good because Because if I hear your perspective and you hear my perspective,
you may come to some grand solution.
If this is ideal, right? I want to invite this kind of conflict into my team.
How do I go about doing that? Yeah. So one of the first things I got better
at was seeking input and feedback from my team members.
Be very proactive about it. So in opening myself to ideas as well,

I'm like, I think that's a struggle that so many of us have when you're an individual
contributor and then you become a manager for the first time.
You've gotten to become a manager because you're really good at whatever you do.
And all of a sudden, you're with other people that are good at what they do
as well. and you're going to naturally have different ideas.
And so just open yourself up to the possibility that somebody else's idea might

compliment or maybe even enhance what you have is a big step forward as a leader.
And then when you're talking about your own people, just looking to them and
say, hey, I'd love your input on this or I'd love your feedback on this before
you make that final decision.
That was a big turning point for me because I still to this day,
like when I make up my mind, I make up my mind. mind.

And it really burned me when somebody says, no, we should reevaluate.
So now I just naturally like, okay, I've not made up my mind yet.
So this is fair game. I want input on this stuff.
I'll have the final say, but I want to make sure that everybody has input into this.
It's so funny because in another episode, I was talking to a guest and she specifically

said, I'm an action oriented deciding person.
So I want to get to the decision of being made. And once it's made, it's made, right?
And what's so funny to me about that is, to your point, most of us who get promoted
to become people leaders, that decisiveness, that ability to just be like,
this is the decision and I'm going forward, is what puts us in this role.

And then we have to take a step back and say, so maybe now I don't need to make
the decision or I need to invite people into the conversation.
Do you have tips or tricks for how people do that so that people feel feel comfortable
giving them a difference of opinion.
Yeah, absolutely. So one thing, one intellectual framing that I like to use

was just so inspirational for me is think of a triangle.
You've got results on one tip of the triangle.
You've got relationships or people on the other part of the triangle.
And then you have processes and you want to keep all three together,
right? If you lean too heavy into results, then something has to give with the
processes or the relationships.
With processes, think about Boeing. Doors fly off of airplanes if you skip parts of the process.

That's not good, right? Yes, the bottom line looks good in the moment,
but you're going to pay for it in the long run.
The same with people. If you're constantly trying to win and get these bottom
line results, you're going to burn your people out.
So that's just a good reminder of you've got to keep all three things in balance.
So that's the intellectual framework.
What does it look like to actually do that? Just what I was talking about.

It's like seeking that input, getting to know them as people.
And then also, you wrote about this, I think, on LinkedIn a couple weeks ago.
It's about aligning people's goals with the organization's goals.
And I'll let you speak to that. But we did that in our organization.
It was like a Rika moment. We were a growing organization. We needed people

to move up in the organization, take on more, do more.
People wanted to make more money. They wanted loftier titles.
It was a beautiful thing when those two things aligned. mind.
Yeah, no, I love that. I love it. What stands out to me from that is the part
about the relationship and the results.
The process part, we know that there have to be structures in place that help people.

But when I think about life lessons that have helped me as a people leader,
I remember one time I was in a workshop actually, and we were designing something.
And in my mind, I knew what I felt was like the technical answer of what we
needed to be doing, the way we need to be doing it. I remember someone saying,
oh, we can do it like this.
And I must have said, no, no, no, it should be this way. Did it or whatever.

And then after the workshop was over,
My people leader pulled me aside and said, listen, nine times out of 10,
when you're in a room and you're talking, people are listening to what you're
saying and they take what you're saying, right?
But you have to make people feel a part of what's happening.
And so in terms of the results, even if it's not 100% what's in your mind as

the right right way, that 10% that you let somebody else contribute or that you pull them in.
It helps them, but they want to feel a part of the solution.
They want to feel a part of what they're doing.
And so the conflict of whether or not you think this is the right way or they
think it's the right way, also think about that relationship that you might

be damaging, trying to get it the way you think is the right way.
And that was really important advice for me because I think there are some of
us that the result is what drives us so much that we might cause more conflict
and more damage to the relationship trying to get there.
Absolutely. I remember writing the handbook way in 2018, right?

And so you're accepting comments and stuff like that.
And it just remember like the pride that one individual had that whatever comment
she had or the way she structured the sentence survived the last edit in the
handbook. She was so proud of that.
She's like, I am able to see myself in this handbook now. That's so powerful.
Isn't it? That is so powerful.

And then I also learned from that, that results in relationships don't necessarily have to be at odds.
And that's the part that I think as we grow as people leaders, we start to realize.
And so even on my own teams, I invite them to disagree with me. me.
There's always a saying on all of my teams, it's okay to call the baby ugly.

And my teams know that that basically means you can come to me and you can say,
hi, Marie, that is a hot mess.
Like, we don't like that because I want you to tell me before it gets out to
whoever our clients are.
And building that into the process, I think it's an example of like healthy
conflict because now I'm saying, please do disagree with me or I'll bring them

something and I'll say, please poke holes in this, convince me that I'm wrong.
That actually makes our products better because they are going to offer those differing opinions.
They are going to poke holes on it. But it's so important for me to set the
space and tone for them to be able to do that.
Absolutely. And you're building that social capital with people.
And then there may be times where you have to make a decision very quickly.

And they'll trust you to make that. You'll probably lay out your case like,
look, I have to make this decision because of X, Y, and Z.
Normally, I would seek your input, but this is the situation we're up against. This is an exception.
Please trust me on this. And they're going to most likely trust you with that decision. Yeah.
And so it seems like you and I were really discussing the conflict that a leader

might have with their teams.
Not necessarily I monitor other people's conflict, but I'm involved in a conflict myself.
When people leaders find themselves in that situation where the conflict involves
them, what are some best practices or how have you navigated successfully when
you found yourself as a part of the conflict?

Yeah, so you're right. I think there are two types of conflict that managers often run into.
There's the type that they're involved in. Usually it's with a person on your team.
And the other is when it's two members or more members on your team having some
conflict and you're asked to somehow deal with that. So focusing on when you're
involved in the conflict itself, I remember this one particular example.

It was a new manager at our organization.
And like we've talked about, much like myself, it was kind of when it all costs
my way or the highway type of situation.
And she was coming into a situation where there was an established team.
They were cooking. They were doing great.
There was no reason to rock the boat.
And she did. She wanted to make her mark, and she did. So the typical example

that I would see is the manager starts doing things or applying their will and
the team will push back and one brave soul will usually be the focal point.
And the manager will get to the point where it's like this passive aggressive
behavior or this always challenge me, that's insubordination.
And then that person will come back and they'll say hostile work environment,

harassment, discrimination, and then people like me are involved.
What I've seen effective is situational leadership in that particular situation.
Let's work with that leader, hopefully ahead of time, but if we're starting
to find ourselves in this situation, let's apply a situational leadership model
to this. So here's a relatively new manager coming into a well-established team.

You don't need to micromanage them. Come with that expectation right away.
Yes, there will be decisions and stuff that you're going to need to make down
the line, but here's a good team.
Leave it alone for the most part. Delegate to them. If they need some support
or coaching, that's absolutely fine as well.
But don't micromanage them. That is the biggest mistake I see with new managers

is trying to micromanage a well-established team.
I think that's very interesting that new managers might struggle with learning
how to let a team breathe, like let it breathe for a little while before you
decide if something needs to be acted upon. upon.
And then when they find themselves sort of in the situation,
especially with established teams where maybe there's ways that we used to do

this with our old leader, or we used to do this in ways that predate you.
And we want to invite healthy conflict in. What is it to do then?
How do we lean into, I might see some things I need to change.
I see something that they're doing that maybe isn't as effective as they might
think it is. If I'm a people leader and I want to engage and healthy confidence
about this, how do I do that?

Get curious. Get really curious.
You're seeing this. You're feeling this. Ask questions. Why is this?
There's probably a reason.
Rarely is it like, oh, that's just the way we've always done it.
Somebody knows, especially these more established teams.
Well, we did that five years ago because of X, Y, and Z. And so then you have

the better understanding.
And then you're talking about the issue or trying to pick apart what's going
on here and you're starting to get feedback.
Well, when, whatever the issue is, you can get to a better spot because you're
having that dialogue with them.
So the big takeaway I would share with you and for the listeners is just get
really curious and engaged in those conversations.

People like talking about the work, right? And so maybe somebody else on the
team is feeling the way you do too.
You can start then inviting these different opinions. You can bring it up in a a meeting.
You guys can, you can finally work through it as a team and come to a really good place.
You end up getting what you wanted, where it's like, okay, we need to change
this a little bit. It's working. The team feels like they've had a chance to

contribute to that as well.
Yes, I love that because I'm a huge fan. One of my other guests calls them curiosity missions.
And I'm a huge fan because the more about your team members,
the situation, the history of something, the better you are able to think about
how you should influence it.
So inviting healthy conflict in, first of all, to me sounds like you need to

have a full view of the situation. What do we disagree about? Why?
What are all the factors? factors.
And then is there something about then how we go into approach it?
Because I think you mentioned like some of us, or when it all costs.
One of us, some of us are avoidant.
Do we approach conflict the same or differently as we're trying to navigate
through it with other people?
We do, we do. So I'm a big believer in doing assessments with employees.

In my last company, you used something called the PI, which is the predictive index.
It's not a conflict instrument itself, but it describes how a person works best.
What is their default work style?
For example, I'm an introvert. I am also very assertive, right?
Those are two things that really jump off the page.
And I like to move very quickly, as you can imagine.

That might not mesh with somebody else's work style.
And so I've had cases where I've had somebody that is a leader,
and they're a total introvert, and they have a new employee on the team.
They're a total extrovert. Well, the extrovert wants to engage in these conversations,
and the manager is like, oh, my goodness, this is overwhelming.

Just do your job. I hired you to do this. We're having problems there.
And so in that particular case, I remember this very vividly.
I always tell managers, meet the employees where they're at,
but you can also still respect your work style.
So this person was a senior level person.
I said, I know you've got meetings all day long.
Just have an open door for an hour or two where she can come in and discuss anything with you.

That way you're still getting all the stuff you want to get done without interruptions
that fits your work style.
And you're still meeting her needs where she just needs that time to talk to you.
So I'm hearing flex in there. I'm hearing, first and foremost,
be aware of where you might be different, how you might approach situations
differently, and then figure out how you flex, that person flexes,

but how to meet in the middle.
I like to call it the and of it all. My teams are like, I'm always looking for the and.
So I feel this way, you feel that way.
Maybe there's an and to get us both what we want or for us both to feel comfortable in the situation.
I would definitely add to your point that awareness is one thing,
but once you even have the awareness of different conflict styles or even different

ways you approach things, that you're looking for the sort of middle ground for both people.
Middle ground, and hopefully we can actually make the pie bigger.
And I think that's where the conflict tool from Thomas Killman really comes
into play, is because you're really trying to understand what the other person's needs are.
Yes, oftentimes we have a default mode, right? right? Mine's being assertive or competitive.

Other people, they may be more accommodating or they might want to avoid.
Ideally, we're able to exercise all, in this particular tool's case,
five different conflict modes for the appropriate situation.
But you're absolutely right. At the end of the day, we need to understand from
the other person, what is their need in this particular case?
And what is my need too? What are we really talking about?

Because from needs, we can get to to that really good place,
it might be that we compromise because time is short and we've got to come up with a decision.
If we've got all the time in the world and we have a good trusting relationship,
maybe we can collaborate and get to a really good place where everybody wins. Mm-hmm.
Do you find when you have looked at these various assessments,

and even in your own career as a people leader and workplace investigator,
do you find that there are distinct differences like eat within an organization.
In how people deal with conflict. Yeah, it's pretty typical that you will see
folks, more high-level executives, not surprisingly, lean into being more competitive, try to win, right?

As you go lower on the hierarchy within the organization, you'll see people more in avoiding.
And so we go back to the diversity, equity, inclusion.
Everybody wants more inclusion in the workplace, but there's something inhibiting
those individuals from taking risks from speaking out.
Everybody's talking about psychological safety these days.
We need to encourage that because we need to unlock those employees and their

thoughts and have a way for them to share that within the organization.
It's interesting that you say that employees who might be lower in the organization
are conflict avoidant and employees who are more senior in the organization
probably lean more into it and are more competitive.
I'm reminded of an an article that I wrote where I talk about smiling, neutral faces.

And what I mean by that is as a people leader, if you're looking out and you're
talking to people and you're talking to your team and you see a lot of blank
faces, but head nodding and no one's disagreeing with you, that might be a sign
that you've not created psychological safety.
You've not made it safe for them to disagree, tell you something else,
tell you something you don't want to hear.
And that's a really good indicator that different perspectives,

different groups groups feel like they have to be a part of it,
but they can't really cause any conflict, healthy or not, in order to be accepted.
Hey, can I add to that real quick? Go ahead. Yeah. So I had a manager that would
seek feedback, but then she would really push back on the feedback.
And when you've had that done a few times to you, then you're much less willing to give feedback.

So when I'm working with managers, what I like to have them do,
and I do this myself, whether it's drafting a policy or whatever it might be,
put it in front of your team and say, hey, this is something I've been working
on. It is not a finished product.
It's not perfect. How can we make this better? I'm totally open for feedback.
And when you get that feedback, seriously consider it and don't challenge it.

You can have a constructive conversation around that.
You can get curious, but just don't be competitive about it because that's going
to shut people down on really quickly. Yeah.
What I hear you saying is literally your words and actions have to align.
You can't say I'm open to feedback.
I want, I'm open to a different perspective.
And then when people give it, shut it down and keep it moving.

That's yeah. Yep. I totally get that. I thank you for that. I love that addition.
So I want to switch into something that I think a lot of managers,
including myself might sometimes struggle.
If you may have this in your own own experience as well, is when people on our
team are having a moment.
For whatever reason, two people that report to us are not saying eye to eye
on a project, on how something should get done, and they are having the conflict.

Sometimes we don't know when, how, if we should get involved.
And I'd love to hear your take on that.
Ideally, they're able to work that out themselves. We've done things in the
organization to encourage dialogue and people have skills.
But since we're asking this question, I'm going to assume that they don't have
that and you're witnessing it.
And so I'll tell you, deep down, I've seen that in my career.

And the natural instinct for me is that Midwest Nice, oh, they'll figure it out.
I don't want to get involved in that. that, right? As an HR professional,
though, as a workplace investigator, you've got to get involved, right?
So those little misunderstandings that that relationship starts veering off
course, you've got to course correct it.

And if they're not able to do it themselves, you or somebody else,
HR is going to need to step in and do some kind of mediation.
I'll tell you why that's so important.
It's called the ladder of inference, right? So I've got a client where where
these two employees have not talked with each other for three years.
And that's why, yeah, it's wild. And imagine if you're in an industry where

safety is really important.
If these two are not communicating, say there's an emergency,
they're not going to be able to navigate that emergency.
There's going to be like a wall between them, whatever.
That's not good. Imagine we're dealing with small children. They're not working together.
That's not good either. So whatever industry you're in, And having somebody
not talk to somebody for three years straight is not a good scenario to be in.

The way they got there is just climbing up the ladder of inference.
So the root cause of it was a manager one day decided to take a project from
one person to the other, didn't really explain why he was doing that.
The person who lost the project was very upset about it, blamed the other person.
The other person was like, why are you hating on me?

And they never talked about it. And it just kind of simmered.
And, you know, she hates me. She hates me.
Before it kind of boiled over and they're like, I'm just going to avoid you.
That's the safest thing to do. I'm going to come to work. Just avoid this particular person.
My client was able to finally sit them down after three years and kind of dug
into what the issue was. And it was that particular situation.

And once they identified that issue, they were able to talk about that issue
and everything else just kind of faded away.
And most importantly, from a mediation standpoint, having some kind of agreement
about if there's other issues come up, how do you deal with them together?
And people have different approaches and different styles, and that's okay as

long as they have an agreement like, hey, like some kind of keyword,
like, hey, I'm feeling this. Can we talk about that?
That should be a trigger for the other person. Oh, that's the keyword. That's the safe word.
I must have done something. or I had an impact that I didn't intend to have.
Intent and impact, I know you're big about that.
Let's talk about that. Let's unpack it and let's move forward together.

I, my goodness, I love that. There's so much goodness in what you just shared
with us, because as people leaders, we're not necessarily trying to get in and
play referee and take sides and things,
but we are trying to get to this
healthy outcome that can help our teams continue to be high performing.
And they can't be high performing if we won't even look at each other and hop on the same Zoom call.
I love what you said about giving people language and a process for working through it.

My teams have heard me say, I'll see something, and I'll be like,
oh, that makes me itch, right? That's my saying for I'm uncomfortable with whatever.
And they have their own sayings as well that when we hear them,
we're like, uh-oh, this is a flag to be looking out for.
But then there's also an established process of, okay, let's talk intent versus impact.
Did you intend for the conversation to go this way? And what were you trying to achieve?

And then what really happened? And by taking almost a sequential way of walking
them back through the series of events, it's like you get back to the core issue
and you peel back the assumptions and maybe even some of the hurt feelings that
might have come from the assumptions that were made.
And so really as a people leader, right? He's saying it's our job isn't not
to necessarily referee, but to walk them through that process and ensure that

they have those skills, bringing it full circle back to what we said to create
the experience that gives them the skills to be able to resolve things on their own in the future.
This is all coachable and trainable. I love it. So speaking of that,
it's all coachable and trainable.
Then from your personal experience and your expert experience,
how can organizations support people leaders, especially newer ones,

where I think you said you see most of the issues start to arise,
how can they better support them in being able to work through their own personal
conflicts, but also helping them sort of manage it on their teams?
Yeah, there's so many different approaches and it depends on the situation.
I'll lay out a couple here real quick. So, yeah, with those new managers,
if possible, like I always call them emerging managers, like they're on the pathway.

They've been recognized as being a high potential person to eventually become a manager.
Start working with them before they become managers.
Yes. And that can look like give them skills and things of that nature.
But also we're adult learners. So get your hands dirty.
Step into the water a little bit. Do some interim assignments.
Projects are a great thing, too. Like getting a project, you've got to lead

through influence and things of that nature as well.
And then a mentor is always very helpful. And when they do become leaders,
HR, we've got to support them, right?
So we should be having monthly check-ins with them. If not more,
put them in some kind of cohort where they're with five or six other leaders
that are in that stage as well. Yes.
You're learning. As HR professionals, we can tell you how to do something all day long. Right.

You may or may not take it, but if you hear it from another manager, you're like, oh.
And coaching used to be like a lifeline. You would have a manager that was struggling,
yet I'm a coach right away.
My investigations usually cost more than $10,000 to do.
If you get a new manager or a coach for $5,000, the chances of them having an

investigation is very low.
They're going to be supported. they're going to be in the best position possible.
That's an investment into them. I'd rather have you pay them or pay a coach
than pay me to do an investigation.
I love that. As my dad says, it's pay me now or pay me later.
And if you pay me later, it's going to cost you more.
I love that idea of making sure that people have a safety net as they're turning

to this step in their career.
This is a new experience and as much as we can support them through it,
the better off they're going to be.
And they're going to pay that forward by creating better experiences for their teams.
So I have one last question for you. It's my new favorite question to ask people
at the end of the podcast.
I know that as we go through our careers, there's periods when we are leading
people, there's periods when we're not leading people and it ebbs and flows.

So if you think about your career experience, how do you wanna be remembered as a people leader?
When people think like, gosh, I used to work for Phillips Bureau. Yeah.
What do you want them to be able to say about you? I am so proud that so many
of the people that I've worked with the last nine years have gone on to lead HR departments.
And they are flourishing. They all listed me as references.

I was happy to give those. It just brings a big smile to my face.
The listener can't see it, but it just warms my heart that they're doing so
well. And that's what it's about.
We went on that journey together. We were a growing company.
My people were hungry for growth and they took it and they ran with it and I

was there to cheer them on the whole way.
Oh, I love that. When I think about impact, being able to see people that you
have led, to see your influence on their career now has grown is one of the
greatest rewards of people leading. So I love that.
This has been a wonderful conversation. I am so glad that you were here to share

your personal experience and your expertise around conflict.
Before we run away, is there anything else you want listeners to know about
conflict or resources or just how they can get better at navigating conflict?
Thanks for the question. And thanks for having me again here today.
Conflict is natural. We're all going to experience. Don't run away from it.
When I start talking conflict with people, I can see them cringe a little bit.

If you're interested in learning more about conflict, feel free to reach out
to me. I'm sure we'll have my information in the show notes.
And if they did want to reach out to you, is LinkedIn the best way to do that?
Absolutely. Awesome. And we will make sure those are the show notes.
On behalf of the listeners, thank you so much for your time today.
And listeners, if you're out there, seriously, I encourage you,

one people leader to another, to get comfortable with conflict.
Think about how you can invite healthy conflict into your teams and not only
develop a skill in navigating it for yourself, but also creating it as a part of your team culture.
So until next time, thank you for listening to Manager to Manager.
Take care of yourselves and each other.
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