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When Faced With Conflict, Lean In
Do you know how to have difficult conversations?
Hank Fortener, founder of Adopt Together, believes many leadership failures are due to avoiding conflict, and he provides tips and personal best practices for dealing with conflict and learning how to have difficult conversations with successful outcomes. When you look back on your leadership journey, do you see a common theme for the projects that failed or the employee-employer relationships that didn’t thrive? Let us know in the comments below!
I never lost a million dollars, I never figured out a way to collapse an organization. I think all of the leadership failures I have are interpersonal, and all of them were because I was avoiding conflict.
When I think, “That team didn’t work,” or, “That project failed,” or, “That relationship went south,” it’s always because I was avoiding conflict. I was avoiding hard conversations. I was avoiding the crucial conversations that could have changed the outcome that was going on.
Sometimes it was interpersonal, most of the time it was people. I didn’t want to have a conflict with that person. I didn’t want to have a difficult conversation with that person.
So, I think the leadership lesson that stuck with me is the minute I think of something that implies conflict, or if I feel myself try to start avoiding things, I have to lean in. I push into that right away and say, “All right, I am going to hang out with that guy. I’ll schedule a meeting with her. We’re going to do a specific meeting just to deal with this environmental reality that we are not talking about. We have to pull the team together and start problem solving.”
The best way to have a difficult conversation is to deliver or give empathy, not information. Nobody changes their mind about you because you give them more information.
That doesn’t change their anger. That shifts the information but now I’m still mad, and now I feel mad and dumb because I don’t have a reason to feel mad and dumb. Instead, use empathy and say, “My assessment is that this is how you’re feeling. Am I close?”
The more a person feels understood by you, the more likely that they are able to get to that shared accomplishment of saying, “Oh, the information was different.”
That information then sits in a place where you can begin to trust each other.
Hank Fortener is the founder of Adopt Together, a non-profit, crowdfunding platform that bridges the gap between families who want to adopt and the children who need loving homes. He is also Pastor at MOSAIC in Los Angeles and is the ...
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