When to Allow Controversy

What’s your inherent conflict style?

Summary
Transcript

In this backstage interview from Leadercast Women 2019, Priya Parker, author and founder of Thrive Labs, explains why leaders in pursuit of change should, in many cases, embrace conflict during a meeting.

“The leaders that are able to have transformative gatherings and help groups change over time are the ones that have some amount of tolerance,” says Priya. “[You don’t] try to shut down instinctively as fast as you possibly can to just run and get out of there, but [you are] able to actually begin to discern, ‘Is this helpful conflict? Is this what I call good controversy?’”

The first step to discerning good versus bad controversy is understanding your conflict style. Watch the video to learn more about this.

The leaders that are able to have transformative gatherings and help groups change over time are the ones that have some amount of tolerance to hold, and to hold just literally means not to try to shut down, instinctively as fast as you possibly can so just run and get out of there. But to be able to actually begin to discern, is this helpful conflict? Is this what I call good controversy?

So if there's conflict in the room and you are part of that room, one of the best things to begin to think about as a leader is what is your inherent conflict style? There's heat in the room of any type. Do you tend to lean into it or are you trying to get rid of it as fast as possible? Your own instincts are going to likely be mirrored by the rest of the group.

So one of the best things to do, particularly as a leader is to begin to harness what I call your inner troublemaker. What is your instinct of whether you're risk-averse or risk-seeking? Whether you're conflict-adverse or conflict-seeking? Whether you're fleeing or fighting? And to practice what I call your discomfort muscles, of simply being able to hold and be willing to face some of the heat, to be able to actually say, “OK, what's actually happening here?”

One of the most important skills to start allowing yourself to develop as a person is a discernment around whether or not what's happening in the room is helpful for the group and helpful for the purpose, even if it's uncomfortable or whether it's unhelpful. And a couple of very specific skills and tips if conflict is arising is first is to name it, to not pretend it's not there. So let's pause and actually unpack what's happening. Basically to name and to see what's actually happening allows it to the right size.

When we actually pretend or think that conflict actually isn't happening, it becomes even bigger in people's minds because you're implicitly telling the room, “We don't know how to handle this.” But by actually naming what's happening in the room in very simple ways, not judging it, just naming it, it's also implicitly saying to the group, “We can handle this.”
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Priya Parker

Priya Parker is a master facilitator, strategic advisor, acclaimed author of "The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why it Matters" and founder of Thrive Labs. Priya has spent 15 years helping leaders and communities have complicated ...

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