July 12, 2019

Conflict and needs

Takeda started working with me when he noticed he was stuck in a frustrating pattern at work.

He manages a team of 10 talented and unique individuals, each one a leader in their own right—they each serve their own clients and therefore have practices, personalities and philosophies that often overlap, but sometimes diverge significantly.

Instead of an environment where this diversity was the foundation for creativity, collaboration and camaraderie, Takeda often felt he was on a battlefield.

His approach to handling interpersonal conflict between his employees had become reactive and overly-protective — when two team members were unable to work peacefully, Takeda would:

Through our dialogue he uncovered the beliefs that were driving this pattern of leadership behaviour. He also noticed that sometimes he was able to pause and create space between the stimulus (a staff conflict) and his response (charging in to fix things for them). This space allowed him to lay out a set of alternative responses, and then evaluate them to find the best course of action.

All too often, however, the frustration he felt from watching his team struggle to get along would launch him into action without adequate reflection.

At this point we began working to strengthen his ability to sit with the discomfort of negative emotions—to slow down and observe himself and others within the landscape or "battlefield"—and seek to understand the perspective of each teammate involved.

Through a more empathetic and curious approach, Takeda began to uncover the deeper needs of his teammates that were not being met during conflict situations. He noticed how rarely his team had been sharing these needs, and how often they were simply unaware of what their needs were in the first place.

With an understanding of the fundamental drivers behind their behaviour he was, most notably, able to role model for them a more collaborative way of communicating—communicating at the level of needs.

He was also able to identify and evaluate responses to the conflict that left the entire team on "higher ground" — win-win situations where shared needs were being met more fully and stronger bonds were formed through the process.

Growing the business, for Takeda, is no longer synonymous with growing the amount of conflict he has to deal with. In fact, conflict is a welcomed opportunity for greater understanding.

P.S. Here is an expansive list of fundamental human needs to help you practice identifying them in your own life.

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