Making your relationships productive is one of the most powerful things you can do in your professional life. However, as we all know, interpersonal tensions often inhibit productive relationships. But consider this:
- What if conflict has more to do with alignment than it does with one of the players being wrong or just a jerk?
When you take this view — that conflict arises when alignment is missing — conflict shifts from being a big, scary boogey-man into something with a more obvious path forward. Instead, conflict becomes more of an opportunity to find where alignment is missing and to identify the opportunities you have to bring about greater alignment. Working in this way provides a clearer path through conflict than trying to figure out who is right or wrong.
One of the best ways to find alignment is by bringing a useful orientation to your conversations. How do you do that? Here are a few examples of things you can focus on to bring a useful orientation to your conversations:
- The data (instead of emotion or blame)
- The team or the organization (instead of self-interest)
- The business agenda (instead of personal agenda)
Notice that each of these examples represents a form of being for-the-business, a core Challenger practice you learned about in Lesson 5.*
Bringing a useful orientation has to do with the mindset you bring with you as well as the mindset your audience or the other participants bring with them. To help your audience listen and engage in your meetings from a useful orientation, you want to be adept at recognizing when they are not doing so. Here are some of the telltale signs that meeting participants might be losing a useful, for-the-business orientation:
- A participant irrationally digs in their heels
- People are checked out, distracted, on their devices, or making excuses to leave early
- Off-topic conversation; rabbit holes
- Interruptions, arguments, or side conversations
- The conversation runs through the same loop on repeat
- The conversation is focused on events in the past (finger-pointing) instead of possibilities for the future (potential); even post-mortems are more useful when they are future-focused
- Making it personal; over-indexing on personal agenda
- Your audience is hostile; voices are raised
It is next-to-impossible to be skillful or innovative when your audience has settled into an unproductive place. Use the telltale signs as your signal that it could be time for a reset.** Let’s look at techniques you can use to navigate when you get such a signal.
*If you are working with the technique of being for-the-business, you’re already working with de-triggering yourself. As you do this, you are likely experiencing how shifting the focus toward the business frees you up to respond more creatively to the complexity around you. You also may have started to notice that others around you become more flexible and resourceful as well.
**Notice the relationship between the telltale signs and the breakdowns in conversational type that you learned about in Lesson 6. Think of the techniques you are learning this week as additional tools to use when telltale signs are present to supply a missing building block for working successfully with others.