Loving the Fight

One of the reasons that leaders, trainers, workshop leaders, and managers postpone the introduction of a business initiative or change of direction is their fear concerning the objections and negative reactions with which the proposed change will be met when presented. To be more precise, it’s not actually the reaction they worry about as much as their ability to successfully navigate and manage that reaction in a strong, positive way especially in front of their entire team.

Managing “pushback” as we’ve dubbed it here at LionSpeak is one of my most favorite things to do and to teach at our Train-The-Trainer, Train-the-Speaker, and Train-the-Leader workshops. And, you can learn to love it too.

Part of the reason we avoid pushback is because of the limiting belief most of us hold about conflict and disagreement. We’ve been taught in the past and we currently live in a world that promotes the idea that when people disagree or someone pushes back against your idea… it’s not going to go well. And in many cases, our experience has borne this out. Therefore, we hold the belief that there is only one way this will go… badly. Because of this, we either avoid it altogether or we’ve got our dukes up in anticipation before it even occurs. And when it does show up, we think, “I knew it. I knew this was going to stir things up and cause problems! Here we go…”

But what if it did go well most of the time for us? What if we had a way to navigate these conversations and experience success most of the time? That would change things for us, wouldn’t it?

I’m on the faculty of the Dental Business Institute which is a program run by Henry Schein Dental much like a dental MBA program. Last week, we kicked off a new class. I facilitated a session on vision, mission, and values and the subsequent leadership conversation that owners must have with a team once they have set the vision in place for the business. When we got to the part in the curriculum that addresses potential pushback from the team, I asked for a volunteer to play act like someone on their team who they felt would have a big issue with their newly defined vision so that I could demonstrate a system I teach for managing those conversations. One hand shot up immediately, and she bounced with anticipation in her seat. I had no choice but to call on her because she looked like she’d waited her whole life to ask this question!

Pretending to be her own team member, she said, “I understand that part of your vision, doctor, is that we will all upgrade our skills in certain areas and become a more cohesive team collectively. And, to do that you would expect us to attend educational events that require out-of-town travel and functions which we would do as a team, correct? Well, I don’t think that is fair, and I’m not giving up my personal time for this job. I work hard when I’m here, but I don’t want to work any more than I currently am and truthfully… I don’t mean to be mean about it… but I don’t really want to spend time with the people on my team outside of working hours. I have my own personal friends and don’t need to make any more at work. Work is work, and my personal life is my own.”

You could have heard a pin drop in the room with everyone collectively holding their breath and every head turning in unison as if on a unified swivel to look at me. Inside, I smiled. I felt almost giddy. I know this is not normal. But weird as it is, I believe we can all feel this way when we are looking hostility, conflict, and disagreement in the face. We just need a new frame, a new expected outcome, and a new skill.

I waited for a long moment before responding, smiled, and took a relaxed step forward toward her, pulling a chair along with me and sitting down nearer to her level. Leaning gently forward, I said, “Thank you for sharing that with me. It means a lot to me that you feel comfortable and safe enough to voice what’s on your mind and what is an important concern for you in relation to my vision. I appreciate the courage it takes to speak your truth.” I purposely put a period on that sentence. I paused again and then continued, “I also admire how clear you are about your personal boundaries and personal life vision. It makes it so much easier to determine if you are in or out of alignment with the vision I hold for my business.”

“I’m committed to my vision, and I 100% respect that it may not line up with what some of you want for your personal and/or professional lives. Now that my vision has changed a bit, and I’ve clarified it for myself and the team, for the first time many of you may have more clarity about whether you are a good fit or not for this team. I want each and every one of you to be on this team with me. I value you and the gifts and talents each of you bring to our work. I have given great thought to this vision and the fact that I will see it through to completion is a certainty and is non-negotiable. It is my right, my prerogative, and my responsibility as a business owner to design and implement my vision any way I want as the owner. I would never expect nor want you to compromise your personal standards or values for mine. I will completely understand if this new clarity causes you to rethink your employment here. I would be sad to see you go, but I would respect and admire your decision.”

A smile slowly crept across her face and then mine. I felt, if not heard, the group make an emotional shift and then collectively exhale. I turned to them and said, “Now you see why I love this stuff! I can’t help it. Every time it presents itself, it is an opportunity to practice and remind myself and others that we can honor someone’s position and still stand strong in our own. We can hold the vast majority of people who are reasonable up to the highest light, disagree with them, and leave them whole and empowered.”

We can’t change how others respond to conflict, but we can surely change our own reactions. Step in to this new world of dancing with disagreement. Watch how people blossom right before your eyes when you sincerely appreciate their point of view and truly honor their position and personal power as well as your own.

If you’d like to master this and other important skills, take advantage of some great promotions for our upcoming workshops for trainers, workshop leaders, speakers, leaders, and managers. We’re on a mission to change how the world teaches, inspires, and leads those with whom they work and live. We’d love to have you join us!

“Whenever you’re in conflict with someone, there is one factor that can make the difference between damaging your relationship and deepening it.  That factor is attitude.”
~William James 

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