Tolerations and Tough Conversations

“When conflict is ignored — especially at the top — the result
will be an enterprise that competes more passionately with itself
than with its competitors.”
~ Howard M. Guttman, When Goliaths Clash, 2003

Q: I have recently been promoted to a supervisory role and I am having a difficult time engaging in tough conversations with direct reports to avoid conflict.

A: Whether you are a new supervisor, manager or C-level leader, about 20 percent of the day is spent engaging, responding, and at worst reacting to a perceived conflict. The essence of a tough conversation requires the SMARTER skill of tolerance.

These tough conversations should be neither suppressed nor ignored by a leader. Conflict never really goes unnoticed. It may be ignored, avoided or minimized – but the emotional and social impact is always in the “room”. Tolerant communication is a two-way street, and it is social and emotional intelligence that gives any leader the interpersonal edge to not only engage in tough conversations, but model tolerance throughout the dialogue. Managed well, conflict can stimulate creativity, motivate people to stretch themselves, encourage peer-to-peer learning and help teams address that proverbial“elephant in the room.”

So how can you begin to developing the tolerant communication skills to engage in a tough
conversation? According to research from the Management Development Institute of Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida, effective managers resolve conflicts by employing four key behaviors:

  1. Gaining Perspective
  2. Creating Solutions
  3. Expressing Emotions
  4. Reaching Out

As a leadership coach, and EQ enthusiast, I often use the Conflict Dynamics Profile-, a tool developed by Eckerd College. Coaching explores common conflict behaviors in the workplace, increase self-awareness of hot buttons that trigger conflict and then, learn how to respond to conflict in a respectful and civil manner. The end result is gaining tolerant communication skills that often lead to new perspectives, break through ideas, and respectfully addresses that “elephant in the room”. And the bonus for leaders is higher “approachability and leadership ratings” on employee’s surveys – which is always a good thing.

My next blog will explore Sources of Conflict.

What are common sources of conflict in your workplace? Interested in learning more about the
Conflict Dynamics Profile Contact Cynthia

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