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Once Upon a Conflict


Once upon a time there lived an innocent, hardworking manager. One day he dared to wander from the safety of his open-concept office to speak out at a team meeting. He was immediately challenged, nay attacked, by another team member and his senior manager, embarrassing him in front of his peers. Plagued by downsizing, this noble manager feared for his job. A senior human resource professional saved the day through mediation. From that day forward, the manager carried that scar and never trusted anyone enough to speak out again.

I am a management consultant and corporate coach. When it comes to fundamentals, my work is in creating spaces for people to make meaning, and move forward. We do not check our souls at the door to the workplace. Many of us are encountering a relentless speeding-up of life, an absence of thoughtfulness, fracturing relationships, and polarized issues. If we fail to prepare ourselves with appropriate skills, we face the risk of being weakened by pressure, stress, and overwhelm at a time when our help and our leadership are needed most. I offer some simple steps for making meaning and thriving if conflict rears its head.

1. Honor others’ choices

There are times when try as we might, we just can’t understand other people’s choices. I believe that not allowing others their choices plays a part in conflicted or violent situations. I realize that for some people limits and legislated behavior seems to be the only thing that works, and I do not condone violent behavior. And yet, if we are here to express the uniqueness of our soul, then at some level we are all free or none of us are free. And so, if you like being able to choose the things that you like to choose...then it might be all right with you that others choose the things they want to choose.

2. Hold your colleagues in your thoughts with deliberate intention.

Clients experiencing conflict at work find themselves moving into worry about the future and what is going to happen or might happen. Often concerned that fears might consume or paralyze them. Fear is often the catalyst for some of our most positive change. The only way to relax and stay relaxed is acceptance. You don't have to agree, or follow, or condone, but acceptance means you begin any interaction with a serenity that invites others to engage with you.

3. Practice Extreme Self-Care

When you travel on an airplane the instructions are when traveling with a child or infirm person, PUT YOUR OWN OXYGEN MASK ON FIRST!

Scientists and physicists believe that thoughts are not just words in your head; they actually become units of energy that radiate out from you and affect your environment. Your thoughts largely influence your physiology, attitudes, actions, and entire experience of life. Thoughts also attract circumstances that resonate with their own energies. In times of stress we often forget our inherent playfulness.

Remember your natural state – your connection to the stream of wellbeing.

Appreciate more – criticize less often

Relax and become curious and playful

Fix less – Savor more

4. Embracing vulnerability

I do not claim to have answers to workplace conflict. In my work in leadership in Canada, Siberia, U.S., and Jamaica, we invite leaders to put aside the stress of having all the answers or pretending to have all the answers. Transformational leaders do not give us the answers; they help gather us together so that together we can discover the answers.

By changing the way we see the world, by noticing what we are thinking about the world, by becoming aware of when we are judging, of when we are criticizing, of any time we are coming from anything other than love, and learning to shift that immediately, we are bringing the world one step closer to peace.

Early societies were built upon the wisdom that emerged from the shared leadership of councils. Our future may depend on our ability to draw that collective wisdom into the modern age.

Since the early 1980s, Judith Richardson, M.A., has been pioneering in the fields of sustainable leadership, essential partnership, international teamwork, educational renewal, creating a customer service culture and workplace diversity. Featured in ICFAI University’s Executive Reference on Diversity Management, author of Four Keys to Engaging Leadership, and Keynote at International Conferences, Judith was nominated for International Coach of the Year 2003, and works with International Organizational Development across North America, Europe, Jamaica, Denmark, Sweden, Israel and Russia. (www.ponoconsultants.com www.emergentfeminine.com). Tel: (902) 434-6695.



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