Leading Conflict in the Workplace

“It is error only, and not truth, that shrinks from inquiry”. Thomas Paine.

The Status Quo can be comfortable. Leadership is about getting comfortable with being uncomfortable. Leaders institute change; They champion it; They cultivate it. Both a tool to implement and an outcome of change is conflict. As a leader you need to learn how to cultivate conflict in the workplace.

It gets messy. Religious debates are usually avoided for good reason. But you need to dive in. Tool X versus Tool Y. The good minds on your team will engage. They will have an opinion. An educated, informed, experienced opinion. And that is the ‘Gold’ you are mining for.

Let them argue. Encourage it. Don’t be afraid of it.
You are a professional. Set the ground rules. Keep emotion out. Keep personal attacks out. Stick to the facts. Don’t shred a person with an idea. You need to keep the proponents of an idea that doesn’t make it through the gauntlet engaged for future bouts.
Don’t let it get mean. We recently learned how Amazon (see notes) take this sort of pecking party to a dysfunctional level. You don’t want to go there. (You want to make money too, something Amazon haven’t found a way to do.)
But the debate is what you want. Process A versus Process B. Crack the whip management versus Coaching & Mentoring. Central control versus pushing authority down to the Business Unit or Line staff. Structured approach versus managed Agile chaos. In-House versus Contracted Services. On-shore versus Off-shore. Buy versus Partner. There are a hundred debates and a Leader knows how to begin the debate, manage it, and then structure a process to get to a decision and take action.

Shakespeare had Coriolanus say ‘Action is Eloquence’.

You will encounter opposition. Organizations have inertia and moving them in a new direction takes work. (See Newton’s Second Law link below) Your greatest enemy will not be someone who wants the organization to fail. It will be the mediocre performer who doesn’t care. It will be the Middle manager bureaucrat that wants to hide his head in the sand. The person who thinks we should all just get along.

This is not for the faint hearted. It is a challenge. It is hard. It can be exhausting. And there will be tears. But it can also be fulfilling, rewarding and exhilarating to see change instituted and growth and action prevail.

Just a steel is tempered, made stronger and less brittle by passing through the crucible, so too will your team and your ideas be made stronger by the conflict of vigorous debate and peer review. Embrace it.

PS. Initial reviewers have pointed out an assumption I didn’t call out. You need to have spoken to whoever you report to before going down this road. To an outsider it can look like pandemonium. Your Director, VP, President (who ever) can give you the support and Air Cover you will need. You will also find out whether you report to a Bureaucrat or a Leader. You really need to know.

Notes & further reading




Climate Change Denial and the Right

Like a Catholic who believes in a woman’s right to choose or a Liberal who believes they have the right to own a rifle, a Conservative who believes in man caused Climate Change learns to keep her mouth shut.

Standing up to oppose that prevailing orthodox opinion can be dangerous. Copernicus nearly died in an Inquisition hell hole for suggesting the Earth was not the center of the universe. Some people just do not want to listen to another point of view.

So where did Copernicus find the courage? For I am looking for a bit of it, as I really believe it is time for the political right to stop the Ostrich head in the sand routine of denying climate change. It is hurting their cause and the party as surely as it is hurting the environment. And to suggest a re-evaluation of that position is sure to attract venom.

I am going to try a reasoned approach. I will start by coming out as a Conservative myself. Right of center, leaning towards Libertarian at times. The least government is the best government. Lower taxes are best, within reason. The free market and capitalism are the drivers of our economy and should be unobstructed as much as possible. Decisions should be made as close to the people affected as practical ; So by the individual if possible, the family, the neighborhood, the community, etc, moving up through levels of government.

Being a conservative does not mean I agree with the whole climate change denial meme that seems to be an integral part of the right wing way of thinking. In fact, as a person who studied Science my first year in University, my reading suggests the debate is all but over. At least among scientists a consensus exists.

So what is at the root of this misguided opinion and approach?
There is a wariness of large government at the core of conservative thought.
There is a hatred of socialism.
There is a belief in wide open capitalism and free enterprise.
And there is a guard up always looking for the left wing to use any and all issues to advance their high tax, big government reach.
They see Global warming as the Trojan horse that the socialists will use to invade and destroy our civilization.

When you see Jane Fonda and Naomi Klein sharing a stage with David Suzuki and Maude Barlow to protest climate change, as we did this week, you know they are not far off the truth. These are people who have targeted Capitalism and Free Enterprise as the cause of all evil in the world. If they were protesting that the sun will come up tomorrow morning in the East, I would have reason to doubt their motivations.

The biggest problem the left have is their Holy Grail, the Kyoto Accord, doesn’t include China, India , the United states, or any of the six largest countries in the world that make up half the population. Half the world is exempt from Kyoto. We need a deal that every country is included in.

But by refusing to engage in the conversation Conservatives have left the field to the extremists. There are no reasonable voices.

The analogy I like is to look back to when polio was running rampant in the world. We came together to seek a solution. I assume we didn’t get dogmatic that governments should not be part of the solution. Certainly when World War II was raging, we recognized that government had a role to play.
And we have addressed previous climate issues like smog, ozone holes and acid rain without abandoning free enterprise and Capitalism. I am sure we can address climate change without doing it now. But we need to make the case before the left wins the debate by default.

Cigarettes kill. We recognize that now. But the people who fought for the tobacco companies are now fighting climate change. It is time for those men to retire, as it always comes time for the Dogs of War to put down their weapons.

Include link to Mauna Loa CO2:

CO2 Chart


Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. IPCC . Www.ipcc.ch
Global Climate Change Coalition – Skeptic
Www.worldclimatereport.com Pat Michaels – Skeptic
The Rough Guide to Climate Change . Robert Henson
Six largest nations by population. http://t.co/Y4215Ervef
China adding 1 coal plant per week. Energydesk.greenpeace.org
China Coal for Electricity. http://www.chinafaqs.org/issue/coal-electricity
Climate Change Consensus. https://www.ted.com/speakers/naomi_oreskes
History of Polio Eradication. http://www.polioeradication.org/Polioandprevention/Historyofpolio.aspx

Hair, Canada’s Election and Our Values

This morning I woke up to read an opinion piece by Margaret Atwood criticizing Steven Harper’s hair. I looked for a metaphor, an analogy, a parallel structure to one of the great issues of our times. It’s not there. And for a stark moment I was horrified. The Left, the Harper Haters, the Annex dwellers are Right! If this Conservative government has pulled Ms. Atwood down to this level then they really have destroyed the Canada I love.
But no. A quick Google search shows that her editors had pulled out some possibly defamatory material about Harper’s Leadership expenses and where his loyalties might lay. Ms. Atwood has not been felled, and Canada is not destroyed.
His critics give Mr. Harper, and any government, too much credit. Governments don’t radically change the structures, ethics and history of a country. Not in one or two terms anyways.
A government is more like a jacket the country puts on. A Business suit today, overalls tomorrow. In the past we had a tie-died flower power government that ruined the oil industry, but it did not change our federation. I may be as embarrased to look back on that government as I am to look back at myself in the Nehru jacket I wore around the same time. But today I am still a good man and Canada is still a good country.
I know that a government affects how we see ourselves and how the world sees us; Which is not to say governments are cosmetic. Our outer appearance projects and affects our national attitude.
Right now we are wearing business attire. We are window shopping. Strolling down mainstreet considering a change. Have we grown out of this jacket? Is it time for a more modern look? Something a little more comfortable?
But the man or woman under these clothes is still the same. Strong, Proud, Intelligent, Entreprenuerial, Industrious, Engaged. Compassionate. Loving even. A good man with a good head on his shoulders and a good heart.
His clothes need a good dry clean or a patch at least. Or possibly as the seasons change it is time for a new suit. And maybe a haircut.

Book Review of ‘The World Before Us’

I was a little worried starting this book. I read a few reviews where people didn’t like it or didn’t understand it. So I put off starting it for 3 weeks. And when I started, it was difficult at first. The writer used a lot of words I had no idea of the meaning of. And I don’t like having to open a dictionary every couple of pages. So I gave up on the new words and carried on. It didn’t seem to matter.
Another reason people gave for not liking the book was you didn’t find out what happened to some of the characters. Well, I think you do.
I have a hunch that what Hunter is doing is having us learn or see what an archivist goes through. As readers we need to put together all the little clues and bits of knowledge. It requires a real concentration and attention to detail. I haven’t kept notes while reading a novel since University, but I did while reading this book. And I think most readers will need to. To keep the characters, settings, relationships and time straight took 5 or 6 pages of notes while reading the novel. But it pays off. You start to see how it all holds together. It is like a giant jig saw puzzle, one of those with thousands of pieces. A challenge. Not an easy read, but fun when you start to realize what is going on.
Highly recommended.

Danny Aldham