18 Oct Wisconsin Family Business Forum, October, 2017
I am very honored to be speaking at the Wisconsin Family Business Center in Appleton later this week. The Center is affiliated with the University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh. This isn’t the first time I’ve traveled to the state for a speaking job but it is the first time I’ve done so for the Family Business Center and I am deeply grateful.
I will actually be giving two presentations at the Forum. The first will be what I call the ‘Rise and Fall of a Family Business’ which is based on the book I wrote last year called Texas Patriarch – A Legacy Lost http://amzn.to/2zhlxdJ. Following a short break we will then be talking about ways to improve our behavior under conflict, what I like to call the ‘Constructive Use of Conflict.’
One of the biggest problems with conflict is that it usually catches us off guard. Given our natural propensity toward avoidance, most of us simply don’t know what to do. We weren’t born with these skills and most of us really haven’t learned them. Conflict creates a real conundrum, doesn’t it? But when we are running a business, doing nothing is usually not a good option. Eventually, we have to face the music and deal with the situation head on. But if things don’t go well, this is where issues can escalate and cause even bigger problems.
The point is, we really do need something in place – a Dispute Resolution Policy if you will. Some in HR will call it a Conflict Management System. Call it whatever you want to call it, but organizations of all shapes and sizes need some structure, policy or system in place. Why? Because conflict always does better under structure.
Okay, I realize all of this may sound too theoretical so I’ll offer up a few ideas about what you can do when facing strong emotions in the workplace. Let’s say a serious issue has surfaced with one of your valued employees. This person is having very strong feelings. What should you do? And how should you go about helping them? Here’s one approach you can take:
- First, tell them to take a break. Get some distance.
- Take a few deep breaths; focus on breathing.
- Ask, how important is this issue to you?
- Then, think about what triggered your emotions?
- Then ask, how are you feeling?
- Do you feel under appreciated?
- Impinged in your authority?
- Do you feel belittled in status?
- Or unfulfilled in a role?
The key here is that families need to be more strategic when it comes to managing internal conflict. The best way to do this is to implement some form of a system around it. Instead of going into avoidance – which is our natural tendency – if we can convert our disputes into something positive, we will be way ahead of the game.
I’m excited to be going to Wisconsin and I can’t wait to meet all the great people of Oshkosh and Appleton. I’ll have more to say about all this when I return form my trip up north.