Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Cold Conflict

Author Mark Gerzon has written a fine book that I have been reading on eadership and conflict, as further preparation for seminars and conference addresses I have and am to give on the theme of Managing [he prefers and I do too, the word ‘Transforming’] Conflict. He tells this story that illustrates the way we can easily deny that conflict is happening in our patch:

A senior-level sales manager for a large computer company, who was glancing at the manuscript for this book, at first said he was uninterested in the subject of conflict. "Conflict is not an issue for us," he said, referring to the world-renowned computer company for which he worked.

"I see," I replied, and then asked him, "By the way, how do you define conflict?"
"People shouting and calling each other names," he replied off the cuff. "How do you define it?"
"Conflict," I replied, "is anything that results in chronic inefficiency for the system of which it is a part."

Suddenly, this veteran sales executive's eyes widened. He began bombarding me with several stories of serious, "cold" conflict in his company. Because this functional, task-oriented definition allowed him to relate to the concept, this book suddenly became relevant to him. My practical, "hands-on" explanation made him realize that behind a host of diverse inefficiencies in his company lurked the same invisible culprit: unexpressed conflict.

Source: Mark Gerzon, Leading Through Conflict: How Successful Leaders Transform Differences into Opportunities, Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 2006, 34.

Image: ‘Cold conflict’