We’re in the people business. So we like to observe people. Over the past couple of years, I’ve had the incredible experience of watching two small boys learn how to deal with the world and with each other. And it hit me: Yikes – people start out as children!
Children seem to have an inordinate amount of conflict – it’s a cruel world, after all. And who’s the arbiter, the mediator, the manager of all this conflict? Mom, of course. What life lessons does she impart to carry us forward as likeably successful human beings? What conflict resolution skills does she practice? Think back …
Here’s the setup: One kid gets a “new” trike. It’s an old, classic red Radio Flyer. It’s awesome! It has a rear step, just perfect for sharing a ride with a little brother. Does that happen? No way. Instead, we’re treated to a full-blown grand mal screaming seizure. Tactics are applied to encourage him to think about the positive outcomes of sharing.
This is a tough one. What the heck are the positive outcomes of sharing? Some wise person once observed that we can track the devolution of society over the past 50 years by the names of magazines, from Life to People to Us to Me. In a world where it’s all about me, what do we get out of sharing?
In our business – conflict management – the tricycle we encourage our clients to share is a DECISION. For deciders, this is a terrifying thought for oh-so-many reasons. Losing power and control, fear of failure and people’s perceptions, stepping outside the comfort zone … Psychology books are full of theories about why power and influence make us feel good, and risk and uncertainty make us feel bad. They’re facts of being human, and it takes courage and effort to share what we think we have with those who don’t have it. At TPC, we call that collaboration. There needs to be a compelling reason to do it. We believe that reason is to end up with a better decision. Consider this:
The old adage says that sometimes we need to give in order to get. In our personal lives, we can all relate to how true this is. In the case of major public and industry actions, history provides thousands of examples of how sharing decision making with affected parties prevented environmental and public relations conflicts and calamities. The opposite is true, too!
Sharing control, having the courage to take risks, and thinking and acting flexibly can support decisions that gain the desired results – public acceptability, consensus, overall cost savings, fewer legal entanglements, and speedier project approvals.
Yo-Yo Conflict Management Skills
So, take a lesson from Yo-Yo Ma, arguably one of the most successful people in the world today and a true prodigy who has every reason to let the world revolve around him. But he doesn’t do that. He collaborates and utilizes conflict resolution skills. In this month’s Harvard Business Review, he says the secrets to successful collaboration are ego management, generosity, and mutual respect.
Wouldn’t his Mom be proud?