Managing Conflict, in Life & Work: using ancient and modern approachesWritten by Dr. Jason Armstrong and Dana Buchman
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Aggressive escalation of conflict Conflict is derived from many circumstances, but quite regularly it can be escalated because of a person’s approach to situation. In Japanese language, there are two words that help to describe this: aiki and kiai. These words are derived from same two characters, and are simply reversed to convey an opposite meaning. Kiai is a form of showing intensity and channelling it towards an individual, and in martial arts ‘kiai’ is a very loud, expulsion of air and voice to intimidate or scare an opponent. Aiki is opposite of head-to-head approaches and allows one to avoid escalating conflict (hence martial art “Aiki-do”). Yet approach still incorporates assertiveness a key attribute in any successful negotiation. Consider for a moment which concept would be most beneficial in dealing with conflict in a meeting at work or your personal life: kiai, or aiki? “Show softness yet engage opponent with hardness. Show weakness yet engage with fluid strength” Obviously aiki is more practical, and will produce a more desired outcome. If we listen with intent to understand - not to respond, if we get all our thoughts together before we confront another person, we can strategically work with someone to maintain our own balance and not produce antagonism in person with whom we are dealing. “Reaching a centered state, so I can perform at my best” Having an open mind, and a relaxed physical and mental state will ensure I have an approach which is non-confrontational and provide a first step to maganging or avoiding conflict. An approach of aligning your thoughts and actions, and taking a moment to breathe and release tension, will create a more relaxed state within yourself as well as person you are dealing with. This approach will enable you to convey your points in a way that your opponent will be unable to avoid or refuse. Settling oneself creates a calm and open mind: you are able to listen, think, and respond (in this order), and this is positively received by others. If you are able to settle yourself at any point (i.e. before, during, or after you feel aggression arising), others will respond to your calm, open mind, and it will put them into same relaxed state. In various physical arts importance of relaxed upper body, a low center of gravity and appropriate breathing creates this state. Zen and other conflict relevant arts have such Japanese terms such as “mushin”, “mizu no kokoro” and using “hara” (stomach area) for creating and optimal physical state for mental performance. Conflict within oneself – perhaps most important conflict to understand Lessons such as “trying to defend/attack too many areas at once leaves troops divided and weak” from Sun Tzu can be translated to an individual. Just as Stephen Covey asks, “How thin can you spread yourself before you are no longer there?”. Applying such lessons to your life today can have a profound impact on personal conflict – don’t take on more than you can handle, or you will begin to sacrifice very essence of who you are. Although it is not direct conflict between two people, it is still relevant. If you have conflict within yourself, you are destined to have conflict with others. You will understand that conflict is not merely apparent external problems – it also involves each individual and his/her conflicts within.
Sharpen sword… This article provides and introduction to some of methods and principles used in Applied Zen corporate training (www.AppliedZen.com). Businesses and individuals everywhere are using these philosophies to manage conflict more effectively and to achieve success. Therefore, it is essential to train one’s skills & endure ongoing development. As ancient Samurai saying states, “Continuously sharpen sword, or it will go blunt!”
Definition of Conflict, Merriam/Webster Dictionary: 1 : FIGHT, BATTLE, WAR 2 a : competitive or opposing action of incompatibles : antagonistic state or action (as of divergent ideas, interests, or persons) b : mental struggle resulting from incompatible or opposing needs, drives, wishes, or external or internal demands 3 : opposition of persons or forces that gives rise to dramatic action in a drama or fiction
Copyright 2005 by Dr. Jason Armstrong and Dana Buchman
Jason Armstrong, Ph.D., has worked at CEO levels in Japan, the USA, & Australia. He has also consulted for large multi-national companies in Japan and has specialized in the "Art of War" for more than 20 years. He has worked in both Venture Capital and Biotech Industries. Today he runs www.AppliedZen.com , which conducts workshops in the USA Australia and Japan.
A Leadership Screw Driver: The 90 Day Improvement PlanWritten by Brent Filson
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"Be specific about improvement," he says. "For instance, one leader I gave an Improvement Plan to was very bright but was not getting results. He tended to deal with future, strategic issues; whereas our business wants results now, preferably yesterday. We identified specific ways he could improve his performance in getting results, such as precise calls to make and exact, quick-closing targets to pursue."
The objective of 90-Day Improvement Plans should not be to get rid of people. "Their objective is to improve performance," he says. "Though I do write on first page, ‘If objectives are not met, further actions, including dismissal, can be taken.'"
He sometimes combines Improvement Plans with force-ranking of all his leaders into a 20/60/20 continuum. The bottom 20 percent get Plan. He says, "My objective is to have bottom 20 percent be indispensable leaders."
Mind you, in developing a 90-day Improvement Plan, keep Aesop's fable in mind and seek not compliance but commitment. The Improvement Plan must not be imposed from without but agreed upon. Here is a four-step process to do that.
First, all parties must agree to develop a 90-Day Improvement Plan. If people are forced to do it, it won't work as it should.
Second, ask poor performers to describe what should be in it. Remember, you can veto any suggestions. However, it is best if its key components come from other people. Only after they have run out of suggestions do you incorporate yours.
Third, develop Plan together, and agree on its action steps.
Fourth, implement it. Have weekly or bi-weekly meetings to insure Plan is being carried out.
If Plan is forced upon someone, it becomes just another screw, another imposed reward/ punishment. However, if it is put together with mutual consent, indeed with mutual enthusiasm, it becomes screw driver by which poor performers may very well gladly put screws into themselves.
2005 © The Filson Leadership Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
The author of 23 books, Brent Filson's recent books are, THE LEADERSHIP TALK: THE GREATEST LEADERSHIP TOOL and 101 WAYS TO GIVE GREAT LEADERSHIP TALKS. He has been helping leaders of top companies worldwide get audacious results. Sign up for his free leadership e-zine and get a free white paper: "49 Ways To Turn Action Into Results," at www.actionleadership.com