In my area we have several really good local ice cream shops. My favorite has to be the lemon cookie crunch from a place called Fox Meadow Creamery. There’s nothing better than eating a cone of that wonderful goodness on a hot summer day. I’ve noticed with a toddler how quickly ice cream melts. If we get our son a cone, we need to get him a dish as well because it melts too quickly for him to keep up with.
Leaders deal with conflict on a daily basis. If it isn’t a conflict with someone else, it is a conflict that must be refereed. Like a cone on a hot day, a leader must be prepared to jump from one conflict to another before it leaks all over.
One way that leaders manage conflict is by keeping short accounts. When conflict arises – and it will – leaders deal with it head on. Let’s be absolutely clear on what that means. It is too easy to think about dealing with conflict as putting someone in their place or shutting down a divisive situation. Leaders operate in a place of humility. They are willing to admit when they make the wrong decision or when they’ve wronged someone. Our society has adopted an ideal where someone else is to blame in every situation, but leaders have the confidence to accept blame when it really is their fault.
So what does this look like? It starts with being honest with yourself. Am I to blame? Did my actions or my words cause this conflict? It is too easy to blame someone else when it comes to words. “Well, that’s not the way I meant it?” Wrong. When it comes to conflict that starts with words, the person communicating has all the responsibility. Sure, there’s a responsibility for the message – what is said – but there’s also a responsibility for how it is said and how it is perceived. But Mark, I can’t possibly know how my words are going to be perceived! You’re right – you can’t, but that’s why keeping short accounts is so important. If we find out someone perceived what we said in a way other than what we meant, we should connect with that person and seek their forgiveness and seek to be clearer in our communication. That’s having the confidence to confront the person that is wrong in a situation – the person in the mirror.
There’s no, “I was wrong, but.” This conversation should start with, “I’m sorry that my words hurt you. That was not my intention.”
May we keep short accounts. May we have the courage to be honest about our failings and seek forgiveness and the end to conflict. May we be at peace with all people.