Who Wins Conflict? (Book Excerpt)


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Who Wins Conflict?

The Creative Alternative to Fight or Flight is a management fable for managing conflict effectively when the stakes are high—whether dealing with difficult people or managing conflict at its worst.

The book also includes a section explaining the Who Wins?®model for managing conflict, and using the Creative Conflict Process.

URL Link to Purchase: http://dwarfurl.com/e6d8b

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Who Wins Conflict? (Book Excerpt)

  1. 1. Who Wins Conflict?
  2. 2. Who Wins Conflict? The Creative Alternative To Fight or Flight John Ullmen, Ph.D. and Glenn Rupert, M.S. “Everyone should read this book! It should be applied to business, family, friends and international relations.” Ron & Alexandra Seigel Partners—Napa Consultants, International
  3. 3. Copyright © 2009 by John Ullmen, Ph.D. and Glenn Rupert, M.S. Cover design by Grant Searcey. Library of Congress Control Number: 2009902086 ISBN: Hardcover 978-1-4415-1735-7 Softcover 978-1-4415-1734-0 All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission from the authors, except for brief quotations embodied in articles and reviews. This book was printed in the United States of America. For More Information About: WHO WINS CONFLICT? Learning Materials, Workbooks, Audio CDs, Assessments, Seminars, Workshops, Keynotes www.WhoWinsConflict.com East Coast Office: 919.848.4610 West Coast Office: 310.444.3915 To order additional copies of this book, contact: Xlibris Corporation 1-888-795-4274 www.Xlibris.com Orders@Xlibris.com 60152
  4. 4. CONTENTS Introduction: At a Corporate Off-site .............................................9 The Story of Who Wins Conflict? Chapter 1: Mudslide and Mudlodge...............................23 Chapter 2: The Ultimate Insult ......................................29 Chapter 3: Bothering Both Sides ....................................32 Chapter 4: A New Coach and an Old Toad ....................36 Chapter 5: A Purposeful Beginning ................................41 Chapter 6: The First Skill: Speed ....................................45 Chapter 7: The Speed of Thinking .................................48 Chapter 8: The Second Skill: Strength ...........................55 Chapter 9: The Strength of Feeling ................................61 Chapter 10: The Third Skill: Endurance ..........................72 Chapter 11: Even Bigger Plans .........................................77 Chapter 12: The Buildup to a Buildup .............................84 Chapter 13: The Sumo Duel ............................................88 Chapter 14: Heading Back for More ................................93 Chapter 15: Return Trip Explanations ..............................96 Chapter 16: The Endurance of Doing ............................100 Chapter 17: Building on the Three Lessons ....................108 Chapter 18: The Best Purpose of Conflict ......................115 After the Story: A Discussion about Application.........................125 Old Toad’s Conflict Coaching ....................................................139 The Model: Handling Conflict Creatively .................................150 Other Ways To Win ...................................................................189 About The Authors ....................................................................190
  5. 5. Special thanks to Alan Guno, Stephanie Kagimoto, and Ron and Alexandra Seigel for their ongoing and invaluable support, encouragement, and advice. Special thanks also to Diane Rupert and the three sons that she and Glenn have—Blake, Nicholas, and Greyson—who all help teach him about conflict and relationships every day.
  6. 6. Introduction: At a Corporate Off-site “Day one, done!” said Tom as he entered the room. “But two more to go,” sighed Sue, coming in right behind him. Mike looked at his watch as he entered next and said, “Actually it’s two days plus forty-five minutes before our van leaves.” One by one, members of an executive team were gathering in the lodge of a mountain resort, far away from their office. They were near the end of the first of three days they were scheduled to work together in this remote location. Becky, the fourth member of the team to enter, said with sarcastic enthusiasm, “What’s that? Our van is leaving already? Great!” “We should be so lucky,” said Ramon, another team member. “Hey, at least the view is pretty here,” said Alicia, “and the weather is nice.” 9
  7. 7. John Ullmen, Ph.D. and Glenn Rupert, M.S. Alicia was the last of the six team members to enter the room, apart from their team leader, Dave, who could not hear their conversation as he was still outside. They were all here because Dave decided to take the team on a three-day off-site, away from all the usual stresses and urgencies of the office to cover all of their projects and plans. He wanted to refocus their efforts with the goal of improving team performance. He chose the mountain resort location in hopes the natural setting would induce feelings of togetherness and harmony and help them get back on track. Except for Dave, all the team members were gathered now around the fireplace in the lodge’s large meeting room. The Lodge Manager approached the group and asked, “How did it go today?” “Okay,” said Ramon, in a flat tone. “Okay,” repeated Sue, sounding depleted. The Lodge Manager raised his eyebrows and looked toward the others. “Uh, okay,” said Tom. The rest didn’t say anything. “Three ‘okays,’” said the Lodge Manager, “add up to ‘not okay.’ What’s really going on here?” Silence ensued, and the Lodge Manager looked from one person to the next, waiting to see who would answer. Alicia spoke next. “To be honest, I’m disappointed,” she said. “We could have accomplished more today.” “Why didn’t you?” asked the Lodge Manager. 10
  8. 8. Who Wins Conflict? “In half the presentations,” said Alicia, “everyone just nodded casually in agreement. We didn’t make any real progress. We didn’t discuss important issues meaningfully. Then it was time to move on to the next presentation.” “What about the other presentations?” asked the Lodge Manager. “In the other presentations,” offered Mike, “we got derailed by arguments and side discussions, and we never got back on track.” “That sums it up,” Sue added. “All day long, we either didn’t discuss what was most important or argued without making progress.” “Sounds like a conflict problem,” said the Lodge Manager. “Half the time you avoided it, and the rest of the time you used it unproductively. That’s a shame. I hate to see conflict misused. It’s a lost opportunity every time.” “What do you mean that it’s a lost opportunity?” asked Becky. Just then the team leader, Dave, entered the room. The Lodge Manager was going to respond to Becky, but she wasn’t looking at him anymore. She wasn’t looking at anyone as far as he could tell, just looking away. Mike blurted, “Beautiful weather today!” The Lodge Manager was puzzled at how Becky dropped the discussion and by Mike’s unrelated comment. He looked at Mike, who darted his glance from the Lodge Manager to Dave the boss, trying to indicate with his gaze that they should change the subject of conversation. 11
  9. 9. John Ullmen, Ph.D. and Glenn Rupert, M.S. Surprised, the Lodge Manager looked at Sue, who almost imperceptibly shook her head from side to side, silently indicating, “Now that Dave’s here don’t say anything more about conflict.” Not noticing the awkward silence, Dave strode confidently toward the Lodge Manager. “How are you?” he said heartily, shaking the Lodge Manager’s hand. “I’m confused,” said the Lodge Manager. “Ahem!” Tom cleared his throat loudly, trying to distract the Lodge Manager from going further in this direction with the boss. “Confused?” asked Dave. “About what?” “The discussion stopped when you came in,” said the Lodge Manager. “You mean about the weather?” asked Dave. “It is a nice day. Can’t argue with that.” “No, actually we were talking about conflict,” said the Lodge Manager. “What do you mean?” asked Dave. The rest of the team continued to look in other directions, suddenly interested in such things as the carpet, the wall paneling, and the fireplace. “We were talking about how this team needs to deal more effectively with conflict,” said the Lodge Manager, “because as a group, you tend to overuse it or avoid it.” “Really?” asked Dave, looking around at team members, who avoided his gaze. 12
  10. 10. Who Wins Conflict? “Yes, and given how quickly everyone dropped the topic,” continued the Lodge Manager, “I’d guess that means your group does have an important problem with conflict.” “Well, any team can improve something,” said Dave. “That’s why we came here, to work more effectively.” “In that case, your team might have identified an important area for you to focus on,” said the Lodge Manager. “You mean conflict?” asked Dave. “I also mean you,” said the Lodge Manager. “Excuse me?” asked Dave. The Lodge Manager laughed. “You’re part of the team too, and they don’t seem to want to talk about it around you. I’d say that’s a problem.” Dave looked around at the team members. “Is this true? Is this what you think?” he asked. The team members avoided his eyes. Dave turned back to the Lodge Manager. “We don’t want to have more conflict, because it is already causing us problems,” said Dave. “It gets us off track and hurts our efficiency and performance.” Seeing a safer opening, Ramon was the first to join back into the conversation. He added, “It hurts morale too. It causes tension and resentment.” “That’s not all,” said Sue. “It damages relationships too, because those tensions don’t necessarily go away when the conflict is over.” 13
  11. 11. John Ullmen, Ph.D. and Glenn Rupert, M.S. “Those aren’t consequences of all conflict,” said the Lodge Manager, “but of unhealthy conflict. It’s easier to take a broader perspective on conflict out here in the woods. We think of it differently than a lot of the business groups that visit us.” “What do you mean?” said Alicia. “In nature there is no such thing as unhealthy conflict,” said the Lodge Manager. “Here in the woods, conflict is always a creative force. People are the only ones capable of using conflict for something it wasn’t intended to do. And therefore we often misuse it or avoid it when it should be used.” “I’m not following,” said Tom. “Are you saying we should fight more like animals in the woods?” “Not exactly,” laughed the Lodge Manager. “What I have in mind does involve animals, but they’re imaginary.” “Now I’m confused,” said Dave. “You’re right,” said the Lodge Manager, “I’m getting ahead of myself. First let’s draw a distinction between the types of conflicts you have and the way you handle those conflicts, whatever they may be about.” “Different types of conflict?” asked Becky. “There are three basic types of conflict in organizational life,” said the Lodge Manager. “The first is interpersonal conflict, between particular individuals. These are often the conflicts you have with the ‘difficult people’ you have to deal with, whether a manager, or a peer, or a person reporting to you, or even a customer or business partner.” “Interpersonal conflict happens outside organizations too,” said Mike. “I’ve got several ‘difficult people’ at home. I call them my wife and kids.” 14
  12. 12. Who Wins Conflict? “Oh please,” said Sue. “You’re so competitive; if anyone’s the ‘difficult person’ in your family I’m sure it’s you.” “Ah, I know you’re right,” said Mike. “Though it’s different in the office. I’m easy to deal with at work, right?” The other team members looked at each other in disbelief. “What?” asked Mike. “Why are you looking at each other like that?” They all broke into laughter, and Ramon brought them back to the topic of basic types of conflict. He said to the Lodge Manager, “You mentioned interpersonal conflict as the first type. What about team conflict?” “Yes, that’s a second type,” said the Lodge Manager. “Team conflict occurs among members of a team trying to work together more effectively.” The Lodge Manager paused to emphasize the point. “Team conflict is the type you dodged when Dave walked in a few minutes ago.” “At the risk of dodging it again for now,” asked Becky, “what’s the third type of conflict?” “The third type is organizational conflict,” said the Lodge Manager. “Organizational conflict is when different groups or parts of the business get into conflict across different functions or units in the organization.” “Like Sales versus Engineering,” said Mike. “Or Marketing versus Manufacturing,” said Sue. “Yes, those are common organizational conflicts,” said the Lodge Manager. 15
  13. 13. John Ullmen, Ph.D. and Glenn Rupert, M.S. “Or Finance versus everyone,” said Becky. The rest of the team laughed. The Lodge Manager said, “Any of those three types of conflict—interpersonal, team, and organizational—can occur throughout an organization, even at the same time. Any one of them can lead to the negative consequences you mentioned, such as performance problems, lower morale, and damaged relationships.” “Great,” said Alicia, with mock exasperation, “so you’re saying it’s even worse than we were thinking.” “Not necessarily,” said the Lodge Manager. “It’s important to understand the different types of conflict and the potential negative consequences you’ve described. But that’s different from how you handle conflict.” “What do you mean about how you handle conflict?” asked Tom. “Whatever the type of conflict might be in a given case—interpersonal, team, or organizational—it can be conducted either well or poorly,” said the Lodge Manager. “Conflict itself isn’t the problem; it’s how you handle conflict.” “You’re saying we don’t need to reduce conflict,” said Dave. “Rather, we have to handle it more effectively.” “Right,” said the Lodge Manager, “and for any type of conflict, there is an approach you can use to increase the chances that the conflict will create value, as it is supposed to do, rather than making things worse.” “What’s the approach?” asked Dave. 16
  14. 14. Whatever the type of conflict might be in a given case—interpersonal, team, or organizational—it can be conducted either well or poorly. Conflict itself isn’t the problem. It’s how you handle conflict.
  15. 15. John Ullmen, Ph.D. and Glenn Rupert, M.S. “Do you really want to know?” asked the Lodge Manager. “Yes!” said the team members. “I’ll tell you,” said the Lodge Manager, “but only on two conditions. One is you have to come back here after dinner and listen to a story. They readily agreed. “Sounds like fun,” said Mike. “I hope it’s fun, but I hope even more that it’s useful,” said the Lodge Manager. “But if it is going to be useful, everyone needs to be here and listen closely to the whole story. You’ll all need to hear the whole story for the second condition.” “What’s the second condition?” asked Dave. “The second condition,” said the Lodge Manager, “is that you have to use the approach for handling conflict from the story, starting tomorrow morning.” “It can’t be worse than what we’re doing now,” said Ramon, “because what we’re doing now isn’t working.” 18
  16. 16. For any type of conflict, there is an approach you can use to increase the chances the conflict will create value, as it is supposed to do, rather than making things worse.
  17. 17. John Ullmen, Ph.D. and Glenn Rupert, M.S. “I say let’s do it,” said Alicia. “Agreed,” said the others. “I have no conflict with that,” said Dave, smiling. “If it helps the team, I’m all for it.” So later that evening when the group gathered again, the Lodge Manager began the story. 20
  18. 18. The Story of Who Wins Conflict? 21
  19. 19. Chapter 1 Mudslide and Mudlodge O tto Otter thought it was a perfect day as he sped down his favorite mudslide, but soon he would change his mind. Not yet though. At the moment, he was in a great mood. The weather was beautiful, and conditions on the slope were perfect for his first slide of the day. This run promised the opportunity for a terrific dive into the river at the end of the mudslide. Maybe on such a perfect day he could beat his own record for how far into the river he could reach through the air. Down he went, expertly shifting his body left and right in line with the curving banks of the mudslide. As he reached the last steep stretch of the run, he pulled his arms and legs tight to his body to gain speed. He liked to accelerate before reaching the riverbank to fly as far out into the water as he could. Otter squinted to take measure of where he would aim to splash into the river. In shock his eyes opened wide at what he saw. Blocking 23
  20. 20. John Ullmen, Ph.D. and Glenn Rupert, M.S. his path directly ahead at the end of the slide was—what was that? A pile of branches? “What the heck?” he thought, while at that moment another branch landed on the pile. What was going on? Perhaps a tree was being blown apart by a storm. But it was a perfect day, and there was no storm. Regardless, Otter knew he was going too fast to stop now. He had to do something right away or he would crash into the branches. He needed to vault over the pile just before he reached the bottom of the slide. So he tucked his knees, and earlier than he normally would do, he pushed up mightily with his legs to launch himself into the air. Up he went, and he let out a sigh of relief when he judged he would make it, just barely, over the top of the pile. But at the last instant another branch came flying in from the side, and it struck Otter’s knees while he was in mid-air. The impact flipped Otter head over heels. He flailed his arms and legs, trying to right himself, but instead he landed flat on his back on the water’s surface with a loud, painful thwack. Otter surfaced and yelled “Ouch!” He wasn’t seriously injured, but his knees ached from hitting the branch, and his back hurt from the impact with the water. His pride also stung from making such a graceless entrance into the river. He knew others in the woods would have seen him flailing, and that embarrassed him. They would laugh and make jokes. He was mad and could not understand why it happened. He looked back toward his mudslide to investigate. As he did, he heard a voice say, “What was that? What happened?” It was Billy Beaver, who appeared from behind the pile of branches, holding a section of tree limb. He tossed the limb onto the pile and 24
  21. 21. Who Wins Conflict? looked out toward Otter in the river. Beaver strained to see who it was, and a puzzled expression came over his face. “Otter?” shouted Beaver, loud enough to echo across the river. “Is that you? I thought I heard an ugly splash, but you’re usually a better diver than that.” Otter was annoyed at the comment and that Beaver’s voice was loud enough to draw even more attention to his embarrassment. Otter replied bitingly, “I’m a better diver when I don’t have branches thrown at me.” “I didn’t mean to hit you,” said Beaver, surprised by Otter’s sharp reply. “I didn’t even know you were there.” “Didn’t mean to hit me?” replied Otter, growing more angry. “What do you think is going to happen when you throw branches in the way when I’m racing down the mudslide?” Beaver was taken aback at Otter’s response. Otter seemed to be blaming him for something he didn’t intend to do. It wasn’t his fault that Otter picked a blocked mudslide. Why not use a different one that wasn’t blocked? So he said to Otter, “Why would you be using the only slide that’s right where I’m building my mudlodge?” Otter raised his voice in reply: “Mudlodge? Why are you building a mudlodge right where I already have my slide?” Otter’s frustration growing, he hit his hand down on the water for emphasis, “My favorite slide!” At first only a few others from the forest were paying attention. But now that the two were shouting at each other, the audience grew into a sizable crowd, with more still coming to see what the commotion was about. 25
  22. 22. John Ullmen, Ph.D. and Glenn Rupert, M.S. “Just because you use it doesn’t make it your slide,” said Beaver. “And it’s certainly not your riverbank to decide where everything goes. “Not my slide?” said Otter. He saw that many others were coming near in order to see the argument unfold. He didn’t want to look diminished, mostly submerged in the water, so he swam to the shoreline to continue the argument standing up to Beaver. “It’s nobody’s slide if nobody can use it,” he shouted, “which now they can’t, because you blocked it.” “As I’m sure you’re aware,” said Beaver, through clenched teeth, “this isn’t only my mudlodge. I put in all the effort to build it, but it benefits everyone who lives near the river.” “Not me it doesn’t!” yelled Otter. “Not when it blocks my slide!” “Furthermore,” continued Beaver, ignoring Otter’s protest, “I think this is the best location for it, right here.” As he finished the sentence he slapped his broad flat tail on the ground emphatically, indicating the boundary between the mudslide and the mudlodge. Beaver pointed at Otter accusingly, “If it’s a choice between a slide you use for fun and a lodge I use for my family, which benefits others on the lake, I say my mudlodge takes precedence.” “That’s not the point!” shouted Otter, stepping toward Beaver. “You could build it a few feet to the side.” “And you could easily move your slide to the side,” said Beaver, stepping toward Otter. “I shouldn’t have to move it. It’s already here,” said Otter, who was now one stride from Beaver. “And my mudlodge is already here,” said Beaver, who took a step which brought them nose to nose. 26
  23. 23. Who Wins Conflict? Beaver was very mad. When they first started talking, Beaver was thinking he might move the mudlodge, but the way Otter was yelling at him, with others watching too, he couldn’t let himself be seen as backing down. “Move it!” yelled Otter. “Or else what?” asked Beaver. “Or else . . .” started Otter. “Yes?” replied Beaver, challengingly. “Or else this!” snapped Otter. Otter stepped to the pile of branches Beaver made blocking his slide and broke off a twig. Beaver thought Otter was getting a branch to hit him and readied himself to defend himself from an attack. But when Otter turned to face him, he was holding only a little twig. “What are you going to do with that twig,” asked Beaver, sarcastically. “Scratch my back?” A laugh went up from the crowd, which continued to grow as the two continued their argument. But Otter did not come at Beaver with the twig. Instead, he bent down and used the twig to draw a shape in the sand. Beaver came over and looked down at what Otter drew. He paused, trying to decipher the shape. It looked like a warthog. “Why did Otter draw a warthog?” he thought to himself. “What was wrong with Otter? First he comes down the wrong slide, then he starts yelling at me, and now he’s doodling in the mud. This guy is nuts.” He had 27
  24. 24. John Ullmen, Ph.D. and Glenn Rupert, M.S. enough of this stupidity from Otter. He would use more ridicule to put an end to it. Beaver said scornfully, “This is your big warning? If I don’t move my mudlodge, you’re threatening to draw warthog graffiti around it?” The crowd laughed more loudly, and Beaver smiled and nodded at them, enjoying their response to his witty statements. “No, you idiot!” yelled Otter, who pointed his stick into the middle of his drawing. That’s not a warthog. It’s a beaver. It’s you!” A gasp went up from the crowd, for now they saw where this was going. They couldn’t believe it. They now recognized Otter’s actions not as a silly scribble, but as the first step of an ancient, ominous tradition. “Beaver,” said Otter, stabbing his twig into the center of his drawing. “I challenge you to a Sumo Duel!” 28
  25. 25. Chapter 2 The Ultimate Insult T he crowd of others watching Otter and Beaver were stunned at how such an ordinary dispute could escalate so rapidly into such a grave confrontation. They didn’t see it coming. In fact, at first they thought it was funny. It didn’t seem very serious. Everyone gets into an argument from time to time. When it’s someone else’s dispute, it can be entertaining to see how it plays out. It happens to everyone, and it can be amusing when it’s someone else’s turn to get mad and exchange insults. But what at the outset was mildly entertaining swiftly changed into something dreadfully serious. The conflict spiraled up so fast it reached a level none of them foresaw. Otter and Beaver themselves probably didn’t see it coming either, until it was too late. But now it was indeed too late. Otter and Beaver crossed a point of no return. Otter had issued the Sumo Duel challenge, in public no less. Beaver defiantly accepted. 29
  26. 26. John Ullmen, Ph.D. and Glenn Rupert, M.S. With all of them witnessing, Otter and Beaver set the date and time of the contest. It was going to happen. Otter and Beaver were actually going to fight a Sumo Duel. The Sumo Duel was an ancient tradition in the forest. It was used so rarely no one could remember the last time it had been invoked. The Sumo Duel itself was a simple contest. The two contestants squared off against one another ten yards from the riverfront. Whoever got wrestled into the water first lost. A simple contest, and no one could remember the last time a Sumo Duel was fought, but everyone knew what it meant. The Sumo Duel was at once the ultimate insult, the ultimate challenge, and it bore the ultimate penalty. To invoke the Sumo Duel implied that one had been irrevocably offended, and thus one offered the ultimate insult in return. The Sumo Duel likewise was the ultimate challenge, because once issued, there was no turning back for the challenger or the challenged. If one accepted the challenge, he committed to the Sumo Duel contest. If one refused to accept, he risked ridicule and a lifelong reputation for cowardice. There was no confrontation more severe than a Sumo Duel. The loser of a Sumo Duel contest suffered the ultimate penalty: banishment from the community. Thus at the moment Beaver accepted Otter’s challenge, the fate of one of them was sealed. The loser would be compelled to leave behind everything and everyone he had known, forever. 30
  27. 27. That was why the crowd was so stunned. But while nearly everyone murmured about how terrible the situation was for Otter and Beaver, one individual saw instead an opportunity for himself. To seize this opportunity, as soon as Otter and Beaver departed, he stepped forward. 31