Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management

Managing conflict


“In a environment that is often fearful and ego-driven, she created a space where people could give up their worries and thrive.”

The word ‘conflict’ is used in so many ways that I’m conflicted as I try to make sense of it (ok, that was a ‘tongue-in-cheek for my good friend Jim Holland). For purposes of this post, ‘conflict’ is a mental struggle resulting from incompatible or opposing needs, drives, wishes or demands. It’s manifest in both internal and external ways; internal conflicts based on our beliefs and ethics, and external conflicts between individuals, groups or countries.

What if conflicts at home, conflicts at work, and conflicts in the world stem from the same root cause? What if we systematically misunderstood that cause? And what if, as a result, we unwittingly perpetuate the very problems we think we are trying to solve? The Arbinger Institute answers these important questions in the book The Anatomy of Peace: Resolving the Heart of Conflict. The book teaches important principles through an intriguing story of parents who are struggling with their children and with problems that have come to consume their lives. We learn from once-bitter enemies the way to find peace whenever war is upon us. Yusaf al-Falah, and Arab, and Avi Rozen, a Jew, each lost his father at the hands of the other’s ethnic cousins. The Anatomy of Peace is the story of how they came together, how they help warring parents and children to come together, and how we too can find our way out of the struggles that we face.

Through its story the book lays out key principles that can help you resolve any conflict. It talks about decision points that play a critical role in avoiding conflict and helping us for healthy relationships with the important people in our lives. When we choose to act contrary to our sense of what is right, we commit what the book calls ‘self-betrayal,’ which leads us to do things to cover up our choices. Over time these choices can lead us to behaviors that are detrimental to some or all of our relationships.

When we make good choices we free ourselves from a “heart at war” where we see other people as objects that are either detrimental to us, or as things we can use for our own benefits. Good choices lead to a “heart at peace” where we see others as people with hopes, needs, cares and fears as real as our own. We focus on the good things that are happening in our lives and the people that are helping us.

“Lasting solutions to the battles in our workplaces, homes and battlefields will come only as we end the war in our souls.” The Anatomy of Peace goes into rich detail about the negative effects of conflict, and more importantly how we can resolve problems before they even start. The compelling story draws you in and helps you feel what the characters are feeling, from problems with children to conflicts with executives in the boardroom. You will benefit significantly from reading and understanding this book.

The Product Management Perspective: Product managers play a key role in the culture of the teams they work with. PMs have the power to resolve negative conflicts and lead their teams to a unity of purpose.

Conflicts will arise. Some will say that “conflict is good” for the process. I agree it’s healthy to get all the ideas out on the table, have spirited discussions about the opinions, and defend your data and experience. However, you should never let conflict into the process. In other words, treat others as people and respect their points of view.

5 thoughts on “Managing conflict

  1. Reblogged this on jbteambuilding and commented:
    Managing conflict, a very good article connected to teambuilding.

  2. Nice review. I have reblogged it. Conflict can be good or bad, depending on how its managed.

  3. Pingback: Managing conflict « The Best of Product Management

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