Fix the Pinch and You (Too) Can Avoid the Crunch


Conflict: Image by Adam Prince via Flickr

I’m guilty.

In the land of do as I say and do as I do, I’m buckling on the latter and hoping you do the former.

It happens.

Despite best intentions to behave true to my own advice I slipped into behaviors that others rely on me to avoid modeling. It happens. Welcome to being human.

I have a conflict with someone on a board on which we both sit and rather than address it early, it’s gone from a minor annoyance to major avoidance. As noted in What Do You Do When There’s Tension at the Top, the calculation that got made is that grin and bear it is a better option that initiate and talk it out.

Dr. Steven Jones uses the metaphor of “pinch” and “crunch” to highlight the difference between addressing an issue early when it’s more minor or waiting until things have built up and it’s a bigger deal.

The latter, provided you use a little EQ is simpler and easier, the latter – crunch time – always feels harder.

Here’s a conflict model taught by Doug Walker during my days on the staff and faculty at the University of Southern California that works well, works consistently, and makes for those (of us) who don’t wake up in the morning with engaging in conflict at the top of our to-do list, more workable.

Conflict Resolution Model

Step 1: I’m feeling like there’s a pinch / issue / snag / bumpiness (not you’ve got a problem, or we’ve got a problem but a let’s partner together and look at it together way to approach things) that exists. Can we talk? If this isn’t a good time and we schedule some time that works for you?

Step 2: Here’s what I see (just the facts, not interpretations).

Step 3What do you see (just the facts, not interpretations).

Note: Often things get “solved” at this point. The other party isn’t aware of the impact of their behavior, and is interested and eager to change behaviors when this get’s surfaced.

Step 4: Here’s what I think / feel/ believe when I see that happening (See Note above – possible solution again).

Step 5: What do you think / feel / believe when you see what you see? (See Note above – possible solution again).

Step 6: Here’s how it would work better for me (specific behaviors/actions that are changed) (See Note above – again).

Step 7: What can I do to make things work better for you? (specific behaviors/actions that are changed). (See Note above – possible solution again).

This model likely looks more formal than it is in usual practice. One of my favorite clients – formerly conflict adverse – notes that it becomes with use as smooth as butter.

In real world application it helps surface items of conflict or bumpiness (my current favorite uncharged word) between people and teams so you can actually solve things.  And if you don’t solve them, they build up. Crunch time has a whole new richness of meaning in that case.

Do what I didn’t do. Fix the pinch, and avoid the crunch.

Life Back West is an occasional set of writings focused on ways people, teams and organizations can be both more effective (doing the right thing) and more efficient (doing the right thing well). More about executive, career and team / leadership coaching services can be found at the “About J. Mike Smith and Back West, Inc.” sidebar or the “Hire Me” tab above. You can also read an online interview with me at WhoHub, as well as participate in my learning community courtesy of KnowledgeCrush.

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