Case 2: The Impact of Unaddressed Feelings - It Happens at All Levels

Here's an example of how things can work out when the unaddressed gets addressed.

I had worked with the executive team of Far North Enterprises for about two years when I landed at the airport in this small, Alaskan community for a couple of days of team building and strategic planning. The isolation and size of the community meant that these executives not only worked together but were neighbours, had many friends in common and were highly visible in the community. I enjoyed their easy camaraderie and had developed personal relationships with most of them. I had not been back for 6 months and the day before the 2-day retreat I met with each of them separately to talk about how they were and what they wanted from the 2 days. I was shocked by what I heard. The VP of HR was in tears describing months of broken promises, increasing distrust and deep sadness at interactions taking place between her and three other members of the executive team. The CFO was angry and hurt by things he was sure were taking place behind his back and was actively looking for a new job 'down south'. The COO was sad that people were being so emotional about things and that the quality of relationships had decreased substantially but didn't see what could be done about it, attributing the problems to personality characteristics of different people. The CEO was aware something wasn't right but had no idea how bad things were and everyone who spoke to me about their anger or sadness explicitly forbade me from raising any of this during the retreat, certain that it would only makes things worse.

The first day of the retreat was flat and uninspiring and in desperation I gave them an assignment overnight to think of all the things they appreciated about each of the other members of the team and that we would discuss that first thing the next day. First thing next morning the VP of HR blurted out "I can't do this! I was up all night thinking about how much I DON'T appreciate any of you!" What happened next was the team spent two hours fessing up and checking out a long series of inaccurate stories they had made up about each other, and things they had done as a result of those stories. It all started months earlier when the VP of HR had been mistakenly left off a list of invitees to an important event. After two hours the sense of relief was palpable and the group began laughing at itself over what had taken place. Partnership had been restored.

This story is taken from Dr. Gervase Bushe's book on Clear Leadership. Based on his clinical research, Dr. Bushe estimates that 4 out of 5 conflicts in organizations are entirely due to the 'interpersonal confusion' that gets created when people make up stories about what happened rather than checking them out. Clear out the confusion, and the conflict goes away.

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learn more - case 3: it happens among friends

What you perceive, your observations, feelings, interpretations, are all your truth. Your truth is important. Yet it is not The Truth.

- Linda Ellinor

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