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Lessons from the Great American Leaders & How They Apply Now

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“Dissent, Even Conflict, is Necessary, Indeed Desirable”

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Ray Kroc- Founder of McDonald's

Ray Kroc- Founder of McDonald’s

In addition to allowing themselves to have their own thinking challenged, the great leaders also challenged the thinking of others, to help them to consider all possibilities and options. Consider the example of Ray Kroc (McDonald’s). “Suppose someone comes up with a proposal that McDonald’s should serve turkey sandwiches… Everyone on the board of directors can think of nine good reasons why turkey sandwiches would be a bad thing for us. They would blow the idea out of the water immediately. But Ray would say, ‘Wait a minute; let’s examine what this might do for us. Maybe we could make it work. If not turkey sandwiches, maybe we should try turkey hash.’ He wouldn’t let go of it until all possibilities had been considered.” 1

Admiral Hyman Rickover (U.S. Navy) illustrated this point of challenging the thought process, when he remarked, “One must create the ability in his staff to generate clear, forceful arguments for opposing viewpoints is well as for their own. Open discussions and disagreements must be encouraged, so that all sides of an issue will be fully explored. Further, important issues should be presented in writing. Nothing so sharpens the thought process as writing down one’s arguments. Weaknesses overlooked in oral discussion become painfully obvious on the written page.” 2

Peter Drucker commented, “Dissent, even conflict, is necessary, indeed desirable. Without dissent and conflict there is no understanding. And without understanding, there are only wrong decisions. To me the most fascinating parts of [Alfred] Sloan’s [General Motors] book [My Years With General Motors] are the memoranda in which he first elicits dissent and then synthesizes dissenting views into an understanding, and in the end, into consensus and commitment. Sloan implies that leadership is not charisma, not public relations, not showmanship. It is performance, consistent behavior, trustworthiness.” 3

James Burke (Johnson & Johnson) was “never one to fill his staff with employees who were afraid to state their minds, Burke enjoyed having different viewpoints on board. ‘My style is to encourage controversy and encourage people to say what they think,’ he told Fortune (October 24, 1988). He always wanted his employees to fight for what they believed in, without fear of repercussions.” 4

Henry Luce (Time Magazine) was known to challenge other’s thinking. It was reported, “‘Far from being pained by new ideas,’ Mr. [Hedley] Donovan [Editor in Chief – Time Magazine] said, ‘Harry Luce rejoices in them. He welcomes argument so ardently that it takes a certain amount of intellectual courage to agree with him when he is right, as is bound to happen from time to time.’ This was also the impression of Gilbert Cant, a Time editor for many years, who said: ‘His decisions may have been unidirectional but, by God, he thought a hell of a lot. Conversation with him was utterly maddening because he was always aware of the other side of any proposition he was stating, and he frequently tried to express both sides at once.’” 5

  1. How He Made McDonald’s Sizzle (Success Magazine, March 1, 2009)
  2. Admiral Rickover H.C., Doing a Job (management philosophy speech at Columbia University School of Engineering, 1981; CoEvolution Quarterly, 1982)
  3. Drucker Peter, The Best Book on Management Ever (Fortune Magazine, April 23, 1990)
  4. Watson Stephanie, Business Biographies: James Burke (http://www.referenceforbusiness.com/biography/A-E/Burke-James-1925.html)
  5. Whitman Alden, Henry R. Luce, Creator of Time-Life Magazine Empire, Dies in Phoenix at 68 (The New York Times, March 1, 1967)

Excerpt: Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It. (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011)

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Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2014 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

How Employees Handle Conflict

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The natural tendencies of many individuals and other group dynamics can hinder a leader’s ability to be effective in resolving conflict in the group setting. The leader must take the time to observe and then rectify specific behaviors that interfere with conflict resolution.

When problems and issues arise, many individuals have a natural tendency to avoid friction. When that is not possible, they seek to remain uninvolved in its resolution.

Employees may be forced to be part of a group charged with solving a problem, but these individuals are often not happy about it. The fight-or-flight response takes over, and even if they are physically present, they have mentally left the conflict.

When problems do occur leaders must ensure that all viewpoints and perspectives are heard and all alternatives explored. Techniques can be utilized to ensure that all members of the group are included in both the discussion and crafting of an acceptable solution.

Leaders can look for specific behavior patterns in order to determine how employees handle conflict. These patterns may be nonverbal and not readily apparent, but a careful examination will help leaders spotlight the behaviors impeding conflict resolution and enable them to address and rectify the situation.

Related: Is Conflict Destructive to Your Organization?

Such an examination includes looking at:

Alternatives

The first behavioral patterns leaders need to explore are the alternatives that are considered when solving a problem in the group setting. Problems can present themselves and additional conflicts can be created if employees tend to consider only a few potential alternatives.

If leaders observe these patterns, they must engage the group in brainstorming techniques that explore all possible avenues toward resolution. This action fosters creative thinking within the group and provides innovative solutions to eliminate the causes of conflict.

Emphasis

Within some groups, the smoothing and avoiding approach to conflict resolution is predominant, resulting in areas of agreement being overemphasized while leaving areas of disagreement unexplored. This deficiency allows the situation to fester and explode into a bigger problem down the road.

When leaders observe this pattern, they must shift the group’s emphasis to balance areas of agreement with disagreement. All aspects must be fully examined and the alternatives considered before the problem can be adequately resolved.

Disagreement

Leaders need to observe how members respect individual disagreement, as group norms may keep any discordance from being voiced. In other situations, individuals who convey disagreement may be ridiculed, bullied or intimidated so that it is not taken seriously or considered by the group.

Leaders must ensure that all members of the group have an open and equal opportunity to voice any problems they might have and offer valid points and perspectives. Any attempt to quiet opposition will create additional conflict and deeper problems.

Related: The Challenge of Handling Conflict

Agreement

There are many criteria that a group can consider in establishing agreement among its members. Some will use a majority vote, while others will arrive at a consensus before moving forward. Some group norms interpret a lack of opposition as agreement.

Leaders should shift the group toward a consensus where all viewpoints are both voiced and considered. All members of the group must be included, especially those who may be reluctant to say anything. Only in this fashion will all viewpoints, options or alternatives be considered.

Openness

In several conflict resolution modes, leaders should be watchful for members “stumping” for a specific viewpoint or perspective rather than inquiring about the potential alternatives available to the group.

Additionally, leaders can observe how actively members listen to each other’s perspectives and whether or not the members respect the input of all individuals. These clues help the leader determine the group’s openness to alternative perspectives.

Leaders must ensure that all perspectives are voiced and respected. The advocacy of one point of view without a full exploration of the facts and all possible solutions should not be tolerated.

Participation

The participation of individual members, their reactions to the group setting, and their involvement with specific issues should be carefully observed. Leaders should pay attention to whether members are apathetic, frustrated, defensive, warm or enthusiastic.

Each of these emotional states will impact both conflict resolution and problem solving. Apathy, frustration and defensive postures can result in faulty or unresolved solutions that will lead to subsequent issues.

Leaders should meet with each employee displaying negative personal attributes in order to determine the causes of their attitudes. In some cases, these attributes can surface because conflict and disagreement are not tolerated. Individuals may feel that their opinions are not respected or wanted. Such difficulties must be addressed if the group is to be effective.

Related: Conflict Turns Decision Making Upside Down

Interaction

The final area that leaders must monitor closely is the interaction of individual members within the group environment. Some of these factors have already been discussed, including individuals who are overly nice and polite and emote only positive feelings.

Group members might too readily agree with one another while suppressing their true thoughts. This indicates that the group is in a destructive conflict resolution mode where suppression dominates and the status quo is maintained.

Leaders who observe these clues must intervene in meetings and take the initiative in order to draw out the true feelings and perspectives of the group. They can effectively do this by using open-ended questions that operate until satisfactory responses are obtained.

Excerpt: Conflict Resolution: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series by Timothy Bednarz (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011)

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2012 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

“Dissent, Even Conflict, is Necessary, Indeed Desirable”

with 8 comments

In addition to allowing themselves to have their own thinking challenged, the great leaders also challenged the thinking of others, to help them to consider all possibilities and options. Consider the example of Ray Kroc (McDonald’s). “Suppose someone comes up with a proposal that McDonald’s should serve turkey sandwiches… Everyone on the board of directors can think of nine good reasons why turkey sandwiches would be a bad thing for us. They would blow the idea out of the water immediately. But Ray would say, ‘Wait a minute; let’s examine what this might do for us. Maybe we could make it work. If not turkey sandwiches, maybe we should try turkey hash.’ He wouldn’t let go of it until all possibilities had been considered.” 1

Admiral Hyman Rickover (U.S. Navy) illustrated this point of challenging the thought process, when he remarked, “One must create the ability in his staff to generate clear, forceful arguments for opposing viewpoints is well as for their own. Open discussions and disagreements must be encouraged, so that all sides of an issue will be fully explored. Further, important issues should be presented in writing. Nothing so sharpens the thought process as writing down one’s arguments. Weaknesses overlooked in oral discussion become painfully obvious on the written page.” 2

Peter Drucker commented, “Dissent, even conflict, is necessary, indeed desirable. Without dissent and conflict there is no understanding. And without understanding, there are only wrong decisions. To me the most fascinating parts of [Alfred] Sloan’s [General Motors] book [My Years With General Motors] are the memoranda in which he first elicits dissent and then synthesizes dissenting views into an understanding, and in the end, into consensus and commitment. Sloan implies that leadership is not charisma, not public relations, not showmanship. It is performance, consistent behavior, trustworthiness.” 3

James Burke (Johnson & Johnson) was “never one to fill his staff with employees who were afraid to state their minds, Burke enjoyed having different viewpoints on board. ‘My style is to encourage controversy and encourage people to say what they think,’ he told Fortune (October 24, 1988). He always wanted his employees to fight for what they believed in, without fear of repercussions.” 4

Henry Luce (Time Magazine) was known to challenge other’s thinking. It was reported, “‘Far from being pained by new ideas,’ Mr. [Hedley] Donovan [Editor in Chief – Time Magazine] said, ‘Harry Luce rejoices in them. He welcomes argument so ardently that it takes a certain amount of intellectual courage to agree with him when he is right, as is bound to happen from time to time.’ This was also the impression of Gilbert Cant, a Time editor for many years, who said: ‘His decisions may have been unidirectional but, by God, he thought a hell of a lot. Conversation with him was utterly maddening because he was always aware of the other side of any proposition he was stating, and he frequently tried to express both sides at once.’” 5

  1. How He Made McDonald’s Sizzle (Success Magazine, March 1, 2009)
  2. Admiral Rickover H.C., Doing a Job (management philosophy speech at Columbia University School of Engineering, 1981; CoEvolution Quarterly, 1982)
  3. Drucker Peter, The Best Book on Management Ever (Fortune Magazine, April 23, 1990)
  4. Watson Stephanie, Business Biographies: James Burke (http://www.referenceforbusiness.com/biography/A-E/Burke-James-1925.html)
  5. Whitman Alden, Henry R. Luce, Creator of Time-Life Magazine Empire, Dies in Phoenix at 68 (The New York Times, March 1, 1967)

Excerpt: Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It. (Majorium Business Press, 2011) $ 29.95 USD

If you would like to learn more about the intellectual honesty and openness of the great American leaders through their own inspiring words and stories, refer to Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It. It illustrates how great leaders built great companies, and how you can apply the strategies, concepts and techniques that they pioneered to improve your own leadership skills. Click here to learn more.

______________________________________________________________________________

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreward Reviews’ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web | Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2012 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Written by Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D.

April 3, 2012 at 11:44 am

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