Resolving thorny conflicts and culture challenges (feat. Dr. Amir Kfir)
You might be familiar with the idea that the events of your past (particularly of your childhood) continue to impact you today. But did you know that the same is true for organizations?
The events and attitudes that shaped your organization in its infancy are likely still permeating into your company culture, even though you may not be aware of it.
For example, a founder may have the belief that fear is the best motivator, using emotional put-downs to drive their team to excellence. Years later, after that founder is no longer part of the organization, the culture of fear still lingers, even as new leaders take over.
Without conscious awareness of this pattern and its root cause — the belief of the founder — the new leaders will not know how to break this pattern nor how to create a more productive culture. By unraveling the root cause, leaders can actively choose a new way of responding and leading.
In this episode, Dr. Amir Kfir introduces us to a method for identifying and resolving deep-rooted organizational problems and conflict: constellation work.
Dr. Amir Kfir is an organizational consultant who has been in the field of change management for over 30 years. He was invited to be a member of the Peace Action Network and moderated a forum of Israeli and Arab CEOs and Greek and Turkish CEOs. He’s also the author of Nonflict: The Art of Everyday Peacemaking.
How does constellation work enhance leadership?
The goal of constellation work is to raise awareness of what’s causing us to behave the way we are, so that we can choose an alternative behavior instead. In other words, it’s all about getting to the root cause of a problem.
Dr. Amir uses an analogy to health to illustrate how this works:
The end result of a health issue could be a serious problem like a heart attack. Before that, a patient might experience symptoms like high blood pressure. But the root cause of the heart attack (and the symptoms leading up to it) runs deeper, often including foundational problems like stress levels and lifestyle habits.
Similarly, the end result of an organizational issue might be a lack of profitability. The symptoms could include a lack of quality control or too much inventory. But the root cause is often embedded within the company culture and belief systems. So, to impact the end result, you must heal the challenges in the company culture.
How leaders can use these principles for conflict resolution
The way we behave during conflict is shaped by how we experienced conflict growing up. Perhaps we learned to raise our voices or to leave the room and “fold” during conflict. It takes becoming conscious of these patterns to break them.
Dr. Amir offers a three-phase process for resolving conflict in your organization:
- Understanding the other party with a sense of empathy
- Understanding what the conflict is really about
- Being able to visualize a future where both parties are truly benefitting
Phase One — empathizing with the other party — is a crucial step.
Dr. Amir suggests using active listening to empathize. Active listening requires you to step into the other’s role for a moment and “try on” their perspective so that you can repeat it back to them. The benefit of active listening is not for the other person to be sure you have understood them correctly. The real benefit is for you; this role-reversal allows you to recognize the legitimacy of their perspective and be able to move on to Phase Two.
If you want to learn how to resolve conflicts from the root instead of applying surface-level tactics, this is an episode you don’t want to miss.
To find out more about Dr. Amir and his work, a great place to start is with his nonprofit organization, Million Peacemakers, which teaches his conflict-resolution method around the world.