My natural tendency is to what’s called, “conflict avoidance.” That is, I tend to avoid conflict, at least to a point, and in my past I let this tendency be in control of way too much of my life.
I had to learn that creating a little friction does not have to mean causing a problem, a fight, or a disagreement. It means avoiding false comfort. Just like in physics, friction can only occur when there is movement. With no movement, there is no progress.
Now I’m not talking about looking for fights, not at all. Let me explain.
Years ago when my company was struggling and we needed to get more done, I was still hesitant to even nudge my staff to work harder. Two thoughts would go through my brain about this.
The first is that I knew the staff had not had raises in some time and so I felt guilty about requesting anything, even just better focus. I also expected they would “push” back on my higher expectations for a number of possible reasons.
The potential for conflict was a greater concern for me at the moment than the business failing or them quitting their job. Not a good place to be a business leader.
A mentor I sought out about all this pointed out reality. While true we’d not had recent pay raises, many in our industry had recently lost their jobs at the time. The fact they remained employed while we were in a tight spot financially is not a small thing.
He also pointed out that considering the work schedule and salaries, my team was paid well above average. Lastly, he said that if I didn’t step up and lead, including ridding myself of useless guilt and expecting more focus on work, then, as he put it, “you’ll ALL be out looking for jobs.”
My mentor was right. I was not protecting them in the long run but putting us all at further risk. And it was caused by my own avoidance of potential friction, leading to lack of movement and progress.
I explained our situation as a business to my team. I told them what had to happen for us to survive as a business and for their jobs to remain available. Were they happy about this? Probably not. But they were professionals and they all stepped up to the plate with what I was asking of them. Through hard work and good fortune, we survived and thrived.
To move our company forward, I had to learn that staying in place, particularly a bad place, is more dangerous than moving forward. If I get the move wrong, make a different move. Every move comes with friction; you just can’t take it all as hit to your self-esteem.
Make mistakes, learn, then move again in a different manner. That is where progress happens, even if it generates a little friction just due to the human instinct to resist change.
Comfort is dangerous, and often false.
Glenn S. Phillips is the author of the book Nerd-to-English: Your Everyday Guide to Translating Your Business, Your Messages, and Yourself. You can email Glenn directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Glenn is also the president of Forte’ Incorporated, a consulting firm that works with business leaders to understand and address the often hidden technology and business risks lurking within their organizations.
© Copyright 2013. Glenn S. Phillips, Forte’ Incorporated. (205) 985-1111