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If you burn down your neighbor's house, it doesn't make yours look better.
"If only I had a team full of clones," a successful line executive told me once, "I'd have a lot fewer problems. I'd only have to motivate one person, and everybody else would fall in line."
He was joking, of course, but his comment addresses a serious problem. If everybody on your team had essentially the same needs, goals, and reasons for being motivated or bored, your job as a motivating manager would be relatively simple. One of the major reasons it's often not simple is that people aren't clones of each other, or of their managers either. People are individuals with a natural tendency to go off in their own directions, even when that's at variance with the needs of their groups. As I've pointed out earlier, they generally have to be persuaded to act with the team, by being continually reinforced for productive group action. And the lesson doesn't always take the first time. As a result, every time you sit down with your team, you face the possibility of conflict.
I don't want to gloss this over, and I know I couldn't get away with it even if I did want to, because with or without this book, you know enough about handling people to know that differences of opinion and needs are inevitable, no matter how tight-knit the team. When I say that teamwork is the answer to solving more and more business problems today, and when I say that Involvement and mutual goal-setting and cooperation are essential to your survival in the marketplace, I'm not waving a magic wand that's going to dissolve every fly in the ointment. If all you needed to pull twenty different people into a single, motivated unit was the battle cry "We're the best team in the world," the Marines wouldn't constantly be searching for a few more good men: every kid who signed in to boot camp would eventually make it into dress blues.
The reason that the Marines don't get a 100 percent pass-through rate is the same reason that your company doesn't have a 100 percent attendance rate or a 100 percent no-defect record. It's that people are people, and they make mistakes. Sometimes they almost want to screw up, of course, because they've just not been properly reinforced to care more. More often than not, though, they really want to produce, but for a variety of personal reasons, they just don't contribute to the team effort in the way you would like them to. Somewhere there's a split between where the group needs to go and where the individual feels he needs to go. So you get dropouts, and bad attendance. And conflict.
Now, almost anybody can be a good manager when he doesn't have to deal with dissension. I don't know much about baseball, but I bet that if you gave me nine average players with no personalities—nine guys whose only interest was in furthering the interests of the team—I could get them to give Billy Martin a run for his money. Some managers might dream about that kind of a team; they might think it would be a surefire ticket to stardom to field a side called the Kansas City Clones or the Atlanta Automatons. But managers who have actually worked with humans before—in good times and in bad—know that the idea is ridiculous. They know the truth of Casey Stengel's remark about his own brilliant, but frequently bumpy, coaching career. Good managing, Casey said, is "keeping the five guys on the team who hate your guts away from the five who are undecided."
If you're working with human material, you're going to run into conflict. Always. Because human material, unlike steel or cotton or data bases, has an aggravating habit: it thinks. In the best-managed teams, sometimes it thinks in another direction from where you, and most of the team, want to go. Nothing I've said about the P.R.I.C.E. motivation system will make that "thinking in the wrong direction" go away. But it will help you manage it better.
Being able to manage conflict and internal team dissension, far from being an annoying side issue in our system, is really the system's acid test. Everything I've said up to now about reinforcement and feedback, about Pinpointing and Creative Problem Solving, about Assertiveness and Reflective Listening, comes together when you're faced with team conflict. If the principles in this book have any ultimate value at all, it's because they help the business manager resolve—sometimes only temporarily, but always effectively—the incidents of tension and disagreement he's constantly going to meet in team settings.
Notice I'm saying "resolve." Not "eliminate" or "avoid" or "combat." As long as people are involved, you're never going to eliminate conflict entirely. But you can bring it to a productive resolution, so that the motivation of the team is sustained and so that everything you want from that motivation—higher productivity, better work relations, better quality—keeps going where you want it to go.
The particular strategies you might want to use to resolve conflict vary, depending on the situation. But whatever strategy you resort to, there should always be the same goal that you want to get to at the end. That is, the techniques might differ, but they should lead to the same resolution.
That resolution is a situation in which everybody involved in the team setting is at least basically satisfied at the way things have turned out. I don't mean doing handstands. But not sulking in the corner either. You can come to a conflict resolution without every one of your team members feeling that he's come out on top; in fact, that's what's going to happen most of the time. But if anybody on the team comes out feeling he's on the bottom—feeling that he's "lost" because his input wasn't considered—then you haven't resolved the conflict. You've only deflected it, or crushed it. Crushed conflict is like crushed fruit. Stamp it into the dirt, and it's going to rise again.
In our productivity seminars, we tell our client managers to aim for a "9/9" conflict outcome. That's an outcome where both you and the person "causing" the conflict end up with nine of your ten possible "points" satisfied. We say aim for nine rather than the supposedly ideal ten because experience has taught us a bitter lesson: when everybody in a conflict situation is aiming for total victory (for that imaginary ten out of ten), inevitably you start to look for a score of ten to nothing: you start to aim for solutions that leave you feeling like a winner, and everybody else feeling like losers. The outcome of that is a paradox: everybody tries for the max, and everybody ends up with zero.
So we say aim for a realizable nine out of ten. Keeping that ideal in mind means you remember that nobody gets it all—nobody in any conflict situation is going to end up totally ahead of the pack. In fact, if that's where you want to find yourself, in business or in sports, you're soon going to be out of the game.
A lot of managers don't even get very close to the attainable ideal of "9/9." That's because they set their sights on the more commonly attained outcomes of "9/1," "1/9," and "5/5." And that's the best they ever achieve. I'll explain this jargon now, as I describe the most common ways that managers try to resolve conflict, show how each of them fails, and then tell you what you can do to transform each of these ineffective strategies into the "9/9" strategy that leads to real conflict resolution.
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