Don’t Let Post Election Anxiety Hurt Your Team

It’s Thanksgiving– Keep Talking and Supporting Each Other       The election is over, but the uncertainty, divisiveness and questions remain. Colleagues, friends and relatives who are on different sides of the issues (and supported different candidates) are questioning each other’s intelligence, thought processes and whether they really know each other at all. Trust and in some cases civility have eroded, and our tendency is to withdraw from speaking to or even being with those who don’t share our opinions. But this is the worst thing that could happen. When we are divided and don’t seek common ground in order to move forward, we just make matters worse. This is sadly very evident in the rash of hate crimes that have started occurring across the county.

You MUST continue to communicate with all your co-workers. Your job and the effectiveness of your team may depend upon these people skills, which are now being put to the test. You should not isolate yourself from friends who don’t agree with you. After all, you may have spent years doing things together and building a host of wonderful memories. Is that worth just throwing away? No, it’s not.

How do you get past this? Time certainly will help, but “go high”—like Michelle Obama said, and reach out. Go and actively support issues that matter to you. Talk to your colleagues and friends. Share Thanksgiving with those you love. Maybe you can’t talk politics right now, but you can find positive things to share and to rebuild your relationships on.

For co-workers, talk about events that you shared, successes that your experienced together in the past, upcoming goals and how to reach them together. Steer away from what divides you at this time. The same for friends and family—talk about fun trips and occasions that you shared, what you are currently doing, fun hobbies, the kids, the holidays. Keep it positive.

IF you feel compelled to talk about the election, approach it knowing that the discussion could be negatively charged. So, you want to go into it with some “ground rules:”

  1. I would really like to hear your opinion on why you voted this way. Maybe I could learn something.
  2. Let’s keep it factual and unemotional if at all possible. Leave out words like “How could you…?” That is a put-down.
  3. Are there things that we actually do agree upon? What are they?
  4. And if it does get uncomfortable, let’s agree to table the discussion until we can talk about it calmly without so much emotion. You must realize that you may never have this discussion at all.

Remember that truly the most important thing you will ever do in life is Communicate. If we stop doing that, we will cease all positive forward movement—which is the key. Let’s work together to stay together and make progress– together.  “Thanksgiving” after all, is a word of action.

Good Leaders Can Use Conflict to Build a Great Team

Few things divide teams more than disagreement. We experience this in personal life as well as business and politics.  Poor leaders believe in creating problems and divisiveness by telling everyone how bad things are. They bully people into agreeing with their ideas and are dictators not leaders. Though people may follow along for a while, this is an extremely poor and disastrous way to lead a team—or a nation. For too long, many of our “leaders” have succumbed to digging in their heels and refusing to make any progress unless it was their way. Is this your boss? Is it you?

There will always be differences of opinion, and that diversity can make great teams if conflict is seen as a way to get the best results—not a “right or wrong” fight. Good leaders know this and promote this way of thinking. There MUST be communication and everyone should strive to contribute to that dialogue. Here is the mindset that will drive positive results and higher functioning teams:

  1. Build on what is positive first and find common principles. Do not simply tear down the past—especially if you are a new boss and have no history with the company.
  2. Respect your team members. Those who disagree are not “the enemy.” Many on your team may have more experience than you; don’t discount their contributions. Name calling and bullying is the worst thing you can do—and will only serve to dismantle the team and undermine success as well as trust.
  3. Ask your team to see conflict as a way to move forward—not a paralyzing force. Patrick Lencioni, in his book- The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, writes about “fear of conflict.” This is what allows some managers to get their way much of the time—when it is not always the best way. People don’t want to rock the boat. They are afraid of being fired. They think that sharing an opposing opinion is a waste of time. As a boss, if you foster this kind of thinking, you are doing your team and yourself a huge disservice.

This diagram illustrates how we should see conflict. At the far left is “artificial harmony” where everyone just agrees with everything. We know everyone has lots of opinions, but they are not sharing them, and therefore as a resource of ideas and knowledge, these people are limited—not supportive team members. On the far left is very destructive conflict, in which people are openly attacking each other personally – which includes childish name-calling and degrading comments.

conflict-continuum

 

The middle of the diagram is the “ideal conflict point.” It is still constructive, but it represents having a variety of divergent ideas—without trying to destroy the personal integrity of team members. This is what great leaders should strive for and ask of their teams.

  1. Establish common goals and ideals. If your team is in total disarray (and most are not), start with your mission statement. This establishes your purpose and why you are together as a team. This has to be the basis for progress, and you must agree that progress toward goals is necessary—otherwise, there is no reasons for your existence as a team. In government, you always hear about “reaching across the aisle,” but this is more than just talking one-on-one. This is setting a common platform for everyone.
  2. Agree that it is ok to disagree. This is how a team comes up with a myriad of ideas on how to solve an issue and move forward. However, again the ultimate goal must be to move forward.
  3. Learn to compromise. This is not a bad word. If we do not learn to compromise, then instead of progress, you foster inactivity; no movement forward or backward. And those who refuse to learn about compromise and change will ultimately see their teams, businesses or indeed governments decline and fail.