Mary Parker Follett was born in 1868 and died in 1933. It's hard to imagine that a woman living in that era could write so profoundly:
"What people often mean by getting rid of conflict is getting rid of diversity."
Leaders often claim to want diverse opinions and counterpoint but reward the heads that bobble in constant agreement. Effective leaders will stir dissent even when the room seems to rally in agreement.
If everyone in the meeting remains in agreement, all the time, about every issue, it is likely that intimidation, fear and redundancy are in attendance as well. Diverse thinking occurs in a healthy room in which the naysayers are encouraged and applauded. Disagreement does not always indicate a contrarian spirit.
Follett defined conflict as "difference," not a negative occurrence to be avoided, but simply the interacting of different desires.
She called for "integrated solutions" as a replacement to compromise. I've always felt icky when leaving a boardroom that served platefuls of compromise. The organization rarely wins with a spirit of compromise in the culture. "Go along and get along" is good for kindergarten behavior but is rarely useful in leadership.
Follett offered three approaches to conflict resolution:
1. Domination that would assure that one side "wins" over the other
2. Compromise in which both sides give up something
3. Integration—a new and better solution is developed and the original interests of both sides are retained
Integration creates an atmosphere of "winning" on both sides of the table and the organization is the biggest winner.
"We should never allow ourselves to be bullied by an 'either-or' solution," Follett said.
It is likely that the best solution is a new solution fueled by effective integration.
When the colors red and blue are integrated, the result is a purple solution. Neither red nor blue is compromised. The integration yields a brilliant new color.
"Now I ask you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak in agreement and that there be no divisions among you. But be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment" (1 Cor. 1:10).
To read Part 1 of the Mary Parker Follett series, click here.
Dr. Steve Greene is the publisher and executive vice president of the media group at Charisma Media and executive producer of the Charisma Podcast Network. His book, Love Leads: The Spiritual Connection Between Your Relationships and Productivity, is now available.
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