In writing my 2012 book, The 3 Power Values: How Commitment, Integrity, and Transparency Clear the Roadblocks to Performance, I came to view the business world in general, and leadership in particular, through the lens of the three power values. Over time, I've realized that these three values are essential building blocks for just about every important business transaction.
In reading the new book by Obama DOJ appointee Grande Lum, called Tear Down the Wall, I saw that the three power values play an integral role in conflict mediation. Lum, formerly the Founder and Managing Director of Accordence, a negotiation consultancy, is now Obama's director of the Community Relations Service at the DOJ, the "peacemaker" for community disputes. His new book is a collection of 87 essays about conflict mediation.
Using Lum's ideas as the basis for these observations, here's my take on some ways the three power values apply when managing conflict.
Power Value #1: Commitment
Commit to your relationship goal. When dealing with an adversary, do you want a trusting relationship? Do you want professionalism? Do you want a deeper understanding? Settle on and commit to a relationship goal that will inspire you to take ownership for what happens in the negotiation.
Commit to the entire process. When trying to resolve differences with a difficult person or group of people, think through the entire conversation -- an agenda that includes opening remarks, questions that encourage dialogue rather than debate, points of agreement, and ways to create positive momentum.
Commit to continuous improvement. View your communication as a system that can be continually improved by reframing your adversary's responses in a positive light and learning from challenges that pop up.
Power Value #2: Integrity
Have the integrity to own your bias.Catch yourself jumping to conclusions -- and learn from the leap. It's not realistic to attempt to free yourself of all bias, because biases are often a product of experience, expertise, and insight. Instead, be honest with yourself about your perceptions so you will become aware of when you are being defensive or seeing through a distorted lens.
Bring you who you are to the table. It takes integrity to embrace who you are and draw on the qualities you already possess rather than pretending to be someone you're not. Remember previous conflicts you've managed successfully, and put yourself in that competent frame of mind.
Tell a third story. When we go into conflict, we have our story, they have their story. Have the integrity to realize there's a third story that's not so skewed. The third story is the one you share with your adversary, and it includes factual descriptions of the conflict that both parties agree on, questions you both still have, and acknowledgement of the other's point of view.
Power Value #3: Transparency
Admit that it's you, not them. Disclosing your accountability, rather than blaming the other party, defuses the situation because you're accepting responsibility. This allows you to assess the other person's contribution more accurately.
Openness invites fairness. Transparency in this context means that you can see both sides of the conflict, and are willing to acknowledge out loud that you empathize and take accountability for your side of the situation.
Talk about your talk. In a conflict situation, share how you want to discuss a difficult topic, because the problem is not the topic, but rather how you communicate it. Having a transparent strategy about your process of disclosure and dialogue goes a long way to winning the other person's trust.
As you can see, Grande Lum's book was a thought provoking book for me. I am sure others will find it a worthy addition to the current literature on negotiation and conflict management.