Conflict brings to mind so many emotions, most of them negative. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Changing the way you look at conflict will change the outcome, which was a point captured by an astute group I recently had the pleasure of working with.
In a workshop this past weekend with The Sustainability Project, their Board and key volunteers were exploring ways to further develop their team. You may recall that TSP was one of the two winners I announced for the Graceful Giving program and I’ve been excited for this day since my very first call with them. Their mission resonates deeply with me and their commitment to it is evident.
The Sustainability Project was founded in March of 2000. They are a nonprofit educational organization that promotes a love of nature, environmental stewardship, caring communities and ways of living that deepen our understanding of the interconnected web of life.
The physical heart of The Sustainability Project (TSP) can be found at the Emerson Brook Forest Outdoor Education Center in Gilsum, NH. The center functions as a learning laboratory for edible forest gardening, permaculture design and sustainable community practices. The list of programming that TSP supports is long and diverse.
In their Graceful Giving application, TSP expressed a desire to strengthen their communication and organizational skills during a time of renewal and expansion. The Graceful Giving prize was a workshop built on the program called “Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team.” The goal of the program is to explore how each of the five behaviors currently plays out on a team and identify what could change to help the team work at a higher level. Mastering these behaviors will absolutely improve communication and organizational skills and TSP moved the needle in just one day!
These impressive folks were thoughtful and supportive of each other. They openly offered candid feedback about their own strengths and development areas (we all have them!!). As we progressed through discussion of the five behaviors, they acknowledged how challenging it can be to address conflict, in large part because of their close-knit relationships. Conflict is one of the behaviors that Lencioni says is necessary for a high performing team and it is something that many people struggle with.
At The Sustainability Project, everyone on the team truly likes each other, indeed they are a family tied together whether actually related or not. So bringing up an issue feels unkind and uncomfortable to them. But even when we have very close, meaningful relationships, we are going to have conflict. The magic happens when we figure out to work through it productively.
Avoiding or discounting the opportunity to address conflict doesn’t make it go away. As we explored the ramifications of not addressing an issue, even something small, they came to a new realization. Rather than feeling like conflict could harm, they now saw it as a way for growth.
By giving someone honest feedback, for example, conflict allows a person to improve, develop, and/or become more aware of what is needed. This brings out the best–for the person and the organization. One participant spontaneously captured the essence perfectly when she remarked, “It’s Graceful Giving and Receiving.”
The Graceful Giving workshop had lived up to its name, and more! We accomplished a lot that day as we worked through each of the five behaviors needed for strong teams. They have already reported back and are putting into practice the action items they identified as important to them.
I want to thank the extraordinary people leading The Sustainability Project for our inspiring time together. They are exemplary role models, dedicated to the art of giving and receiving in many ways, and they do it gracefully!