Wendy Hanson 0:24
Welcome everybody. On the BetterManager podcast, we talked with many guests about communication with their teams, how to show respect, how to develop your people into leaders, managers are in the people business, they are responsible for developing their team members and lead them. Conflict in a work environment is not unusual. Many folks are conflict averse and others love to dive into conflict. I'm curious to learn about how to have a drama free culture in our organizations by not avoiding conflict but leading. So that's why I have a fabulous guest with me today, Marlene Chisholm, Marlene works with leaders to build drama free cultures that drive growth and reduce costly mistakes. Marlene is known for helping managers address the elephant in the room and initiate conversations that get results. My lien is a recognized expert on LinkedIn learning, producing five educational video series on topics that include anger management, working with high conflict people, and having difficult conversations. Marlene has a degree in communications, a master's in human resource development. And she's an advanced practitioner in narrative coaching. While Lina is the author of five books, including her latest book, from conflict, to courage, how to stop avoiding and start leading. So welcome, Arlene, I'm so excited to have you on today.
Marlene Chism 1:53
Thanks so much for having me, Wendy. It's,
Wendy Hanson 1:57
you know, conflict comes up all the time, doesn't it? And some people love stepping over it. And I love how you call it the elephant in the room. And you also you've I've gone through some of your videos, and you talk about the need for leaders to build conflict capacity, what's conflict capacity? And why do they need to build that? What is that all about?
Marlene Chism 2:21
You know, most of us avoid or we get aggressive, or we appease, we do things to deal with how we feel with conflict, and we don't even realize we're doing it. It's just sort of a subconscious activity or behavior that we have. And when I started digging into this topic, at first, I thought, well, it's a skills development issue. If you take the skills, you learn the skills, you go to LinkedIn learning, or you have a workshop or you hire a coach, like like yourself, you can get those skills and that makes it better. And it does. However, it's only one part of it. There's three parts to conflict capacity. So skills development is what I call the outer game, I'm learning how to say something I'm learning, you know, how to approach the beginning of a conversation, then there's what I call the inner game. And that's where most of us struggle, that's where, you know, when we're avoiding or when we're even getting aggressive. That's that inner game work that most of us have a lot of work to do on I'm still working on mine, I don't think it ever ends. And then there's the culture and the culture is really about how we've done things, the beliefs we have how we work together on the inside to survive on the outside the market conditions, all the invisible elements that make up culture and the visible elements. And what I started to see was that even if you have a great inner game, and a great outdoor game, if the culture is such to where the top leaders do not support your decision making if they are afraid of conflict, maybe they don't even know it, but if it's all about we play nice here at Stepford Wives we're only about joy and happiness and profits and revenue, and nothing's bad. You're going to struggle in your leadership role. If you're a person that wants to see growth, you're really going to struggle and it's not going to be the right culture. So in the workplace, those are the three elements of expanding conflict capacity.
Wendy Hanson 4:13
Yeah, and what what does because I certainly understand when you say boy, everything always stops starts at the top. You know what, however that culture gets set up of what we can what we do to be feel psychologically safe and feel. And what do we step over what elephants in the room? Are we not addressing? What What would a drama free culture look like? Marley?
Marlene Chism 4:38
Oh, that's really kind of a I guess that's not really accurate because there's always going to be some drama they'll always be drawn. Because we're human beings. So I use that sort of as a clickbait I guess to say drama free culture. We will have drama and I defined drama as any obstacle to your peace or your prosperity and I can have drama in my head without anybody else in the room. So There's going to be drama. However, what I really mean by that is that we are more transparent, we are growth minded, we do look at how we are, we have blind spots, we look at how we can learn to communicate better, we look at how our culture either supports or prevents us from moving forward in the ways that we want to that align with our mission and vision. So what I what I know is that in working in organizations like I do, for example, I might see executives at the top level vice presidents, even at the top level, they may not realize how they're contributing to drama, for example, if someone at a lower level than them two layers down, let's say, is coming to them with problems about their boss, and they don't somehow initiate coaching for that person to deal with it. Or they don't say let's have them both in the room, if that one person has that kind of access, because of working together on certain projects, that can create so much drama, because unknowingly they start to believe whatever they hear from one person's point of view, and I call that power of attorney, you're allowing power of attorney, everybody feels this way about my boss, you need to fix it. That's a big problem in a lot of organizations.
Wendy Hanson 6:15
Wow, I love you spelling out that concept. Because we do see that all the time, it's really, really important. And tell me more about the inner game, you know that, because I think when people are listening to this, they'll be able to take many lessons from this into their personal life. Because certainly we have conflict there too.
Marlene Chism 6:35
Absolutely. And it really is very, very parallel. It's just that there's a few different structures in the workplace, but in our personal lives, we are people, we bring that to the workplace, and we still go home, and we're the same person. So the inner game is my self awareness. It's my integrity, my emotional integrity, my awareness about how I process my emotions, and my feelings. And most of us don't have that level of awareness that we need, we've kind of gotten trapped into ways of just protecting ourselves. And so one thing I like to talk a lot about is uncovering your narrative. And when I was taking the narrative coaching class, this really stood out for me, and I've used it to help myself when I get stuck, and I still get stuck. I'm a human, I'm not a sage on the stage I, you teach what you need to learn this the way I look at it. And so one of the concepts in narrative coaching is your story is the source of your suffering. And so no matter what you're going through, what are you telling yourself about that, and I use this recently, my mom is in long term care right now, that's a whole that could be a book, there's so much internal drama with that kind of thing when you're going through that. And I found myself just being tired to the bone and so stressed out, which is part of it. But one day I got, you know, up in my little meditation room where I journal pray, meditate, I said, Okay, if the story is the source of your suffering, there's all these facts, isn't that true to the facts are there? These are experiences that are difficult for, for human beings. But what is it that's making me suffer and not accept the story that I'm telling if I'm making the situation into an obstacle, which is drama, obstacle with my peace or prosperity versus it's just part of my life now. And it's forcing me to make decisions and take business that I can take and handle. And it's making me work with the idea that there's not going to be business if I don't just kill it, like I always try to that it is still there. And that this is just a period of time, and I changed the narrative. So that's the way we can work with narrative our narrative to say, Well, I see this person as my enemy, I see this person as an obstacle to my elevation. Well, what if I see this as my opportunity for growth, and I just haven't figured it out yet. Now you're starting to shift. So that's how you can start to work with your inner game is to get self awareness, looking at your narrative exploring how you're viewing things, and to open yourself up a little bit more.
Wendy Hanson 9:02
Yeah. Oh, I love that. Because the you know, it's always we try to control things we can't control. You just describe something that we can control. And if we shift that paradigm, ourself, and know that, yeah, wow, this is this is interesting right now, you know, I'm curious about how I'm behaving.
Marlene Chism 9:22
I'm making most of it up anyway, right? Like, my
Wendy Hanson 9:26
get up in the positive direction a little bit. There is hope. Yes.
Marlene Chism 9:30
There's facts. And then there's the things that I interpret. So even like, I've even gotten to this statement of if I can change my interpretation of something, I can change my experience. And you probably know as well as I do that when we're in the coaching, consulting speaking world. A lot of times people ask us for things for free, even companies that have money, they don't view it as at the value that we do and so on. And used to I would get so offended and I'd be like, how dare they don't ask their plumber to do free planning and now I'm like they have the right to ask. I'm just going to interpret this as they're interested, they just don't understand how it works. And that changed my reaction from being Vic feeling like a victim and persecuted to they just don't understand. But once I explained them, we'll see if it's even a good fit. So just changing your narrative and your interpretation about something.
Wendy Hanson 10:17
Yeah, I love you bring up the term victim, because I see that, you know, when we, when we put ourselves at work, or at home as a victim, then we're going to act a certain way. So we need to change that. Yeah. How else can people shift their inner game a little bit that awareness and thinking of it and shifting the narrative? What else could they do?
Marlene Chism 10:39
One thing I talk about in from conflict to courage is work on emotional integrity. Most of us don't really understand that concept, because it's not been out there a lot. In fact, I didn't even know it had been out there. And my editor said, I think this has been said somewhere before and I'm like, Okay, well, I didn't know it. It's just something I started working on. And what I mean by emotional integrity, it's not quite the same as emotional intelligence. It's just a little bit of distinction. What I mean by that, is that, first of all, it's not just that I'm aware of my experience, and I can manage relationships, because I can be aware of my experience and manipulate and still manage a relationship. There's a lack of alignment and integrity in that. So what I wanted to talk about was, how can I take 100% ownership, even if someone's done me wrong, even if the facts are there? How can I own the only thing that I can only just my experience of it, I can't own what someone else did, but I can own how I you know, intellectualize it, how I feel about it, how I process it, my narrative about it. So I'm going to own that I feel angry, I'm going to own that something happened that I don't like, and I'm struggling with the feelings I have about that. And I'm feeling like a victim, but I'm not willing to be a victim. So I can own all of that. I can then kind of face my dark side, this is where we struggle. The dark side might be like, I truly feel like revenge. And in the workplace, it can be like, I'm gonna document them. But the truth is, it's so uncut Vironment three minutes. That's my dark side, because my right side of that should be that I want to help someone, but I'm resentful, because I've had the conversation two times, I didn't hold them accountable. I trusted them. And now I feel bad. So I've got a dark side about me that wants them to fail. And if I can just admit that instead of projecting all of my stuff on to other people, okay, right now I feel like revenge. I just admit that to myself. I feel angry, I feel jealous. Whatever that is, then it's about when you're with that person, just to represent yourself. No playing Power of Attorney just say like, I feel really upset about how this project worked out. I don't say three people think that you're not carrying your weight. Oh,
Wendy Hanson 12:48
I don't know how bad that that sounds and feels. And yes, everybody's saying, right?
Marlene Chism 12:54
Everybody's saying so and so mentioned to me. No, don't tell them. I told you this. I'm just doing this to have your back. No, I'm not. I'm doing it because I want you to feel bad. And I don't even know how to tell myself the truth about it. I don't even know that. That's what's turning. So if I can just say I have to represent how I see it. And that's one thing. I teach managers and leaders too, when someone comes to you representing someone else, to invite that someone else into the room, or to say, Okay, I hear how Jane Kim, Chris, I hear what you say they say, but they're not here this week. How do you feel? Well, no, I feel fine. I'm just letting you know, well, it's not fair to represent other people. If they're not in the room. I'm asking you how you experienced this. And it sounds to me like you have a challenge with this. But otherwise, you wouldn't tell me about Kim and Chris and everybody else. So like, it's really about that elephant in the room of someone else's, is doing their dirty work through other people. So we have to have emotional integrity, which is take ownership of your experience, pace your dark side, and represent yourself.
Wendy Hanson 13:56
Yeah. And to know when you're leaning towards that dark side, because we can try to fool ourselves. And really, we have this manipulative way of thinking, well, I want to get rid of them. So that's why I'm doing that. So I appreciate that example, because I'm sure other people have gone through that, you know, how and how do we, how do we not go through that? How do we make sure that we have these things going on? And we say, Oh, here's what I notice about what I'm thinking like, how do we shift to that, you know, what are some other ways that we can get into that? So, so we're not so worried about jumping in the conflict, but we feel courageous.
Marlene Chism 14:34
Yeah, the courage part is the hardest part. I think first of all, we human beings can notice these things in other people first. So go ahead and do that. Just don't judge them and don't try to coach them. Be okay with noticing it because if you notice it, maybe you have it, it's that projection thing I was talking about. One key way to notice it within yourself or with other people is that when you have A little bit of a dark side on some area of your own behavior or way of being, you'll justify it. For example, I was talking, I was doing some interviews with an organization that I'm working with right now, that's some of the work I do sometimes just to get a sense of However, people do feel about it from an outsider's point of view. And what I heard was indicators that they don't appreciate certain qualities of their own boss. Oh, they're just so sweet. They're so full of fluff. And the way it was said in the tone, was, they were justifying their own aggressiveness. Like, I get straight to the point, I'm a straight shooter, I do it this way. And any other way is not appreciated, or respected. So we'll typically try to divide ourselves against someone, whenever we're justifying. It won't be about, well, we're all human. And so one of the tips I use is that when you're talking about someone and you catch yourself, notice your feelings. And then after you notice that if you say, Oh, they are so they think they're so above it all, they think that we're judging, we're making an interpretation, because we don't really know what someone else thinks or feels, then say to yourself, just like me, and if it feels okay to say just like me, okay? If it doesn't feel okay, if you're separating yourself that you're not the same as them, chances are, you're justifying some behavior that you have.
Wendy Hanson 16:26
So you play that out and add on just like me, and see how that resonates. Yeah. Oh, they're
Marlene Chism 16:32
so stuck up, they think that they're so about, they're just trying to climb the corporate ladder, just like me, then it becomes wow, I, you know, do I do that? Maybe not, but it makes you notice that you're gossiping, it makes you notice that you're creating and putting judgment on other people that understanding their motivation. And we do that all the time. Oh, they, they love to be right. They love for people to like them. They just think they're better than everybody else that is really like me, just like, and so then that will stop you because in your mind, you'll start having a whisper, just like me, okay, that's not appropriate to say. Again, I say this all the time, and knowing your feelings won't change the facts. But knowing the facts can change your feelings. And when you change your feelings, you change your experience. So it's all circular, and feelings are there for a reason. But don't believe your interpretation of those feelings. Right?
Wendy Hanson 17:32
Wow, that's great. That really is good advice. And you know, we gossiping is just can be so harmful in an organization. But to have some, some more awareness of that is so important. And you also talk about leadership, clarity, there's leadership, identity and leadership clarity. Can you tell me a little more about that?
Marlene Chism 17:57
Yes. Leadership identity is how you see yourself. And one of the challenges that a lot of organizations have from the small mom and pop to the corporation is that sometimes advancement is based on years of experience, or doing a certain job and being a top performer. But there's a vast difference in being a doer of the job and leading others that are doing that job. And so if my identity is still stuck in I was a rainmaker I was a top performer, it's going to be really hard for me to help someone else be that top performer and get the limelight if that was part of my unconscious need, that I was the top performer and now I'm supposed to be a leader. If I don't have a concept for what leadership means. If I haven't worked on that myself, if the organization hasn't thoroughly developed that concept of what does it mean to be a leader here? Because it might be different in corporation A versus B versus C? There's no right or wrong, that we have to define what leadership means. What kind of authority do they have? What are they? Is it servant leadership? Is it visionary leadership, what kind of what is leadership to you, and until that's defined, and until you attach with that, there's like a lack of identity around it. So therefore, it's a role to me, it's a title. And I identify either with being the Rainmaker and I can't support you, I've got to find why you're not quite as good as me. Or I want you to be my friend, because we work together as colleagues and I've got the story going on that we're all adults, and we can all get along, when in reality, sometimes I have to make decisions that are going to make you not happy because my primary role is to align to the organizational goals. I can still be a servant leader, but when it when push comes to shove, there's decisions that I don't have any pushback on and I have to be the bridge. That's the hardest part of leadership identity as developing your own identity about leadership, and then attaching to what the organization if they even have a definition that they really support and align with but most organizations really don't They've got a lot of things on their website, but they don't really specifically talk about what does it mean, if you get promoted to be a leader here, it means you've got seniority and you were a high performer at the job you had, therefore, we make the assumption that that person is going to be a good leader. So that's leadership, identity. Leadership,
Wendy Hanson 20:17
can I also say to like lead, being a leader, and being a manager, you know, we look at the role of a manager is really to develop people. So if you are not able to, if you if, if the way that you do it is so bright and important, you're not going to be bringing out the best in others, you're not going to be using their strengths. No, it's all going to be you're going to have this filter that never comes off.
Marlene Chism 20:43
That's right. And it's going to be what I call a checklist mentality. It's sort of like they have to kind of merge, you know, because you do you manage, and you lead. And people distinguish those words a lot of times, and I kind of blend them in my work. You know, because you do have to have certain qualities of managing things, making sure things get done, there are checklists, but if the only focus is on the checklist, and your position within that checklist, you're missing that bigger part of management and leadership, which is encouraging other people and learning to delegate in a way that serves the whole instead of just delegating, so that you can have free time, there is just a whole different way of looking at it when you've got the what I call leadership identity. And it includes tasks and managing and the hard things and the scheduling and all the things that we that go with that role. So it's sort of like we have to define how things overlap and what that means in this world of work that we have. So that's how I kind of look at leadership identity. And there's people that have a leadership identity, and they're not leaders at all, but they still see themselves as leaders, they lead from a place of I take initiative. And you know, the problem that comes up is when I see myself as a leader, but you don't. So I see myself as a leader, but you don't, I'm probably a boss, and I used a boss a lot of times to mean leader, but we use that word boss to mean I'm bossy, and I'm like, top down. And if I think that I'm a leader, which many new leaders think that they are good leaders, but they are really just bosses my way highway, I got the row, I can fire you, they're gonna support me at the top. So if I see myself as a leader, but you don't, we're not aligned. If I don't see myself as a leader, but I get promoted to leader, we're going to have problems too, because I'm going to avoid conversations. If I see myself as a leader, and so does everyone else. That's where you have that align leadership to where we all agree on the rules. This is what it looks like to be a leader, that company said I was you agree. And now we have this alignment, that saves a whole lot of drama,
Wendy Hanson 22:44
alignment and a lot of collaboration. Yeah, we need to collaborate with each other when you get into that place. I remember back coaching at Google in the very early days that Google was, you know, like 2002 2003. And we used to talk about you can lead from any place on the bus absolute because we want to have those leadership capabilities, you know, but but there's a difference between what when I hear you talk, I'm thinking about the old style of management leadership, like, Yeah, I'm the boss ZZ, I can make all the decisions and everything. Today's leaders need to be able to bring in their team, they need to be able to have one on ones they're not. And this still happens, I was coaching someone recently, a very high level person whose boss was just would have a one on one and just download things. And there was never an opportunity to ask questions or to get support. And, and this is somebody that was very experienced. So we still see that out there all the time. Yeah. And I used
Marlene Chism 23:47
to have, I used to have that idea that the higher up the you know, the you don't have these problems. We're human beings, we have blind spots, you know, and we dump things on people and we don't organize our thoughts. There's just we all are at different levels of development and stages of that no matter what our expertise or elevation in an organization is. And that's why I say like, I'm always learning I learned from everybody I talked with from everybody. When I try to do a workshop I learned from the group. I don't approach it as if I'm the one take my stuff and run with it. I'm like, I'm willing to adjust if I hear a distinction that gives me new information, but we have to be really open. But leadership, clarity. It's a huge concept. It clarity is a concept in all my books, and I've got a model for that. In this book comes from conflict, courage, I really expanded on what I call leadership clarity, because I wanted to get better at it. And what I started seeing in my consulting work was that so often, a person would call me maybe a vice president, maybe a CEO, maybe a director, but someone of authority would call me and they already had what they thought the problem was figured out and they want a three day workshop, three coaching sessions and got it over retreat. And you know, I've had to learn to go. Why? Because in my early years when I Okay, great, you know, what's your budgets? Now I just let's just back up a minute. And let's look at the entire picture. Before we start the problem solving and throwing out a new title of someone, we've got a new chief happiness officer, we're going to have three workshops, one every quarter, you know, we start doing all these initiatives. And there's some reason that we're doing them. But we don't really know why we just know things are kind of amok. So they'll find someone on a website, they'll tell their secretary to give me a call, what do you charge? And it's like, whoa. And so leadership clarity is this. What is the situation? If you can't articulate that situation in a paragraph two at the most here's the situation COVID happened. As a result, we laid off X amount of people now we don't have a workforce, the people that are working, we're having trouble retaining, now that we know the situation, what is the outcome that we want? And it doesn't matter whether you think it's possible or not. But what's the outcome? And what's the time length of as at one year five? What's the outcome? And what are the real or perceived obstacles? So the visual I have for that as a boat, an island and a shark? So the boat is the situation. This is you can do that even in your team on a small level, it doesn't have to be a division of the organization. As a team, here's the boat we're in. Does the boat have a leak? Is the top performer beating the others with the oars? Are we stuck on a rock? Like what's going on right now? What are we trying to get to? Okay, but what's the obstacle? What's the shark, the island is where we're trying to go. That's your peace and prosperity. What that's what our outcome is supposed to be. And where we get stuck is Yeah, but that's not possible, but someone's not going to go for it. But here's what we need to do to get there. Let's have three workshops, and a clan and a pizza party. Let's get there. Okay, like stop that don't get stuck on the rock called how just name the outcome, you now have dynamic tension between outcome and situation, that's what's going to drive your process. In that process, though, you're going to have things that are standing in their way we don't have the budget, that top leader does not necessarily agree we don't have the board isn't agreeing with this, what we need to do, there's three employees that are our best ones that they're going to quit if we do this, we need to know what the perceived or real obstacles are, because we can't create process until we know that. So therefore, all of this initiative taking is a lot of spinning wheels, it creates a lot of drama, because we lack leadership, clarity. So I always say that if I if it's the right kind of client for me, and I can get the situation, right, I can almost always book something with them. Because if I understand the situation and where they're trying to go, and it's okay, if the situation is we have some funding, and we've got to throw five workshops at it. Okay, I understand your situation, I can do that. It'll be fun. But that's not an outcome. But I can still do that. So we have to be very clear, and very articulate about what is the situation? What's the outcome? And what are the real or perceived obstacles?
Wendy Hanson 28:11
Yeah, I love that metaphor of, you know, the boat and the island, and then really trying to make sure that, you know, we do get so prescriptive so soon, like, this is what's going to change that. And really, it isn't unless we know what the outcome we're looking for. And what are the challenges, and then you could stand back and say, you know, three workshops is not going to change this in the company.
Marlene Chism 28:38
Two, you know, they want a two hour webinar to fix every problem that's been going on for the last three or four years. And I mean, if I could do that, wouldn't I be on Oprah Soul Sunday? I mean, if I can do that, you know, wow, that would be amazing. Yeah, yeah.
Wendy Hanson 28:54
That's great. Yeah, we need to stand back. And we need to not be afraid of conflict and be able to really recognize what we have inside ourselves. And, and look at that, like, look at ourselves in the mirror, and be able to say, Hmm, this is interesting how I'm perceiving this. Yeah. So what did I not ask you that? I should have Marlene, we have like, a few minutes left. But one more, one more chance to is there something else that might pull this together for anybody?
Marlene Chism 29:25
I think what would be interesting is I do a lot of work on releasing resistance. Because in conflict, there's almost always resistance. And when we think of like from the context of being a leader, and you've got that what we would call a high conflict person. Well, I already know what they're going to say they're very negative. And we can identify someone else's resistance. They say they're going to do but they make excuses. We can also pretty much identify our own resistance like I'm feeling negative right now. I have a little bit of revenge going on or I don't want to have the conversation with someone I know that Conflict averse, we can identify those two pockets of resistance, where we get caught is that we don't realize that we're resisting bear resistance, which is the third layer. So when someone says, Well, I would, but I already know what they're going to say. I'll say it's not about what they're going to say it's about your courage to have the conversation anyway. That's where we get stuck, because we think that it's because of their resistance. And we might even think it's just my own adverse reaction to conflict. But the reality is, I'm in the third layer, which is a trap, and it's, I'm resisting your resistance. So the key is what I call the fulcrum point of change, willingness. Are you willing to have the conversation even if they say that? That's the real question?
Wendy Hanson 30:44
Yeah. That's great. It all comes back to me, it always is not about them. It's about me, and how I perceive these things. Very, very helpful. So if people want to learn more about your work, Marlene, what's the best place for them to reach out to you?
Marlene Chism 31:04
I would say probably LinkedIn, Marlene Chisholm on LinkedIn. Because I have a lot of if you follow me, then you'll be notified when I do a LinkedIn live. Or if you say you met me on this podcast, and we'll connect if you want to. I have a website, Marlene chism.com. And then my book is available anywhere you buy books, and it's from conflict to courage, how to stop avoiding and start leading.
Wendy Hanson 31:29
Yeah, that's great. Well, thank you so much for sharing your wisdom with us today. This has been great. We always need to have more tools in our toolbox as managers and leaders, and there's so many different things that will somebody will be able to relate to and have what we call in coaching the big aha, oh, oh, ha ha, no, I gotta understand this. So I think this is extremely useful. Thank you so much. Yes. So everyone, please make sure to reach out to me if you have any questions or any ideas firstname.lastname@example.org and reach out to Marlene and find out a little bit more about what she's doing connect with her on LinkedIn, I think that would be great. And at BetterManager, we really want to we talked about servant leadership a little bit today. That's really something that's very important to us. So we want to support all managers and leaders in their journey. So if I can help in any way, please reach out. Hope you all have a marvelous day and hope that you remain open to the things and not make those judgments and assumptions about others because that will always get us in trouble. So thank you again, Marlene. Take care everyone. Have a wonderful day.
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