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Reflection… A Critical Tool for Leaders

During the 2021 Leadership Otsego Program, guest speaker Dennis Craig, SUNY Oneonta Interim President, observed that Otsego County demonstrates great strength in multi-generational leadership giving kudos to programs like Leadership Otsego as a factor in maintaining the legacy. In 2021 the Program engaged 20 emerging and existing leaders connecting them with over 30 area leaders for leadership insight. One perspective from Dennis Craig: Better leadership decisions can be made by taking time to reflect. His advice to the team:

Find time each day to reflect... and while thats very simple, it's not easy to do that. But it's very important..... making sure that all of us and our teams take the opportunity to slow down a little bit.

An approach he uses is a weekly meeting that acts like Monday Morning Quarterbacking. It’s early on Friday’s and a great way for the team to reflect on the week and discuss what went well, as well as, what needs to improve. .. Seems great advice to take especially when facing Conflict.

The Leadership Otsego Program dedicates two Sessions to Conflict Management. Why so much focus? Conflict is more than a disagreement! It's a situation in which one or both parties perceives a threat to their wellbeing and survival. So it’s great to start the topic with guiding principles or values when navigating conflict. Herbert S. Kindler in his book “Managing Disagreement Constructively” emphasizes: 1. Preserve Dignity and Respect, 2. Listen with Empathy – Be Fully Present 3. Find Common Ground without Forcing Change and 4. Honor Diversity, Including Your Own Perspective. And to sum it all up simply honor the legitimate interests of all involved persons. Theoretically that’s great, but don’t forget that conflicts can include an overwhelming display of emotion. And that is where an interactive leadership program can help.

Specifically group discussion and role play are helpful. Sometimes we think of business settings as devoid of emotion. Right? This is business not personal! However through group discussion we explore types of emotions that accompany business conflicts. Next we role play some of them... because an overwhelming display of emotion can trigger our reactions. And role play helps you become comfortable with witnessing business emotions and sorting through your own "go to" reaction.

We find the peanut analogy helps you visualize sorting through conflict. When you are in conflict… the critical issue is the peanut. Around the peanut is the shell are… peoples emotion and their point of view. If we don’t deal with the emotion and their point of view then we do not have their trust to work on the peanut. Role play explores these emotions and gains comfort in recognizing and reacting. This reminds us to avoid the rookie conflict mistake of moving too quickly to problem solving before reflection. In a high conflict situation to automatically move to “I understand” is not enough. People get annoyed. You must reflect the situation from the individual’s point of view.

As leaders, we know different perspectives that surround conflict present an opportunity to drive better outcomes. Before refining your leadership style to harness the positive power of conflict, it's important to recognize the difficult shell of emotions, including your own to work through. And reflection is a powerful tool to help you realize better outcomes.


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