Values and Conflict

As an executive coach, I work with personal values and organizational values on a weekly basis and I see the importance of not only knowing what these values are but whether or not they are shared. Recently as we watch the chaos in governments around the world, we might wonder: what is it that our leaders value?  Why can’t they play in the sandbox of life in a meaningful and supportive way? Why must they ‘take sides’. I’m all for speaking up and believe that conflict can be productive, but not for the sake of conflict. What is the benefit of bashing others even verbally? If you plan is worthy, then won’t others see the benefit without the verbal bashing? Or perhaps everyone is just playing chicken, waiting for the other to blink?

Ronald Heifetz says in “Leadership Without Easy Answers”  that the root cause of most conflicts are due to conflicts in values. If a group doesn’t honestly surface those values and deal with them, the group blames the leader for not solving the problems, rejects the leader, hires another leader, and the cycle repeats.

Heifetz believes that the role of a leader is to help the organization surface the conflicts and frame and facilitate conversations so people can listen to and appreciate others’ perspectives. Heifitz’ book focuses on tackling big, complex problems in big organizations. But the lessons apply to small groups as well.

Similarly coach Jeffrey Van Dyk recently said, “There are no problems to be solved, just truths to be revealed.” Conflict resolution requires us to dig deep and honestly to uncover the truths. Then we can see the way forward.

How is this showing up in your life, in your organization. If you ‘value your values’  — and they don’t jive with the group’s values — the conflict will continue.

The leader’s job then is to spot these disconnects and talk privately with those executives or team members. Often asking them to leave is the best course.  Or perhaps you are the executive who needs to walk away, says Lois Kelly of

Or if this is a personal relationship, walking away will allow someone with your same values to enter the picture and life is likely to be much more satisfying.


~ by transformativethoughts on August 1, 2011.

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