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Coping Isn't Leading!



Have you ever been in a meeting and noticed yourself:

  • Feeling impatient, thinking, “I know what we need to do. If we don’t agree, I’ll just push ahead anyway!”

  • Feeling anxious, thinking, “This is uncomfortable. I’ve just got to get these two people to agree on something.”

  • Feeling detached, and thinking “I’m sure they’ll work it out at some point, but in the mean time, I have this other project to work on.”

Each of the three above positions are common on teams. Your own personal favorite probably seems the most helpful, while the other positions seem like obvious problem styles. However, all of these styles are simply common ways we have each learned to defuse tension.

Note the word: defuse – not use.

Yes, we think using tension is the key to success and creativity on teams, and in life. To learn more about using tension read our earlier blog: Conflict + Curiosity = Team Creativity.

So these styles are NOT helpful in getting to creative outcomes!

These styles are, what we call, Opt-Out Styles.

Each may have a super hero quality or element of good intention:

  • Getting to the ‘right’ or ‘best’ answer

  • Making sure the team is harmonious, ‘All for one and one for all!’

  • Being efficient or autonomous: ‘I’ll just stay busy while they work it out.’

However, none are likely to result in building a strong team, or getting to innovative ideas, because the goal is to defuse tension.

However, before you can effectively lean in to, and use tension and conflict to get to those innovative, creative results, it helps to recognize, and own, how you opt out.

Each of the above styles is a coping style probably started a long ago. Way back even as a little person you figured out a way to cope under pressure. That’s not a bad thing. However, coping styles often become habitual patterns, and may even be so automatic for you, that any other style, just seems like a problem.

As a leader, it’s your job to shift from coping to leading. Leading involves stepping out of your comfort zone and owning up to your own coping style.

Based on your favorite coping style, here is how you can own what you are doing:

  • “I do think I have a great solution, but maybe I’m driving to fast. Let me slow down, and check in with you folks.”

  • “I’m uncomfortable in conflict. So I just try to fix it. Truth is, I have a different idea all together, and frankly, didn’t even bring it up, because you guys keep arguing.”

  • “I realize I am checking out, and if I did chime in, I’d suggest the quieter folks speak up. I’m tired of the same people, making the same points.”

These are just examples of some possible ways to own up, and shift out of, your favorite coping style.

Remember, Stop Being a Super Hero. Coping Isn’t Leading!


CrisMarie Campbell and Susan Clarke

Coaches, Business Consultants, Speakers and Authors of The Beauty of Conflict

CrisMarie and Susan work leaders and teams, couples in business, and professional women.

They help turnaround dysfunctional teams into high performing, cohesive teams who trust each other, deal with differences directly, and have clarity and alignment on their business strategy so they create great results.

Check out their website: www.thriveinc.com. Connect with CrisMarie and Susan on LinkedIn. Watch their TEDx Talk: Conflict – Use It, Don’t Defuse It! Find your copy of The Beauty of Conflict: Harnessing Your Team's Competitive Advantage here.


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