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  • Writer's pictureThrive Inc.

Conflict: Turning Pain to Beauty Just Like Exercise

Many people think that conflict means fighting, but this is actually just a sign that the real conflict underneath isn’t being dealt with. When it comes to a team, it’s important to recognize the signs that conflict is occurring and learn to deal with it effectively.

In this episode, we’re sharing some examples of how conflict can show up in a team, and how to take the pain out of it. We're going behind the scenes and sharing some personal experiences of dealing with conflict together to show you how we addressed it and what we did to overcome it.

Tune in this week and hear us work through some real conflict live in the episode. We share some signs that issues are not being addressed in your team and show you how to use conflict to deal with differences and become stronger as a team.

If you’d like us to speak at your organization about conflict, stress, team-building, or leadership, work with your team virtually, or coach you or leaders on your team, reach out to us!

If you enjoyed the show, please share the podcast with your family and friends, or post a five-star review on iTunes. Rating and reviewing the show helps spread the word, which means less friction and suffering for everyone, and who doesn’t want that?

Learn More:

  • Why we started our business.

  • How different people manage conflict.

  • Why certain circumstances can create varying levels of conflict.

  • How to create more clarity, cohesion, and connection as a team.

  • Why the only way you will get better at something is to keep practicing it.

  • Some signs of conflict that you may not recognize as conflict.


Full Transcript:

CrisMarie: Welcome to The Beauty of Conflict, a podcast about how to deal with conflict at work, at home and everywhere else in your life. I am CrisMarie.

Susan: And I'm Susan.

CrisMarie: We run a company called Thrive Inc, and we specialize in conflict resolution, stress management coaching and building strong, thriving teams and relationships both in person and virtually.

Susan: We are starting 2021 with a series based on our book, The Beauty of Conflict for Teams. We’ll be sharing tips, tools about how to make your team work more effectively especially in this remote and virtual environment. We hope you’ll walk away from this episode and this series with some fresh ideas that change your day, your week and even your life.

CrisMarie: Hi, I’m CrisMarie.

Susan: And I’m Susan Clarke.

CrisMarie: And today we are going to continue our series on The Beauty of Conflict for Teams based on our book, The Beauty – well, it’s actually The Pain crossed out, Beauty of Conflict: Harnessing your Team’s Competitive Advantage.

Susan: And today we’re going to actually talk about the cover.

CrisMarie: Yes, because coming up with the cover of this book and the title of the book was a whole process in and of itself. And we chose to juxtapose beauty with conflict because quite frankly nobody likes conflict, not even us. And we wrote two books on it and have a podcast by the same name.

Susan: Now, some of this has come up because we were looking back over the last year as many of us have been. And we realized that there was a point, initially with Covid we lost all of our work but we actually found a way to get back and engaged in various things around stress and helping teams.

CrisMarie: Really helping individuals deal with stress, reduce their stress response because everybody was freaked out. And also in the context of a team, debrief what people were experiencing which created a lot of neat connection that people were thirsty for back then.

Susan: But as we’ve gone into this year we were looking back and we realize there was definitely a point last year where we had 50% less work. And we started looking at that and we thought well, we don’t actually think there’s 50% less conflict.

CrisMarie: No. Susan, I think there’s actually more conflict but that people are so afraid, both in couples and on teams to rock the boat that they’re just like, “No, I’m not dealing with that, I will survive this by not dealing with what’s important to me.”

Susan: So that’s why we decided to kind of talk a little bit about why we actually market with the word ‘conflict’ even on the front cover. There’s more to that. But we’re going to start off by telling you just maybe thinking about some signs of conflict that you may not even recognize as signs of conflict.

CrisMarie: Yeah, because conflict really we all have our own experiences of what that word means. And usually it’s terror in our nervous system like no, get me away. But there’s ways, that’s usually fighting, think about your family of origin. Mine was not positive in that regard. But that’s usually like dominating somebody. And we wanted to show you signs that you may not recognize these are signs of conflict.

Susan: And these are actually things we hear pretty regularly from clients and team members that we work with.

CrisMarie: One of them is, we always get more to do but nothing comes off the plate. And so we’re just expected to do more, and more, and more. That’s a sign of conflict.

Susan: Also just the statement of, “I don’t know why we’re doing this. This is just the way we do it but I don’t know why we do it.”

CrisMarie: Or our goals are handed down to us and we get no input, we don’t get to talk about them, we just have to do them. That’s a sign of conflict.

Susan: Or it’s always got to be blanked, that could be the boss, Joe, Sally’s way. That, sometimes CrisMarie you say that to me. It’s usually a sign that there’s something you haven’t told me about what you want.

CrisMarie: It’s true. I mean I think people act, yes, like they’ve got a strong personality, they’re always giving their opinion so it’s just got to be his or her way. I do fall into that trap, Susan. Or I can’t be myself on this team. I have just accepted it. It’s just the way it is, because it doesn’t feel safe for me to show up as I truly am.

Susan: Another one, there are topics we just don’t talk about. And that’s been one we’ve bumped into a lot on teams.

CrisMarie: Or we have a few reoccurring issues that I think we get cleared up but then you know what? It rears its head; we really don’t have buy-in on this. And so it’s kind of like we thought we made a decision and then we circle back to that decision two weeks, two months, whatever later to rehash it because it really didn’t have buy-in in the first place.

Susan: Another one that just recently came up in some work I was doing. Whatever I bring up, my area of the business I know I am just irritating so and so, my teammate. And it’s frustrating to me because this is something that’s important. I know it’s not important to him but it’s important to me.

CrisMarie: Yeah. Or I feel like a cog on the wheel, I don’t really – who I am doesn’t really matter as long as I produce my numbers, or the report, or manage the business, whatever it is. So that feeling that I don’t exist. These are all signs of conflict or even I want more connection with my team, all we do are these video calls. It used to be a lot more fun, signs of conflict.

Susan: So we wanted to kind of put some of those out, one, to see if you recognize any of them.

CrisMarie: Listener out there, if you have one that we didn’t list, please reach out to us and send us an email at because we’d love to hear what are your signs of conflict that aren’t being addressed on your team.

Susan: Another one I was thinking of is I always bring up these ideas but when I say them no one says anything. Then somebody else says it the next day and it’s like wow, that’s a big one, like us.

CrisMarie: A gal that I was coaching, she says, “I wonder if people even value the work that I do. I only hear from them when they need something from me. They never say thank you.” Those are all signs that there’s issues not being addressed, and maybe even defining what conflict is for our listeners.

Susan: Yeah because one, I think a lot of times people think conflict is fighting. No, fighting or flighting, silence or violence, they are signs that the conflict isn’t getting dealt with frankly. Really what conflict is, is this merging of, you know, you’ve got high stakes, something that’s important to you, a vision, something that matters.

CrisMarie: It has just be important to one person for conflict to emerge.

Susan: And on a team you do have something that you’re driving for usually. And you have these passionate people who are subject matter experts and they’re passionate about the work they are doing. And those three, that passion, those different and strong opinions and a vision come together and…

CrisMarie: So can I just say that again? Strong emotions, differing opinions on a high stakes situation, those three things converge and that creates conflict.

Susan: And I just wondered, did you hear her better? Because that would be one of the…

CrisMarie: I think you did. You understood me better didn’t you? I win, right? Conflict.

Susan: And I say that jokingly and I know that there were times and there have been times where that would just blow me up, why are you saying the exact same thing I just said? And other times it doesn’t bother me at all. So it also depends on circumstances, what level of conflict something can create. And I think also in the moment I could be so quick to make up some sort of story, CrisMarie that you’re kind of trying to outtalk me, outsmart me or you think what I said was stupid. And in that story making up that I do, I could fire up with you which then just creates a spiral that is not helpful.

CrisMarie: And I think there is a level of goodwill that is built. On a team you want that level of good will so you know when somebody does interrupt you they’re actually not trying to make you look bad. They’re actually trying to support the team moving forward. And that’s even true when you’re holding somebody accountable for something that they didn’t do to say, “Hey, Jay, you said you were going to actually have this done on Friday. It’s now Tuesday, where is it? But I want to check it out, or do you agree or disagree that you said you’d have it done?”

Then there is a conversation but a lot of times we’re too afraid, we get too afraid to even hold our teammates accountable. And then the performance of the team just erodes.

Susan: So I’m going to talk a little bit about Peloton because I think there’s a message.

CrisMarie: If you don’t know what a Peloton is, it’s an indoor bike that is really cool and you’ve just got to figure it out.

Susan: And these days it’s kind of, you know, Peloton is kind of like the Kleenex box, it’s a bike brand, there’s tons of them out there. But you know, we’re exercising at home and most of us have some energetic inspirational coach yelling at us on the Peloton, if we’re fortunate enough to be able to do that. But here’s why I’m bringing it up is because on Peloton, in my exercise areas, they’re always talking about this idea that it’s never going to get comfortable.

I love to do climbs. And part of why when you’re climbing on a bike it doesn’t get easier to climb a mountain on a bike. But what does get better is you develop the strength and the ability to handle that strength as you go. And you actually want that discomfort because that actually means you’re expanding. You’re actually pushing the edges a little bit and getting stronger.

CrisMarie: You could do a steeper climb or you could do a longer climb, yeah.

Susan: And so I think about that and it’s the same way on your team, bringing up difficult conversations, dealing with differences. That is never going to be comfortable.

CrisMarie: Holding somebody accountable never gets really fun or comfortable. You’re going to feel discomfort.

Susan: Yeah. When you have to bring up something with a teammate that you know you’re even uncomfortable bringing up, you can count on the fact it’s going to be uncomfortable for them. However, if you think of it like that Peloton ride climbing on the bike you’re developing the ability to get stronger because when you can actually have that conversation pretty amazing things can start to happen. You do get strong. Your team gets stronger, that cohesion gets better. The clarity gets better.

CrisMarie: I have found this to be true. We do more and more adventurous things, more powerful things. I feel like my ability to deal with conflict and work with that, we create a bigger business. We have a bigger impact. I would be too chicken. Well, I just won’t give my opinion. It’s okay, we’ll do it your way. That doesn’t last for too long nowadays. But it limits our team IQ. We talk about this in couples, we talk about relationship math. One whole person times one whole person equals a whole relationship.

Now, you think on a team, let’s say there are six people, one times one, times one, times one, times one, six of those, as a whole team. But as soon as somebody starts saying, “I’m going to hold back.” And so they show up halfway, you do that multiplication, the team, even though one person is only showing up half it reduces the team IQ by half. And the multiplication, if more than one person is doing it, really diminishes the team IQ, the team’s ability and knowledge EQ to make decisions and talk about things that could really be innovative and creative.

Susan: And you really want your people showing up even if it’s difficult, even if it’s hard. And the only way you get better at it is to keep doing it.

CrisMarie: And this is true even for diversity issues, race, gender, different ideas. That is uncomfortable. It’s uncomfortable for the whole nation to be facing this. So it’s not to run away and try to make it all smooth. It’s to actually know, hey, when we do address this on our team it’s going to be awkward. I’m going to feel uncomfortable.

Susan: And it’s not going to get better after one conversation, or one training, or one thing. Dealing with our systemic racial issues right now is definitely a mountain. And it’s a mountain that we’re all facing that we have to climb.

CrisMarie: So we’re talking a lot about the pain.

Susan: What we want to do is tell you why this even came up today. So we’re actually going to take you a little behind the scenes to a bit of a situation that came up for us, because we happen, as a result of looking at that 50% less business and various things we started to engage in wanting to create and engage more in our marketing. And one area that we have done limited work on is LinkedIn.

CrisMarie: We had our website really too.

Susan: Yes. This could begin to lead into the differences. But we decided that we wanted to work with a business to business marketing firm and we are excited about what we’re starting to do. But this has also got us looking at things.

CrisMarie: So one of the things in LinkedIn and the reason I brought up the website is because we’re looking at – we haven’t really updated it since we launched our couples book a year and a half ago. And so looking at how to frame it for the corporate work that we do, the team work, the speaking and the leadership development, and coaching. And one of the things is I wanted a real simple phrase to let people know right when they got on the website what it is that we do, like a fifth grader would understand what it is that we do.

And so I was like, real conversations, cohesive teams, engaged leaders. That was one. Or we help teams develop trust, learn how to use conflict and develop creative results or innovative results, profitable results. Those are a couple of versions of what I wanted to put on the front. So I was telling Susan this and she thought okay, some of that she liked, some of it she didn’t.

Susan: She wanted to take the word ‘conflict’ off the page basically.

CrisMarie: Well, I really did.

Susan: And I was kind of like, I had a conflict.

CrisMarie: Well, my point of view, can I share my point of view?

Susan: Yeah.

CrisMarie: So that was really the crux.

Susan: But what you need to know that’s happening right now is we have these cards.

CrisMarie: These check it out cards.

Susan: Because we know this is an area of conflict. And I have the committed listening card because I think I’m about to get ready to listen. And CrisMarie has the other cards of how to put things together because sometimes we know we are about to have a tough conversation and it helps to have some reminders of how to do it differently than we might without those reminders.

CrisMarie: And to break it down, yeah. So my context is three years ago – two and a half years ago, 2017 we launched this business book, The Beauty/Pain of Conflict: Harnessing your Team’s Competitive Advantage. And a year and a half ago we launched the couples book, The Beauty of Conflict for Couples. And our TED Talk is Use Conflict, Don’t Diffuse It. And we have this podcast The Beauty of Conflict. So that’s the context. And I see, I hear, my perception is well, I see those data points. And I see our business drop 50%. And I also know Covid is happening.

My interpretation is people are repelled by the word ‘conflict’. And so people don’t pick up the phone because they think we’re going to make them fight. And so even before we can have a conversation to see if we can help them they are afraid of us. That’s my story, my interpretation. And I feel frustrated because I’m like oh my gosh, I know we could help. And I want to check it out. You’re pointing to something but you’re listening, right? I want to check out, well, one, do you agree or disagree? Does that make sense to you? Can you imagine why that would happen?

Susan: So what I hear you saying, so you see here it does say, before because sometimes I can…

CrisMarie: Well, listeners you don’t see, but on the video version you can see.

Susan: Yes. What I hear you saying is that with the reduction in work that we’ve had and you actually believe that some of the problem that we have around our marketing is that people see the word ‘conflict’, they assume we’re going to make them fight or get into stuff that they don’t want to get into. And they’re so repelled by the word that they don’t even engage in a potential conversation about it.

CrisMarie: Yeah. I don’t know if they think we’re going to fight but they have their own immediate visceral reaction to a conflict, it may even be unconscious. And they go, “I can’t handle that. I’m not going to call those gals.” That’s my concern yeah, Susan.

Susan: Okay. So now I hear you saying it, may not even be a super conscious thing that they’re doing CrisMarie, but it is something that it is – they see the word and they have an internal reaction. So what I realize is I don’t agree. Well, that’s not true. I do imagine people could see the word ‘conflict’ and have a visceral pullback from it. And I also know leaders who have told us, “We had no conflict.” So however I also know that we’ve built this whole brand, I really like that we’re actually saying the beauty of conflict now.

And we’ve worked hard to kind of create that. So part of me is like, it brings back the memory for me of when you were like, “Vulnerability, why, why should we?” And so I don’t want to take it away. I think maybe you’re talking about these people that are repelled. And there’s still a part of you that is…

CrisMarie: Yeah, absolutely, I mean my – well, one, I want people to come to us because I know we can help them because we’ve been doing this for 20 years and we know how to help them. And my underlying kind of this – I’m looking at a card of core value, is conflict was terrifying. It was violent. I grew up where we were yelled at every night at the dinner table. If it was bad enough I got hit. And so conflict does have a visceral reaction in my system.

Now, I have also been working with you for 20 years. And I have learned how to show up and have my voice and overcome that in my own nervous system and know that we get to better solutions and we create better things. And those people that want to hire us are still probably where I was at the beginning like, “What?” And so I don’t want to deter people because of the word ‘conflict’, because they get scared consciously or unconsciously and not reach out and ask for help for their team, for them coaching, or us speaking to them.

Susan: And I think when we first even had this come to the scene, I think I did, those of you that have been following us will recognize this. I did a very separator thing. I said, “Look, I’ve got this big deal to you, you just do this page and I’ll agree to it once it’s done.”

CrisMarie: That’s what she said earlier today.

Susan: No, it was two days ago when we started.

CrisMarie: Yeah. So you’re talking about people who know the opt-out style, so separator?

Susan: Yeah. And I was kind of like, “I’m not going here right now. I’m going to let her test this page and see if it makes a difference.” But then I realized I didn’t want to stay out of it. And so I’ve been engaging and a couple of times it’s gotten a little more heated.

So today part of why we’re doing this today is because I said, “I don’t want conflict to go background. I want to keep finding ways to let people see that conflict, yeah, it’s messy and it’s not perfect, but sometimes good things come out of it.” And so we agreed to do a podcast where we actually did some of our own conflict work on the podcast.

CrisMarie: Live, this is not staged or anything like that.

Susan: And I am, I think I’m really listening to you this time and trying to play with the idea maybe people do just see the word and react. And so maybe if they hear something different and they see us working a bit differently.

CrisMarie: Well, real conversations might sound safer than conflict to people.

Susan: Okay, that’s a good point. So I appreciate that you are willing to kind of dive into this real time in a podcast.

CrisMarie: And we’ll probably do a poll. I think we should do a poll. And if you have feedback, give us feedback,

Susan: And we’re not going to change the title of the book.

CrisMarie: No. Although I have had – I’ve thought what if we republish it under a different title, would people buy it more?

Susan: Okay.

CrisMarie: I know. I know. I’m just being real.

Susan: I appreciate it.

CrisMarie: We’re obviously not going to resolve this. And that’s the key is a lot of times people, “Well, you didn’t resolve it, so what’s the deal?” This will continue to percolate. We talk about this with couples. We talk about it with teams. A lot of times we rush to a solution and when we rush to a solution we’re solving kind of the top layer. We’re not getting underneath what’s going on. And we might need to gather some data and some market feedback. That might be something.

Susan: Now, you guys might be watching this and thinking, well, you guys…

CrisMarie: Or listening.

Susan: Or listening. You guys are sitting in your office and you’re dealing with a conflict, but frankly there’s no way I’m going to deal with a conflict over Zoom, Teams, Webex, whatever.

CrisMarie: All the different.

Susan: Google Meets. And we want to say a little bit about how we think that it’s still vital to be dealing with those differences. And we have been doing more of that in the sense that we still do our two day offsite. We still do Team meetings. We do some things differently, but the idea being let’s get to those real conversations.

CrisMarie: Yeah. And one of the clients we worked with, they had dominant personalities on their team. And they called us in because they wanted us to help them, one, do a multiday offsite. But then we started working with them kind of on a monthly, bimonthly basis. And we’d facilitate their strategic meetings. And one was supposed to be four hours. It wound up being six hours. But it was good because they were engaged. But they were talking about a particular problem. A site in their company was having issues.

Susan: CrisMarie, just to help frame it up a little bit. I think when we initially got contacted, the leader’s position on it was, “I don’t hear from enough people. There’s one person I hear from but not everybody else and I need to hear from them.”

CrisMarie: Right. And that one personality that he kept hearing from was pretty darned dominant on the team, not like he didn’t have good ideas. But other people had good ideas too but they were shutting down, they were going silent. And so we started off the meeting and doing something that helped build some volatility based trust, easy peasy, just a little thing, no scary thing because people are afraid of that too.

Susan: Now, are you going to the strategic meaning now?

CrisMarie: Yeah. We had done a three day offsite with them shorter, six hours each day. And then this was about six weeks later we were coming back to do their strategic meeting. And one of the things that started to happen as they were talking about this business issue is that one person, that dominant personality just kept chiming in, chiming in. And it was a bit awkward but Susan I’d have to say, you kept interrupting him to redirect.

Susan: Now, if someone had been witnessing that they may have said, “Well, that wasn’t a very polite way to interrupt him.” But at that particular time the point was, at that point I don’t think that person was even aware just how dominant they were. So it was like, okay match the energy. And so I was committed, like okay, I’m going to stop you.

CrisMarie: Yeah. And he started to – I thought, started to get it after a while, like, okay, I’m doing that thing again. Do you want me to headline it because he would go on? And what we heard post, one, at the end of the meeting, the reason we stayed on two hours more, we asked, “Okay, you’re at the time.” And they were like, “No, we’re finally getting into good dialog, this is rich discussion.” And we ended the meeting with an action plan where everybody was saying, “I’ll do a piece.” And they really felt cohesive and aligned. And people had been heard for one of the first times.

And after the meeting, because we were coaching the individuals post the meeting, and they were like, “That’s the first time we’ve been able to have that dialog. I so appreciated you creating space Susan, when you would interrupt him.”

Susan: And this was all happening virtually.

CrisMarie: Yes. We were standing in our office and they were each standing in their square where they were at their homes while we had this dialog.

Susan: And it’s not like that’s gone away. They still have dominant personalities, now they have a new dominant personality. They have a couple, because some of them are showing up more. But they’re realizing it doesn’t – it’s kind of like climbing a mountain. It hasn’t necessarily got neater, when passions flare. Let’s just put it that way. But they’ve started to respect each other and realize, well, wait a minute, I didn’t really ask for broader input.

CrisMarie: And they’ve also started using the tool, check it out, which is the cards – they don’t use the cards like we were doing. But they say, “Hey, wait a minute, I want to check something out with you. When I heard you say this, did you intend to put down my group or not? I want to check before I get upset.” And they clear up those differences in the discussion, in the team meeting, which keeps the conversation going because so often if somebody experiences, hey, like you were saying, a sign of disrespect, they kind of opt-out of the meeting. And then you lose that IQ.

Susan: So like you said, most teams don’t go to check it out. But I was thinking, we worked with another team who we’ve actually even worked with longer and it’s been…

CrisMarie: A few years we’ve worked with them.

Susan: A few years, and now they actually in their meeting have a point of when we’re getting online with them to warm up, anybody have any stories they need to check out, anything. They are really good at bringing it forward and making that effort. And honestly, it’s kind of – I admire them because you can tell, it’s not easy. They’re like, “Oh.” I said, “Do you guys do this with each other?” And they’re like, “Sometimes we pretend that you’re going to be at a meeting.”

CrisMarie: But really no, we wait till you show up.

Susan: And they’ve gotten a little bit better because it is uncomfortable, and it is, that’s why I equate it to Peloton. I probably wouldn’t do the stuff I do on my bike if it weren’t for someone yelling at me.

CrisMarie: You know what? You mentioned another Peloton reference that I want to say. Every time we do a meeting with a team what we do is we do a little bit of warm up because you warm up the bike.

We do something that helps people feel more connected and develops that goodwill so that they can actually check out their stories. And that’s what we’ve done with this one team that Susan’s talking about. We meet with them probably about every six weeks for an hour and a half, two hours. And they clear up differences, they get aligned around their current goals that they’re working on and it’s a really productive meeting.

Susan: So all this is to say that we – the beauty of conflict is not meaning that we think conflict is fun, great.

CrisMarie: Easy.

Susan: I could call it the beauty of the climb.

CrisMarie: People aren’t afraid of the climb maybe.

Susan: Maybe that would be – hey, maybe we’re onto something.

CrisMarie: We’re going to change it to The Beauty of Climb. One of the things that I think would be valuable is why we even – how we started our business.

Susan: Yeah, because this came up because like we said, we were working with a marketing firm and they were asking us, “How did you guys get started?” And it wasn’t our TED Talk.

CrisMarie: It wasn’t our TED, it wasn’t our TED Talk. Because one of the things for me, I was conflict phobic, like I’m not going to speak up, I’m going to agree, just get along. And I saw Susan facilitate a meeting where there was a real kind of opinionated person, dominant person. And I saw you do what you did with the gentleman in the other meeting is say, “Wait a minute.” And you interrupted him, you held him accountable and you said, “I’m not going to let you take over this whole group.”

My eyes were like big saucers, oh my gosh, I want to be able to do that because I grew up with a bully. So I want to develop skills to feel like I can exist and not be overpowered by somebody who is so dominant.

Susan: So I at the time was working up on an island in Canada, so a little bit different situation. And I actually was so intrigued by the work she did, she worked as a consultant.

CrisMarie: Say my name.

Susan: CrisMarie, she was a consultant and she worked with these big businesses, and I was. So imagine my surprise when she actually gave me a call to say, “Do you want to come down and work with me?”

CrisMarie: So I was working for Arthur Andersen, this is CrisMarie, I was working for Arthur Andersen, had been in management consultant for several years. And I was focused in the change management area, so how to help organizations change. And I got a client, a government client that actually had a big sexual harassment lawsuit and they were like, “Hey, guy boss got fired.” The woman stayed on the team, everybody hates her. The big boss was talking to us and said, “There’s a new manager and you’ve got to get the team to work together.”

And I was like, oh my gosh, I don’t know how to handle this. And so I called Susan and said, “Hey, will you come down and subcontract with me to help this team to work through this?”

Susan: And I was like, “Wow, okay, sure.” So I show up and…

CrisMarie: She shows up on, yeah, and I pick her up from the airport. And I am dressed in – well, you see, all those of you that are watching the video, I have a blazer on. And she had a sweater and jeans on and I pick her up.

Susan: I am looking, the sweater’s nicer than the one I had on then. So any of you who are seeing this, but the truth is probably – it’s not as bad as she makes it sound, jeans, mud boots and I had a sweater.

CrisMarie: No, it wasn’t like that but she just – because I was picking her up in the morning, we were going right to the client. And I’m like, “Well, do you need to go change?” And she’s like, “No, I’m fine.” And I’m like, “Okay.” So we swing by McDonald’s, this is before we ate healthy, we got breakfast. And we get to the room. I’m moving the flipcharts and the tables around, getting the room set up for the team to come in. And the team is starting to come in.

And Susan’s sitting there eating her McDonald’s. And I am horrified that she’s not getting up and meeting the clients, and greeting them, and talking to them. And so I come over and I give her the evil eye, like get up and meet people. And I took her bag of food, her McDonald’s bag, I grabbed it in one fell swoop and I threw it in the trashcan.

Susan: Now, I want to take them over to see my side of it, CrisMarie. Because I come into this room and I mean really, she was so busy moving around. We had just gotten our breakfast so I was like, “Shouldn’t we eat?” And she is moving so fast to get all these things, so I’m like, okay. So I think I did try to actually help you with the moving of things.

CrisMarie: Not that much.

Susan: Okay, anyway I have a slightly different memory. Anyway I did finally realize I’m going to sit down and eat because I want to make sure I’m ready to go. So I sit down to eat and people are coming in, and her whole demeanor changes. She’s greeting everyone and the whole time I’m thinking she’s never going to eat, how could she possibly be ready for this difficult client? But okay, alright, whatever.

And then when I got the look I still didn’t totally get it. I was like, why is she so angry? But then I watched the bag, the food fly away and what else I realized, CrisMarie’s cell phone was in that bag, so I did have a little bit of a smile like you just threw your cell phone away.

CrisMarie: I was a little chagrined about that when I had to go dig my cell phone out of the trash.

Susan: Now, again I was kind of like, I still didn’t quite even understand the magnitude of errors I’d made up to this point. And I didn’t even understand really all of the things she was doing. But I could see that the client was greatly appreciating it so I was kind of game for carrying on.

CrisMarie: So we start the day and we are trying to support this team having this conversation because they’ve got a new manager and the woman on the team that nobody trusts, like nobody. And we’re trying to get them to talk about that. And the woman just keeps saying, “I can’t talk about it because of the lawsuit. I can’t talk about it because of the lawsuit.”

And we get to lunchtime and we’re frustrated. So we call the boss over and then we also call the woman over. And I’m trying to tell them, “Well, you need to really have these conversations.” And then Susan pipes up and says to the woman, what did you say?

Susan: “You’re holding this team hostage, what is your deal?” And then I looked at the boss and I said, “And you’re letting her hold them hostage. So how many times can you use the line, “This is a lawsuit, you can’t talk about it?” That is not okay. So what are we going to do about it? Because there’s no point in us being here if really that line can be used whenever you don’t want to have to talk about something.”

CrisMarie: So they leave and I’m thinking oh my gosh, we have lost this client. “You cannot talk to a client that way, Susan, you’ve ruined it. They’re going to fire us. This is horrible.” We go out and have lunch, come back and lo and behold what you said actually impacted them in a positive way.

Susan: Well, the woman agreed, “If you think I’m holding them hostage, talk to me directly.” And so we had an agreement going in.

CrisMarie: Yeah, after lunch started, so when the meeting started again, we had that agreement. And we did, we did tell their accountant, “This is, again, you’re using that.” And why we were saying this is, “This team needs to process, they’re upset. They are full of upset and if you keep letting it bounce off your Teflon, it’s a lawsuit, they’re never going to heal and they’re never going to trust you.”

And so having that, them talking about what was really upsetting them, they started to move through that enough that we could then turn towards what their business issues were, their goals, what they wanted the next quarter, their meeting norms, how were they going to work together.

Susan: And I think the reason that worked was one thing, the line, “I can’t talk about this”, was really was a defense. And there were things she couldn’t talk about, that’s true, around the lawsuit. But the line was a defense and she began to realize that and so if I would say to her, “There you go again, what’s actually going on?” She would actually usually drop and say, “I can’t talk about the details.” And the team was like, “We don’t want to know.”

CrisMarie: Keep us out of your details.

Susan: We just want you to know that it was that impacted us. And so they actually started to talk about what was really underneath it for them in terms of the relational piece. So it was kind of cool. But what was also cool was that yeah, that’s sort of the area of – my area of, I guess, you could call my area of expertise. We hashed out what had happened during the day. And then I got to see what CrisMarie was brilliant at. I mean she was great at helping this team start to get to their business issues. And sometimes I’m so busy looking for conflict that I forget.

There might be some real business issues that we need to address, I was kind of like, “We’re done here.” And then she’s like…

CrisMarie: No. We’ve got to take all this energy and harness it, and talk about now that they’re talking, let’s talk about your business strategy. Let’s talk about what’s working and what’s not and how you’re going to do it differently. And that was a two day offsite to kick it off. And then we came back once a month for about three or four months. And they totally transformed and started working together. And they had clear direction. They had clear alignment about how they were going to do meetings, how they were going to hold each other accountable.

They had developed trust but none of that would have happened, it was like a cork in a bottle, if we hadn’t taken that cork out and had that conversation and let them process that.

Susan: Well, and here’s the thing too was like over those next few months every time we’d be planning for them we would disagree about what process we should use. What should be the final results, what would be? And we’d be like – but we got to these amazing ways to work with them, that actually kind of held some of each of us.

CrisMarie: Well, yeah, we were kind of blending our two, not discounting, not overwriting our two different styles, so giving room to have the conversations and then framing it into the business. And that was really the instigating, like we can do this, this is really helpful for organizations and teams.

Susan: And we respected each other, I confess. I was kind of like – when I was watching her doing the handshaking and stuff like that, I was just like, you know, I don’t always get the strategic element of okay, you establish these relationships. You work the room. You do these things. And the results really do matter.

And early on I was probably a bit dismissive of that. And it took me time to realize, wait a minute, this person who I highly respect, this is really a place where she puts some of her best energy. And then I started to look at it differently and said, “Well, it really is valuable. It really does work, the details that she would go through sometimes.”

CrisMarie: The relationship building and I think Susan, what I found with you, you are definitely an expert in dealing with conflict, confronting it, helping people see another human being. And you have a great strategic mind. So the fact that we get to their strategic topics, you often help people see things in a different way. I’m great at synthesizing, helping people get all on the same page, capturing things so people feel seen and heard. But you have also a way of helping them come up with different ways to look at their business that are revolutionary to them in a lot of ways.

Susan: But here’s the deal, we still…

CrisMarie: Get into conflict.

Susan: Get into these very same conflicts, like taking away the word ‘conflict’.

CrisMarie: I’m still working on that one folks.

Susan: I know. She wanted to get rid of vulnerability too, but Brené Brown brought it back.

CrisMarie: I know.

Susan: But we do believe if you work that muscle, if you really develop an appreciation for the beauty, and me, I have to sometimes realize it’s not all about the tension in it. Sometimes the goodwill and the harmony is okay, it’s a good thing.

CrisMarie: As long as it’s not artificial harmony and it’s genuine harmony, yes, that is good.

Susan: And so we really have come to value our differences and we still get into them.

CrisMarie: And I think why that helps when we work with an organization is there is people like us in the room. There is those Myers Briggs NTPs who like to be counter, and debate, and have those discussions. And there is people pleasers like me who have struggled bringing their voice forward at times. And so we can recognize those and support modulating that so that both show up. And you can increase that team IQ and get to better results.

Susan: So we hope you found this helpful. And we’d love to hear from you.

CrisMarie: We so would.

Susan: What do you think of the word ‘conflict’ for marketing or not?

CrisMarie: Is it real conversations? Is it conflict? Is it the beauty of conflict?

Susan: And we would love for you to checkout our LinkedIn Thrive page because that’s where…

CrisMarie: That’s true, so what she’s talking about is we have big followers for CrisMarie and Susan, but not too many people have followed our business page because we haven’t paid attention to it. So if you see Thrive Inc connected to us, please follow that page because we’re also going to be putting content there. So we’re trying to build our audience in that capacity.

Susan: And there might be a poll or two there that you could help us with our marketing campaign. So feel free to have a listen.

CrisMarie: So if you need to get a hold of us, reach out at, that’s If you like this podcast, give us an iTunes review and like us on LinkedIn. Take care.

Susan: Wow, CrisMarie, I have sure been enjoying doing this series for teams and utilizing our chapters from our book The Beauty of Conflict: Harnessing Your Team’s Competitive Advantage. It’s been fun to go back and review the material and apply it to virtual teams.

CrisMarie: It’s true. And it’s so much good bite sized material in these chapters, I mean if I do say so myself. And if you want us to speak at your organization, or work with your team, yes, virtually, we’ve been doing that, team sessions, or coach you or leaders on your team, please reach out to us. You can check us out at our website, that’s or send us an email, write to us directly, we’re happy to chat,, that’s Okay, take care.


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.

Download the eBook, How to Talk About Difficult Topics, today!

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