• Thrive Inc.

The Four Horsemen

So often on a team, it’s the leader or loudest person that has the biggest impact on a decision, but this can be costly to the creativity, transformation, engagement, and longevity of the team as a whole. In today’s episode, we’re talking about a set of behaviors that show up in teams and relationships, a concept known as The Four Horsemen, and how these can affect the dynamics of the team.

Clinical Psychologists Dr. John and Dr. Julie Gottman conducted a study where they discovered four behaviors that can be used to predict with 90% accuracy whether a relationship will fail or last. In this episode, we’re talking about the concept of The Four Horsemen in relation to teams, and showing you how to recognize and use these behaviors to create stronger relationships.

Join us this week to learn why understanding these behaviors can help you cultivate more effective relationships, both in your personal and professional life. We discuss why your team is like a marriage, and share some tools to apply in leadership to help you bring the magic to teamwork.

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?

Listen on Apple Podcast | Stitcher | Spotify

Learn More:

  • What The Four Horsemen is and how to use it to your advantage.

  • Why your people are your best resource.

  • How to be more aware of the impact of your behavior on your team.

  • The foundations of a strong relationship.

  • How to use feedback to your advantage.

  • Some tips to create better working relationships.


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.

Susan: Hello. This is Susan.

CrisMarie: And I’m CrisMarie.

Susan: And today we’re continuing our conversation and our series on the Beauty of Conflict for Teams based on our book, The Beauty of Conflict: Harnessing Your Team’s Competitive Advantage. And we’re going to take a little different twist today because we just finished doing a Beauty of Conflict for Couples. And this is our other book and also a program that we’ve been leading. And we just spent this past weekend leading it…

CrisMarie: In our office.

Susan: Yes, for The Haven which is not in our office but up north.

CrisMarie: So it was an online program and it had about 21 couples in it and we did it for two days and it’s always just very heartwarming and inspirational for me to do this work and I think you too Susan.

Susan: Yes, for sure. Actually yeah, it’s probably the work I am truly most passionate about but not totally. Because it’s so clear to me in couples, their commitment to the relationship, their commitment to each other.

CrisMarie: Even if they’re struggling or towards the – ending, there was one couple that was moving towards ending. And it was their commitment to still – and I don’t know if they’re going to end now after doing the workshop, but to finish strong was powerful.

Susan: Yes. And so really what I love about working with teams is that they’re – I think it’s very similar. Now, it’s not always as recognized in business nor as appreciated, although where it’s appreciated is the end results, when you get to creativity and transformation and awesome money making things. However at the root of it is still I think what makes that the most special is when you have those relationships that are just singing and it’s working.

CrisMarie: It’s so true. I interviewed two leaders, one we’re going to do some more work for and another one just their company just got bought. And so they’ve moved into a much larger company. But these are different conversations and they said, “I think what the main thing is CrisMarie about what transformed our team is the concept of an A team, that we had each other’s backs, we were the team.”

And another one said, “You taught us how to do these four different types of meetings.” He said, “The one that we resisted the most was this daily check in, 15 minutes stand up.” He goes, “That would be the last one I let go of. It’s not like it’s all so efficient but it creates the connections with these humans, that really bring the magic to teamwork.”

Susan: So this has been sort of something I think I’ve been passionate about forever is it’s your people are your best resource. Results matter but maybe your people matter more. But that may just say something about my own valuing system. CrisMarie’s always been, “Both are.”

CrisMarie: I like people and results.

Susan: Yes, we do. So today we are going to focus on something that we talk about a lot in couples which we refer to as The Four Horsemen. And we’re also going to be identifying this through our book and we’re going to be talking about…

CrisMarie: Chapter 18 which is how tense moments equal creative opportunities. And that’s really that sense of conflict where we bump up into each other. And how you handle those moments really lead to whether it’s going to be a lost opportunity or something more.

Susan: And so often on a team when we talk about this in chapter 18 a lot of times it’s the leader or the loudest that has the biggest impact on a decision. And we think that is really costly to creativity, transformation, engagement.

CrisMarie: Even longevity of the team, people staying there and continuing to build.

Susan: Yes. And what gets in the way often though, of being able to address that problem is what we’re going to talk about in terms of The Four Horsemen, some behavioral pieces that show up that may or may not sometimes get rewarded in business. And what we want to say is they might have some rewards for rising you up on the ladder but they’re going to have some really critically bad impact on your relationships.

CrisMarie: Well, not only on your relationships but on you internally. And I think that’s the key that people don’t recognize is the cost to themselves as a human being and the cost of the relationship. I think both are true.

Susan: Yeah, both are true. And then in chapter 18 we actually talk about a situation where we were working with a leader who brought us in because he wanted to kind of deal with some of the dynamics going on his team. And then when he got direct feedback about how one particular person, one daring person on the team dared to speak up and say, “Look, you always side with him. He’s the person you talk to the most. You send him in to check on our areas of our business.”

And the leader got pretty defensive pretty quickly. “We are not going to make him the scapegoat and make him the problem.” And to her credit she courageously said, “I’m not making him the problem. I am making you the problem.”

CrisMarie: To the leader.

Susan: To the leader, took the leader back a little bit. And there was a bit of defensiveness but we reminded him, “You wanted this, remember, you wanted to find out why the team wasn’t operating as a team. Now you’re getting that feedback, you may not like it but sit in it.” And he did. And he began to realize he did like this particular person more, they had their own little team.

CrisMarie: They had a mini team within the team. And we see that so often where leaders, they like somebody, they have a similar style or they think this person’s going to get me the results. And they sidle up to them and they become the confidante of the leader which totally fractures the trust across the team. And most times the leader is unaware that that’s what they’re doing. Maybe they’re not unaware they’re doing it, but they’re unaware of the impact to the team.

Susan: Yeah. And sometimes they’re not even aware they’re doing it because people don’t say anything. This had taken a lot for this woman to speak up and say what she thought was going on. And she wasn’t about to do it, I mean I think part of why she did it was because we were there. And this is why as a leader, when you get someone who’s telling you something you don’t want to hear, just shut up and listen because it’s probably as really – sorry, that’s probably a bit abrupt.

CrisMarie: No, I think that is really good. And then it’s so hard because you want to go on the defense. You want to believe I’m not doing that. But I think your counsel, Susan, is spot on. Just be quiet even though you’re wanting to defend or put that person down. And just say thank you at the end, if that’s all you can muster out. And then say you’ll come back and talk to that person later. But just really take the feedback because it’s taken so much courage for that brave soul to speak up to you.

And most people aren’t making stuff up. As leaders as you rise in the organization you get less and less honest direct feedback. Most people are wanting to kiss your bum, they want to ingratiate themselves into you so that you give them raises, you like them more. And so if somebody’s willing to be that direct I would really honor that. So I just really wanted to underscore that.

Susan: The irony is we see this in couples even over the weekend. There was one couple and I really loved that this person was so willing to say; I realized what we were giving them our tool, we talk about on here called the 5-5-5 and you’re welcome to go back. It’s a tool to help you talk about something that might be difficult.

CrisMarie: Both in business and in a couple.

Susan: Yeah. And this particular person was like, “I don’t think I’ve ever used a tool like that. I am so busy interrupting most of the time. And I really got so much more out of having to make myself listen.” And I was so touched by the humility in that and the humbleness. And the same, I’ve heard the same thing when a leader sits back and doesn’t feel like they have to have the answer but just starts to listen. And it’s like you’ve got some good people out here. Don’t get so busy that you miss them.

CrisMarie: Right. I think that’s great. So the 5-5-5 we have a podcast on it so go back and look at that. But it’s a boundaried conversation and it’s really powerful.

Susan: Now, why we wanted to bring this in so shortly after the couples is because in a couple it’s very obvious that often a couple is looking to how do we make this relationship last, how do we sustain it?

CrisMarie: Or how do we even make it work right now? And hopefully will last. Think about your couple out there.

Susan: And the truth is in some respects you actually want that on the team too. And you really kind of want that in your organization, you want people engaged and committed. However we don’t pay quite as much attention to those relationships. But there are people out in the world because of marriages and coupledom and that have done tons of research about what makes a marriage work and a couple work.

CrisMarie: I have to say sometimes people will be like, “Do you know what? I don’t understand how you work with couples and then you say you work with business teams, CrisMarie and Susan. Pick a niche. What’s going on?” And the reason we work with both is one, we really have some strong heartbeats working with couples because we really like to help see people connect. But that’s also true on teams.

And the dynamics can be so similar because what we’re dealing with are two or more humans who are trying to be an individual, struggling to kind of work together on something and trying to make room for the other human beings in there. And we fall down in the same ways, both in our couple and on our business teams.

Susan: And the truth is in our book, CrisMarie, we really – the model…

CrisMarie: Do you mean the business book?

Susan: Both really, they’re the same model.

CrisMarie: That’s true.

Susan: I don’t know if anyone’s picked that up.

CrisMarie: If you try The Beauty of Conflict for Couples you’ll see the same model.

Susan: You’ll see that it’s very similar and there is a reason for that, because the dynamics in relationships, we say a team is someone who’s passionate about something, a goal. And they have smart people and there are high stakes and they’re going after something, differing opinions. Well, in some respects that’s the exact same dynamic.

CrisMarie: I know, on a couple we talk about it having a romance where you meet this person and you’re like, “Oh my gosh, all these good things can happen.” So now all of a sudden now you have a goal, a high stakes goal and you’re passionate about this person. And they’re different, so they’re unique and they have different opinions and yeah, there you go.

Susan: I mean I know you guys out there listening are probably thinking do not tell me that working as an executive is like a marriage. And so I don’t want to scare you. So I’m not going to, you know, well, I am going to say try thinking of it more in terms of it’s an important relationship. So we want to talk about some of the things that have come out of some of the research about couples. Can I go there?

CrisMarie: You could and I was going to actually go there.

Susan: I saw you raising your hand.

CrisMarie: She gave me kind of a look and so we’ll talk about that.

Susan: Bid for connection, so I was trying to pay attention.

CrisMarie: Okay. So the Gottmans from the Gottman Institute in Seattle, he’s a researcher, she is a clinical psychologist. And they have studied couples. So couples come into their lab and they study their behavior. Thank goodness for these couples that are willing to do that. And they have found there are four behaviors that they can predict with 90% accuracy whether a relationship’s going to fail or go on. And within the first six years they have that predictive.

And so the behaviors, we’re going to give them to you, we’re also going to relate them to teams. But for you just as you hear them think about how you show up with your partner and how you show up at work. And the first behavior is criticism. So that’s being critical of what something’s saying, pointing it out. The second is contempt which contempt is really I am better than you. So it’s this I’m better, you’re less than energy that comes out. We’ll talk about how that shows up. The third is defensiveness and the fourth is stonewalling.

I think defensiveness is you start to explain your position. Stonewalling is really I’m not going to talk about it. You disengage. You somehow want to get away. That’s stonewalling. And it’s often because you’re flooded.

Susan: So we believe that similar to the research they’ve done in the couples, I mean our experience has been that these same four horsemen show up on teams all the time.

CrisMarie: Yes, they do.

Susan: And in leadership teams and project teams across organizations. Obviously you may not have the same motivating force to pay attention to it. What’s ironic about this is sometimes people get well rewarded for how critical they can be. And in some respects that they think they’re superior.

CrisMarie: Yes, that’s true. They can defend their position.

Susan: Yeah, so it’s a very tricky ground sometimes just to be in an organization and recognize The Four Horsemen showing up. And even inside yourself and not think I’m getting rewarded for this. But we really want you to look at it can be at a pretty high cost.

CrisMarie: To the relationship but also to yourself, that’s why we work with teams. Often you’re swimming in a corporate culture that does reward these four horsemen. But in a team…

Susan: No one would say that directly. I don’t think any business says, “We are now going to really give you bonus checks for how