While working on various complex megaprojects and ventures in four continents, I experienced over the last few years that many projects and companies suffer from a rising number of conflicts. My personal experience and World Bank studies prove that still more than 50% of all international projects fail. They either run into substantial cost overruns or delays and it often takes an enormous effort in terms of additional investment or conflict resolution for fixing these problems. Not technical problems, but conflicts among various stakeholders account for one of the major reasons that ventures or projects fail.
Furthermore, I arrived at the conclusion that very often the lack of emotional resilience is one of the key reasons that people get involved in conflicts. While considering the enormous impact on the bottom line, I started primarily to work on enhancing the degree of emotional resilience of project managers so as to prevent conflicts or settle those in an amicable way, which in turn builds a more solid platform of collaboration.
Do not take things personally. Very often, I see employees delivering outstanding work, but clients dismiss their effort. We often fall into a trap: We think our personality as a whole does not get recognized. Keep in mind that people are busy; they have their own hidden agendas or their own personal problems. They rarely criticize you as a person; as a whole. Their anger or critique often stems from their own fears, pain, or shame. Sometimes they are also driven by wrong intentions such as the quest for artificial power. By keeping this in mind, you are able to detach yourself from the false thinking that people do not like you as a whole.
Dismiss wrong assumptions and apply appreciative thinking. I once asked a supplier for help and they promised to deliver within 48 hours. You can imagine what happened. Nothing. I made a few calls, tried to get in touch with the supplier’s CEO, wrote emails, and made dozens of calls. Still no answer and therefore I was close to acting in a very resentful way. I assumed that they had broken their commitment on purpose or showed no interest in us anymore. After seven days, their CEO called me at last and revealed that he was forced to travel abroad so as to find a perfect solution to our problem. My wrong assumptions almost drove me into a difficult conflict situation. We often tend to make assumptions that prove to be false in the end. Thinking in “options” or in an appreciative way helps you to remove false assumptions.
Develop more empathy. We all have our own personal history that shapes our unique reality. Sometimes we tend to see things the way we want them to be or happen. Some people might consider situations as risky, while you think the opposite. Try to understand the emotions, the real intentions, behind people’s actions and develop a high degree of empathy. This consciousness of other emotions leads automatically to new and more respectful behavior.
Give first what you expect to receive. We all have the best intentions in our minds when it comes to delivering a service or great product to other people. In the end, we all long to be recognized as worthy individuals. Many people have not yet learned to provide proper and constructive feedback. So, it is up to us to set an outstanding example by proving that we are capable of respecting other people by communicating in an authentic and appreciative way.
Speak openly; do not gossip behind the backs of your colleagues. It hurts most when we hear colleagues or even our bosses gossip behind our backs. The major problem is that we often do not dare to speak up; we’re driven by insecurity, and therefore we tend to gossip. People who are not comfortable in their own skin and who have insecurities will often pick apart others in order to feel better. This can sometimes include those closest to you. By speaking openly, you earn credibility and trust, which in turn also leads to a higher degree of self-confidence. By talking about colleagues behind their backs, we can also cause an enormous personal damage. Trust and credibility are often completely destroyed, which in turn leads to a negative impact on the individual or the entire team’s performance.
Reverse your fears and develop more courage. A lack of resilience is often caused by our deepest fears of failure, rejection, or of not getting recognized. Fears prevent us from speaking up, believing in our skills and talents, and admitting weaknesses. Therefore, it should be one of the primary goals to reverse fears and to dare much more. In order to develop a higher degree of courage, which in turn is the opposite of fear, you can use the following technique I developed:
1. Write down the fears you face right now; for example, “I am scared of failing.” By writing down your fears you get fully aware of them and do not run away.
2. Answer the questions, “Why do I have this fear? What is the benefit of having this fear?” This often clarifies the situation and diminishes your fears.
3. What resources do I need to overcome this specific fear? As an example: “I need more perseverance, patience, and faith.”
4. Remember a situation in your life when you managed successfully to cope with similar fears by applying exactly the resources you need right now. Reflect on what you did successfully, and what or who helped you in your past experience
5. Feel the emotions of the past challenge that you managed successfully and draw a positive mental image of a successful outcome of your current challenge.
6. Repeat step five.
Apply empowering beliefs. Like fears, wrong beliefs such as “I am not sufficient, I am not worthy, I lack certain skills” often prevent us from becoming more resilient. In such a case, it helps to turn your disempowering beliefs into empowering beliefs. I normally create a list consisting of three columns. In the first column I write down my disempowering belief. In the second column I list every single reason, fact, proof, and example from other people that helps to demystify my wrong beliefs. While drawing on these key findings, I state a new powerful belief in the third column such as “I am worthy and have the power to attain everything.”
Practice “hygiene of your language.” Our thoughts normally draw pictures. Pictures drive our words and actions. Repeated actions become a habit. I often hear people say: “I hope that…” “I am not sure…” “Maybe…” “Hopefully…” Avoid any words in your language that express or lead to further doubts or fears. They create false and negative pictures in your mind and become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Question negative statements. When we get verbally attacked or criticized we often lack ready wit. We shy away from answering or we might get angry. You can avoid this by disempowering your counterpart through questioning his or her statements. Use closed-ended questions that cannot be answered with a simple "yes" or "no.” Ask questions that start with Why? What? When? How? You will learn that people who criticize you often lack the proper reasoning behind their statements.
All this in turn will help you to grow a thick skin, which means that you’ll build a higher degree of resilience whilst simultaneously respecting others’ needs and emotions. While applying these simple rules and techniques within the framework of multi-stakeholder conflict management workshops, we managed to create a powerful collaborative platform boosting collaboration and lowering project costs by more than 10%.
Andreas Dudàs. Swiss, visionary entrepreneur, mentor, motivational speaker, and expert on authentic leadership. More than 20 years experience in top executive positions in over 25 countries. Founder of the BE SHiRO Group in Switzerland and India, dedicated to empower individuals and organizations to achieve greatness through authenticity. Author of “Do you dare to be yourself? Developing power in life and leadership through authenticity." Learn more about Andreas at www.andreasdudas.com/book.