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Conflict Debt

Welcome to this episode of Jack Chat and another tiny lesson in leadership, straight up.

In this episode, I’d like to talk about… umm… something I don’t really feel like talking about. Maybe I’ll just save it for another episode. You know, I’m in such a good mood today, I don’t want to ruin it by talking about this right now. And I just poured myself a cup of coffee. I really should drink it before it gets cold. So, I guess I’ll just see you on the next episode…

(Slurping coffee…uncomfortably trying not to make eye contact with the camera)

Ok. Clearly this isn’t working. I need to do this episode because we need to talk about avoidance. Specifically, avoiding tough conversations.

Avoiding tough conversations builds up what can best be described as “conflict debt.” 

Conflict debt is the sum of all the awkward issues that need to be addressed to move forward, but are left unaddressed and unresolved because we avoid the conversation. Sound familiar?

Unfortunately, conflict debt kills team performance by sapping team energy. It’s like a dripping faucet…an irritating distraction that plays in the back of your mind. And it will never go away until you stop avoiding it. 

A couple of things that might help here. 

The first is realizing that avoidance is different from aversion. 

Aversion to tough conversations is perfectly normal. In fact, I don’t recommend setting your goal at learning to enjoy tough conversations. I mean, they aren’t exactly one of life’s pleasures (like eating donuts). A better goal is to approach the conversation with a more helpful mindset about the conversation – we’ll talk about that in a future episode.

Avoidance is the real team performance killer. The only cure for avoidance is courage. Just 15 minutes of courage is all you need to tackle a tough conversation and keep conflict debt from piling up.  Here are some self-reflection questions you can use to help you find your courage right when you need it…

  • What am I most afraid will happen when I have this conversation?
  • How might I prepare for the things I’m worried could go wrong in the conversation?
  • How will having this tough conversation help me, the other person, and the team?
  • What happens if I don’t have the conversation?

Give those questions some thought… find your courage to tackle the tough stuff and join me again for another chat!

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