October 20, 2020

125: Dealing with Conflict with CrisMarie Campbell and Susan Clarke

Inevitably you will experience moments of conflict among a team. Although most people are conflict avoidant, productive conflict enables a team to find new solutions and build stronger relationships. Learning to navigate conflict is a critical skill for every manager.

In this episode, I speak with Susan Clarke, co-founder with her partner CrisMarie Campbell of thrive! Inc. and authors of The Beauty of Conflict: Harnessing Your Team’s Competitive Advantage and The Beauty of Conflict for Couples. Together they host The Beauty of Conflict podcast for dealing with conflict at work and at home.

CrisMarie is an Olympic rower and Susan is a former marriage therapist and Equus coach. As partners in work and life for over two decades, they’ve adapted their proven step-by-step process honed working with Fortune 100 Companies such as Johnson & Johnson, Microsoft, AT&T and San Francisco Giants to help long-term couples use conflict as a catalyst to greater intimacy, passion, and fulfillment.

Chrismarie wasn’t able to join us, so I talked with Susan about being conflict avoidant, the difference between conflict and a fight, the role of emotion and vulnerability when dealing with conflict, how to confront conflict in a productive way and more.

Warning: there are a few spots where Susan uses a curse word, so if you’ve got sensitive ears around, you may want to wait to listen to this another time.

Members of The Modern Manager community get Susan and CrisMarie’s How to Have Tough Conversations Workbook. To learn more about membership and to join, go to www.themodernmanager.com/join.

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Read the related blog article: Embrace Constructive Conflict In The Workplace

Key Takeaways:

  • A fight is different from a conflict. A fight is a one-sided attempt to win an argument. A conflict is a collaborative discussion that looks at all points of view in order to come up with a collective solution.
  • In order to engage in conflict, both parties need to let go of being right and open up to the possibility of new ways of seeing.
  • Conflicts force us to be in a place of ambiguity and uncertainty which often feels scary and stressful.
  • It’s normal to experience an “Oh, Sh*t!” moments when you’re not sure if the group is actually going to come to a resolution.
  • When you’re feeling emotionally charged, reground yourself by focusing on calm breathing and feeling your feet on the floor.
  • Recognize the cues when your body and mind are starting to go into stress-mode.
  • The faster you can recognize your signals, the quicker you can work to bring yourself down from a place of stress.
  • Managers can change the power dynamics in group discussions by admitting to mistakes, and opening up to new solutions.
  • Don’t dismiss conflict between colleagues as something they have to figure out on their own. Arrange for a group discussion (for the three of you or with the whole team) to allow for others to help facilitate and add additional perspectives.
  • Avoid meeting one-on-one to discuss employees’ grievances separately. One-on-one meetings are inefficient, burn managers out, and don’t give employees the opportunity to come together to resolve their issues.



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