Be Free From The Fear Of Conflict

November

26

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Do you find yourself putting off difficult conversations? No matter what we do, there will always be difficult conversations. Most of the time we put these conversations off because we have a fear of conflict. Jerry Fu from Adapting Leaders is going to share some of his best conflict resolution tips to help us.

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Be Free From The Fear Of Conflict



Tim Fitzpatrick
Do you find yourself putting off difficult conversations? If you do, stay tuned because we have a special guest with us today who is going to share some of his best tips on conflict resolution. I think so many of us put off difficult conversations because we have a fear of conflict, and we're going to try and put that to rest today. Hi, I'm Tim Fitzpatrick, with Rialto Marketing, where we believe marketing shouldn't be difficult. All you need is the right plan. I am super excited to have with me today, Jerry Fu, from Adapting Leaders. Jerry, welcome. And thanks for taking the time.

Jerry Fu
Hi, Tim. Thanks for having me.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Absolutely. So before we jump into this and learn more about you and what you're doing with Adapting Leaders, I've got some rapid-fire questions. Want to help us get to know you. You ready to jump in with both feet?

Jerry Fu
Got my game face on man, let's do it.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Okay. Awesome. So when you're not working, how do you like to spend your time?

Jerry Fu
Oh, man, some combination of reading, sleeping and salsa dancing.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Okay. That's an interesting combination. What's your hidden talent?

Jerry Fu
Asking good questions.

Tim Fitzpatrick
That's a great hidden talent to have. What's the best piece of advice that you've ever been given?

Jerry Fu
It's really in the form of a question. When I got fired, a friend asked, "Could you look at this as the best thing that ever happened to you?"

Tim Fitzpatrick
Very glass is half full mentality, right?

Jerry Fu
Yeah.

Tim Fitzpatrick
What's one thing about you that surprises people.

Jerry Fu
That I'm not an engineer.

Tim Fitzpatrick
What does success mean to you?

Jerry Fu
Oh, man, success means having the autonomy to spend my life with people and activities that are most meaningful to me.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Where's your happy place?

Jerry Fu
The dance floor.

Tim Fitzpatrick
How long have you been salsa dancing?

Jerry Fu
Oh, man, I got a taste of it in College, but seriously, for probably the last seven years.

Tim Fitzpatrick
So you must be pretty good at this point.

Jerry Fu
I get a lot of hugs and compliments.

Tim Fitzpatrick
What qualities do you value in the people you spend time with?

Jerry Fu
The willingness to honor, a promise. A willingness to listen without interrupting and enjoyinh the same food because that's where we tend to talk the most.

Tim Fitzpatrick
So tell us more about what you're doing with Adapting Leaders. I know you're a pharmacist. How does a pharmacist get into conflict resolution?

Jerry Fu
Yeah, great question. Basically, I started off with healthcare ambitions in College. Got to see organic chemistry. And so I said, "Well, my idea of becoming a physician is probably out the door." Me being a pessimist at that point. So I said, "Well, I still want to do health care. Pharmacy seems like a pretty nice niche. So let me convince pharmacy school that I'll make a good pharmacist." And so went off on that journey. I wanted to work for one chain. My mom insisted I work for a different one that I didn't like as much. But I wasn't willing to deal with conflict in that regard. So I just went along with her advice. And so at one point got comfortable with that job, but then realized after about five years that this was not a long term career path for me. I had a heart for teaching students, didn't have a conventional PhD or residency to get an academia job. But a friend who worked for a pharmacy consulting company here in Houston said, "Hey, my teaching position is open. I promoted, would you want to apply for it?" And I said, "Absolutely." And so next thing I know, I'm walking away from a full-time job with benefits and where I just earned a third week of vacation to take on this part time teaching job with the hopes of earning my way up into a full time position. Eleven months later, I got fired and wake up call there didn't want to admit a lot of things about myself that I knew needed improvement. And that was in the process of trying to find my way forward, got into some really sticky situations. The first job that I ended up taking after I got fired was a house of cards independent pharmacy where four of my paychecks balances I filled for crooked doctors. That was not a good situation. Didn't know how to confront my boss when he was writing me bad checks. And so in the course of nine months, finally got out of that job with the help of some friends. Got on to another company where they said, "Hey, we like you, but we can't pay more than 8 hours a week." I said, "Okay, that's definitely still a problem." So they said, "Hey, if you can get more hours for us with us if you work for us out in Austin." Which is about two and a half hours away from Houston. So I said, "Okay, let me go out there and get more hours." And have no idea what my life is going to look like at this point. From there, I had the opportunity to help teach leadership seminars to pharmacy leadership nonprofit that some friends in my run and teaching leadership kind of switch something on in my head to say, "Hey, maybe I could actually be good at being a leader." Because for the longest time, I didn't believe I was capable of being a good leader. And so that fall, had the opportunity to stay part-time in Austin or take on a full-time management position in Houston that had opened up. And I said, "Okay, I can't stay scared. I can't stay safe. I want to come home. So I'm going to do this." The following year, proceed to get written up for not confronting my technicians when they were underperforming, and again, just more humble pie. I'm just slowly trying to build that up. I'm struggling with conflict. I'm struggling with leadership. But when that company had their funding pulled, I got out of the dog house before I quit. But the only reason I even got another interview was that I had leadership experience on my resume, at this point. I said, "Wow, that decision really set my career." Giving myself permission to be a good leader or the possibility of that, and then actually working towards that. And so what I like to tell people is that these jobs are like icebergs. I got more icebergs, but they're still melting after one or two years, when my last job went under due to more insurance drama and other things, I said, "Well, I'm tired of chasing scripts. I'm tired of finding insurance companies, but I love teaching these leadership workshops, and I know how I wish I'd been developed as a leader ten years ago. What would a career in coaching and facilitating and teaching leadership look like?" Still scared to open up my own business, still scared to do some things and really step out. And it took a pandemic Tim for me to finally see how much longer can I afford to wait? So last October, I put in the money to open up a business bank account, got the website up, I got the LLC filed. And so now, this more try struggle fail until we see success. So that's where the transition comes from. And what I say to people is that leadership saved my career. It is one of my biggest struggles. And now one of my biggest fascinations. In the same way, I've kind of transitioned to a subset of leadership, which is conflict resolution because as a team manager, you have to manage conflict, because if you don't, then you probably aren't doing a good enough job. And also, if you aren't willing to engage in that conflict, the challenges that continue to pull you down will not go away until you decide to engage them constructively.

Tim Fitzpatrick
I was going to say ignoring it doesn't make it go away, right?

Jerry Fu
Nope.

Tim Fitzpatrick
So you talk about your stepwise approach to conflict resolution? Tell us more about that.

Jerry Fu
Yeah. So the personal recipe, I guess that I've come up for myself with my own unique blends of spices and such, right, as a five-step plan. One is to first when you're ready to engage in a conversation you are struggling with, like asking your boss for a raise, right? Or dealing with an employee who's not performing up to task or standards. You have to imagine what a successful conversation would look like and the wrinkle that I'm going to add here that I've not mentioned previously in other podcast is that by imagining success, you allow for the possibility of success that somehow this conversation would actually go, well, what would that involve? And ask yourself and be very specific about how that would sound, how you need to come across. Right. And so that's the first step to say. Okay, how could this go? Like, what would be really great if this really went the way it needed it to? Number two to find 10 seconds of courage, right? People think they have to be Superman or Wonder Woman in order to say, "Okay, I finally have enough courage to have this conversation." That usually never comes. Right? If you wait, "Okay, I'm finally ready." You've already lost a client. You've already lost the job. You've already lost a gig. Finally, "I'm ready." It's like, not too late. So you see just enough to get the ball rolling. And that way you kind of shut the gate behind you. And you realize I can't back out now because I've already set this into motion.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Yeah, you're already there, right? It's the 10 seconds to get that conversation started.

Jerry Fu
Exactly. Right. Whether you send that email. "Hey, can we talk?" Send that text, pick up the phone. Whatever it is, right? I can do 10 seconds for that. "Yeah. Let me do this before I change my mind." Third step, script out your critical moves, right? Write out. Don't just think about what you want to say. Write it out for yourself, like, in very specific language, in legible handwriting, or just type it out if you're handwriting is bad, like mine. Right? Make sure this helps you inventory exactly what you want to say in this successful conversation and helps you organize your thoughts a little bit and say, "Hey, how does this flow?" And then the fourth, and this is what a lot of people don't do. They don't rehearse. They need to rehearse their steps. Whether you practice in front of a mirror or you record yourself on your phone, rehearse these things. Role play with friends. Have your friends say, "Hey, can you pretend to be my boss that I need to discuss this raise with?" And so you kind of spar in the dojo before you get out on the street, and now you have some degree of muscle memory so that you don't default to deferring or avoidance in the moment. And then the step five, you got to do it, right? Don't just prepare and say, "Okay, I feel better about this now." It's like, well, when are you going to have the conversation? Oh, I like the idea of having the success, but I don't want to actually go through with it. It's like, no, do it. Give yourself no outs, because people will default to comfort if it's an option. So that is the stepwise approach that I usually walk people through when they are dealing with the situation.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Let me make sure I've got this right. I want to repeat this back to make sure people get this. First step is imagining success. And frankly, so it seems like this step is a little bit of goal setting, but then setting your vision for what you want to have happen.

Jerry Fu
Yeah. And something that duck tail on that really quick. Success isn't necessarily mean restoring the relationship to, like, 100. Sometimes success is, hey, I had to evict a roommate. At one point, success is not, "Oh, hey, finesse the money that you need to pay in order to restore good terms. "At this point, it's just like, "No, you have to get out before all the cops." Right. Other conversations are, "Hey, we're at a point where things are done. I think we need to part ways and that's it." Like when I had to fire somebody the same thing. Right. Like success is being able to tell them that you have to part ways and in a way that's dignified and does not become punitive or petty. Be realistic. Right. Because if 100% ideal is not appropriate, then figure out what success means for you, for sure.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Two, we need to find that 10 seconds of courage to take that next step to get this thing moving on down the line, right?

Jerry Fu
Yes.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Three. We need to script out what the heck we're going to do. What are we going to say? Hey, actors do actors, actresses do this all the time, right? They're scripted. They know exactly what they're going to do, which then leads into step four, which is rehearsing what you're going to do so that you're at least more comfortable than you would be otherwise. And five is you need to. I guess you could just say this is the Nike, right. Let's just do it. Yeah.

Jerry Fu
Follow through. Right. You didn't plan all this just to feel better about yourself. You got to do it.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Yeah. Nothing's going to happen if you don't take the action, right?

Jerry Fu
No. Plenty of businesses fail because they had a plan, but then they didn't do anything with it, right?

Tim Fitzpatrick
Yeah. It's one thing to create the plan. Then you need to implement. So what are some of the common mistakes that you see people making with conflict resolution?

Jerry Fu
Yeah. Happy to show all the ones I made, right. At least a couple in the next couple of minutes, because that was the two lump in this podcast. But the first one is avoidance, right? Thinking that somehow things will automatically get better on their own. That was a great word I took from one of the books that I drew from my own material called Four Conversations, and we can talk about that later on. But people think somehow avoiding, they say, okay, maybe things will get better on their own. It's like, Well, How's that working for you, right. Even worse. Another subset of that avoidance is overcompensating. So let's say a technician types up a prescription wrong, and during rush hour, so I just fix it for her, right. But then it happens again the next day, and now I have to make a decision. Do I say something or do I just continue to fix her mistake? And now I'm doing two jobs for the price of one, right? So, yeah. Overcompensating, which leads to burnout, because now you don't have the energy to keep compensating you wear out the goalie. You're the goalie. You're wearing things out. You're wearing yourself out. Another common mistake is charging your head with no plan. They just say, "Well, let me find that courage. And now I got to bust in there and put out the fire." And you realize you didn't assess the territory nearly well enough. And you realize that the story you were telling yourself, though justify was not accurate for the actual situation. So now you have to apologize twice. Number one for getting the story wrong. And number two, antagonizing people, needlessly. Another mistake is thinking that conflict resolution means conforming the other person to your side. That is a common mistake that I made where I had a pharmacist who made it, they committed a medication error. They dispensed the wrong drug to the wrong patient, even though the technician was the one who typed it up incorrectly, she didn't catch it. And she would keep blaiming the technician because I had to write up the report and do all this. And she says, "No, it's her fault. It's her fault." And I just said, "Well, true or false, you're supposed to catch and fix anything. Any mistakes that she support, at least a pharmacy?" "Well, yeah." And so I'm just like, "Okay, what are you going to do differently?" And she's like, "Well, maybe I could do this more carefully." I'm like, "No, unacceptable." Like, "I need a better response from you." "Fine." Even if she agrees with me, her heart is still not changed. She doesn't see me as an ally that's actually looking out for her instead of me. All of the bosses want to pin stuff on me, that's unfair. Right. And that's usually what happens with conflict as they think. "Well, okay. You're still going to have to conform to what I say because I'm in charge, and I can guarantee that response does not go over well."

Tim Fitzpatrick
Would you say that sometimes the resolution to any specific conflict may actually just be that you both agree to disagree, right?

Jerry Fu
Yeah. Sometimes what's funny is one of the books says, "Hey, if you've done everything you can, you just have to let go". It's just like, "Hey, with her, right? I just said, okay, well, look, it sounds like we are not on the same page when it comes to ownership or other things like this. And at the same time, I'm still going to look out for you, right? I am your boss. I hope you'll not see me as someone who is trying to make you look bad, but someone's actually looking out for you. And even if it takes you two or three months to finally appreciate that, I'm not here to twist your arm anymore." Right? So, yeah, like you said, sometimes you're just like, well, it looks like we're at an impasse now. And so these are some final thoughts I'll leave you with just to kind of consider, and I'm just going to have to trust that you're going to do the job that you say you're going to do going forward.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Yeah. Well, certainly in a manager with people that you're managing at some point, if you're the manager and they're not following directions, well, then you're going to come up against another conflict because you're going to have to lay them off. Right? And if you're part of a team and you're not willing to do, you're not on board, you don't like how a company is actually operating. That's totally, okay, too. Right? That conflict is just going to be that you're going to have to resign. Right. So, at some point, if we aren't on the same page, we have to part ways in some way, shape, or form, right?

Jerry Fu
Yeah. Realistically. That's the case. John Maxwell puts it pretty simply where if there's some lack of expectations being met, the three main options are trained, transfer, or terminate. Right. Maybe it's a misunderstanding. Maybe they need a little more instruction on how to do this well. Okay.,Let me go ahead and make sure that this is taken care of. Right. Then if that's somehow that's still not enough, maybe you transfer them because, "Hey, maybe you need a different challenge. Maybe your skills don't line up with the tasks that we need. Okay. Maybe let's try to reassign you some things and see how you do with these instead." And after you've given them every possible chance to succeed and really contribute to your team, if for whatever reason, that's still not enough. Okay. Terminating is not something, one thing I had to learn when I was fired and in the process of having to fire people. Right. Terminating is not like you have to realize it's done with love, because that's the only way you can get through it, right. Terminating means, "Hey, you know what? We've done the best we can to make this relationship work. And since it isn't, this is our opportunity and your chance to move on to a company that would appreciate your talents, right. Because clearly we don't." At some point, I'm happy to say that a funny story that came to mind when you said that was Dave Hits. The guy who founded NetApp. Part of his schooling was on a Ranch in Deep Springs, and he talked about this really hilarious thing where he's like, you know, when you're trying to hurt cattle, you feel like the head steer. Right. Because one of these alpha steers kind of has a lot of influence in helping move the herd the way it needs to. But then it's like, sometimes the alpha steer just goes off the rails, and sometimes you just have to shoot him in the head. It's kind of like with these startup CEOs, right. The person who helps get money in the door and helps grow the company in the first years may not be on term. May not be the best guy to continue to scale the company up to enterprise level, right. And that's a hard decision to make. And no matter how difficult it is, it is still necessary, because otherwise the company's just going to flounder because the success that got you to stage one isn't what's going to get you to stage two. You can't guarantee that.

Tim Fitzpatrick
So if people are looking for more resources on conflict resolution, I'm sure you have some of your own. You should let us know where we can find those. But what else is out there? What is some of the best information that you found on conflict resolution?

Jerry Fu
Yeah. I mean, two of the books I looked into first was at one point I said, "Wow, I'm not good at this. Let me look on Amazon and just find the book I can study." And so the first one that I studied was Difficult Conversations. Just type it in and you're good.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Is that Henry Cloud?

Jerry Fu
Henry Cloud? It's not Henry Cloud. But we'll have to check it later.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Okay, so Difficult Conversations.

Jerry Fu
Yeah. And then the other one I like is Four Conversations, which is what one of my pharmacist friends introduced to me. And they talk about the four conversations that an organization really needs to move itself forward. Those are initiative and understanding, performance, and closure conversations. And so specifically related to conflicts is the closure conversation. Because if there are expectations that are broken, the closure conversation basically kind of gives you a roadmap on to how to address that broken expectation. Number one, they say things like, don't let them off the hook, because if you're not holding them accountable, they're not going to take you seriously as a leader. They're like, do it properly. Don't wait, right. We're kind of like the 10 seconds occurs that I talked about. Don't wait. Like, if something is broken, no one would say that fire is not too big. I can put that out later, but that's exactly what you're doing with unresolved conflicts. You're just like, well, once resentment builds up, no one's focused, no one's productive. So you have to fix problems quickly while they're small. And then they talk about things like, let's apologize, acknowledge that something is broken, right? One thing I love telling people is don't apologize for something you're not responsible for, but at the same time, acknowledge that there's something wrong and say, "Hey, I'm sorry things aren't better between us." "Hey, I'm sorry this project didn't go the way we expected to. Let's talk about how we can deal with this together. Let's collaborate on a solution." And so, yeah, those are two of the resources that I recommend to resolving conflict.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Difficult conversations. And Four Conversations?

Jerry Fu
Yeah. The Four Conversations.

Tim Fitzpatrick
The Four Conversations. Okay. Awesome. Any last-minute words of wisdom or thoughts you want to leave us with?

Jerry Fu
Yeah. I think some other things that help with my own approach to conflict now kind of building on what we talked about earlier, right. Use finesse and not force. You're just looking to get a solution. Like, take your ego out of this, right? Like, as much as I feel disrespected when people don't necessarily, when they don't hold promises, I think they should be held to. Right. Let me just get curious about what's going on here. Right. Let me just get curious. We talk another framework people can use, like, five seats. It's like, okay, have compassion for the person you're talking to. Get curious about what's actually going on. Have the courage to reach out. Number four, collaborate on a solution, and then five strive for closure. Right? Just say, "Hey, closure is better than comfort." Is what I tell people now because you can stay comfortable and it feels familiar and it's like, "Well, I just don't want to step out there." But closure. I can guarantee you, like, the day that this roommate who defaults on his lease finally moved out. Once I finally was able to have the difficult conversation with him, the day he moved out, I took the biggest exhale that I had in a long time. I'm like, "So glad that's done." And yeah, that's what I would tell people. Just like, hey, closure is better than comfort is what I would leave you guys with.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Awesome. Thank you so much for this. There was some great information in here. I love your stepwise approach to resolving conflict. If people need help with this, where can they learn more about you and reach out?

Jerry Fu
Yeah, the website is adaptingleaders dot com. Got a couple of great free goodies for you. The first is a free download on the framework that we talked about. And there's some interesting examples and elaborate a little more on what that framework would involve. Another is that you can schedule a complimentary 30-minute call. Just tell me what you're doing. Tell me what you're working on. Tell me your story. And if there's a way for us to help each other great. Otherwise. Got a free book blog for you. Well, it's just a free blog anyway, with other fun stuff, but yeah, I offer summaries and insights on useful and interesting leadership literature. Kind of like the books that I referenced earlier and no strings attached. Just enjoy that for yourself. And if that's enough to move you forward, great. If you want some more specific coaching individual for you tailored to your needs, that's available too. But yeah, check out the website. Adaptingleaders dot com.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Awesome. Head on over there. If you need help. Adaptingleaders dot com Thank you so much, Jerry, for taking the time to be here. So it's a fantastic conversation. For those listening watching, thank you for doing so. If you are struggling with certain parts of your marketing, you're not sure what the next right step is. You've been trying different tactics and nothing seems to work, head on over to our website at Rialto Marketing dot com. That's R-I-A-L-T-O Marketing dot com. Click on the Get a Free Consultation button. Guarantee you will get a ton of value from that call and walk away way knowing what your next right steps need to be. Till next time. Take care.


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