Magazine article New Zealand Management

Coming in from the Cold

Magazine article New Zealand Management

Coming in from the Cold

Article excerpt

Conflict is a bit like cooking--at least in terms of temperature range. If the temperature is too hot (shouting and aggression), everyone gets burned; too cold and you have to stoke the fire or nothing gets cooked.

Mark Gerzon often starts his workshops with a bit of fire-stoking--getting people to name and act out the conflicts happening in their organisation. In corporate climates and in New Zealand's culture they're apt to be a bit on the cool side.

"You need to heat it up a bit. I get people to rehearse and perform their conflict scenarios, then show how they could use a specific set of tools to handle them differently. What happens is that people find the most inefficient parts of the organisation can be turned into opportunities for real effectiveness--if they're willing to dive into the conflict and transform it."

An American mediation specialist who has worked as facilitator and leadership trainer for the United Nations and US House of Representatives as well as a host of private and public sector organisations around the world, Gerzon has been hailed by the New York Times as an expert in 'civil discourse'.

In New Zealand as a guest of Excelerator's NZ Leadership Institute (University of Auckland) and The Centre for the Study of Leadership (Victoria University) he says most adults are conflict illiterate. Few have had any training in conflict resolution and lack the tools to deal with it effectively.

That at a time when the need has never been greater. As the world gets smaller, differences seem to loom larger and we increasingly need leaders who can "lead across boundaries", turning conflict into opportunity, says Gerzon.

Often that means letting go of attachment--to one particular way of seeing things, to being right--or even to harbouring the notion that you might have all the answers. Most situations leaders deal with today are "inherently overwhelming", says Gerzon.

"So when they say I've got to figure this out--I've got to lead this company--I've got to take us through this crisis, they think they're showing dedication to solving the problem but they're actually part of the problem. Or that T at the beginning of the sentence is.

"The truth is they probably can't--and that's their own blind spot. What I say is 'how do we work together to solve this' because I believe the intelligence you need to solve some of the conflicts we have today doesn't just come from one person. …

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