Coach's VIEW

Coach's VIEW is a business column authored by executive coaches in COACH A, aimed at providing valuable insights and effective approaches for leveraging coaching to foster organizational and leadership development. The column draws on the latest coaching trends and data, as well as insights from notable global publications on coaching.

Immature Conflict

Immature Conflict
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Sales vs. Management, On-site vs. Headquarters, Research vs. Development. All of these are common conflicting structures in organizations. Why are there oppositions within the same company? It is easy to say, "Conflict is necessary, and on top of that, we should promote more interdepartmental collaboration." However, I think that not all conflicting structures in organizations are obvious or fully opposing parties. I have experienced this firsthand.

Conflict Arises Silently

After leaving an auditing firm, I studied abroad in order to obtain a professional certification in beauty. I was given the opportunity to become the head of the corporate planning department of a beauty company upon my return to Japan. As I had been a customer of the company for a long time, I knew well the skills of the people on the frontline and how wonderful the customer service is. In addition to obtaining my professional certification, I thought, "I know the business on-site and the techniques, and no one else is as qualified as I am for this job" and I was feeling somewhat arrogant. At the same time, I was truly happy to be involved in the business of beauty.

The majority of my work as a corporate planner involves indicating strict policies and giving cumbersome instructions to the operating team, such as "do xx", to solve issues and manage targets to achieve the mid-term plan and annual budget. I believed that this work supports the frontline, yet the frontline division managers seemed to feel that "'She has only joined the company recently and has no idea what is going on at the frontline, but she is such a bossy person pointing out matters from the top." Recognizing these feelings from the division managers, I avoided talking directly with them as much as possible.

As I took charge of launching a business that I had spent three years preparing for, there was an incident that brought the conflict that I had been feeling for some time to the surface.

My Mind Turns Blank as Conflicts Surface

When opening a new store as a new business, we had to transfer some skilled technicians from an existing store. The cooperation of the division managers was essential, but from their perspective, it was a sudden transfer of the most valuable resources from their store. Although it was company procedures, it was obvious that this was an unacceptable decision for the managers.

I had a strong desire to make the new business successful. However, at the same time, I wished to avoid friction with the operating divisions. Nevertheless, I understood the difficulties of starting up a new business without experienced technicians, and my feelings were wavering.

The day of the meeting with the division managers approached with such feelings. Perhaps sensing the tense atmosphere, the head of the Corporate Administration Division joined us at the meeting. In a large conference room, four division managers sat on one side of the room, and two of us, the general manager and myself, sat on the opposing side. The atmosphere was filled with coldness and there was a sense of distance as if we would never be able to reach the other side. In the silent conference room, I began my explanation in a nonchalant manner.

"Why do we have to hold this meeting in the first place? Why don't we just tell them what the policy is and have them comply with it?" I had such thoughts in my mind.

As if she could see my thoughts, one of the division managers suddenly shouted out in anger, "You've got to be kidding me! You have no idea how seriously we have been working. Do you really have any idea how much of a trouble it is on the frontlines to have people pulled out of the division? I can't accept your explanation with such a cool expression. Why should we cooperate with you when we have to suffer?" This division manager is the most experienced and powerful leader in the field, managing hundreds of on-site staff. She exclaimed and left the conference room in tears and anger.

It was the first time I faced such strong emotions at work. I was so astonished that I stopped thinking, my body temperature drastically dropped, and my mind went blank. I remember I felt nauseous and could not stop shaking.

What Did We Want to Obtain?

We all have pride in the work that we do. We do our best at our work every day. It is not something that can be easily replaced by anyone else, and we spend a lot of time on it.

It is not easy to say, "You will understand if you put yourself in the other person's shoes" or on the contrary, you might even think, " No one will ever understand me." When people with such professionalism enter into a confrontational situation, what do they ultimately hope to obtain from each other?

Is it the achievement of your division's goals and the recognition?
Is it pride in being the best?
What is the purpose of us coming together and working together in an organization?

I regretted what I had done at that moment. She had laid bare her emotions and had seriously challenged to have a conflict, but I pretended to be indifferent with a blunt expression. "I want to do this business seriously, too!". "I really need your help!". I could not communicate such passion and request without running away. I left the conflict in an immature state by not facing her head-on. I am left with bitter regret.

What did we want to attain by crying, getting angry, and vomiting at that moment?

Now that I have become a coach, I look back on the moment and realize that we both loved the beauty-related work, loved the company, wanted our clients to become beautiful, and wanted to love the technicians who were making it happen, and wanted to achieve something that would make all those who were involved feel happy.

To Achieve Beyond the Conflict

What do we really want to achieve?
What are we doing this work for?
Could we achieve greater results or a different future by working together?

If I had exchanged views with her on these questions from a broader perspective, instead of focusing only on what was in front of us, we might have had a different future.
When I think about it, I feel that it was a pity.

Conflict is never pleasant. It is best to maintain a peaceful relationship without disturbance and, if possible, to avoid exchanges that cause emotional turmoil. However, in order to move into the future while preventing an organization from stagnating and innovating in a rapidly changing environment, there will always be times when meaningful conflict is necessary. Yet, even though we understand it in our minds, conflict is not accepted or overcome easily.

If I had had a coach at that time, what changes would have been made?
A presence that would face the struggle of "I know, but I can't do it," together with the client. That is the kind of coach I want to be now.

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Language: Japanese

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