Skip to content
Conflict Resolution Tips and Blog

Why Bold Leadership Leads People Into the Storm

A friend reached out to talk with me about a powerful leadership opportunity that had been handed to her unexpectedly. She signed on to be second in command but was suddenly handed the job of head leader in charge. She was afraid, but gong forward anyway. She reached out, because she knew that she was walking into a storm and she wanted to develop a leadership strategy for navigating it and making sure that everyone not only survived, but thrived under her leadership.

Bold leadership recognizes the need to choose to lead into and through the storm.

In the last few months, hurricanes have been wrecking havoc and changing livelihoods and lives everywhere they have hit. Even with preparations, tremendous damage still gets done and people look to leaders to help them through. Unfortunately, in business when it comes to conflict, most leaders are not prepared at the start and often let it build into a storm and then are left to watch as it grows into a full blown hurricane. At this point, most leaders want to run and hide or at least go someplace and scream, “Why Me????”

Getting to the other side with everyone intact and ready to sail the ship to safe, happy and productive shores together requires a leader who knows how to L.E.A.D.I.N. to the storm.

Level With Yourself. You are in a storm, there is no getting out of it because as the leader, unless you inherited it you likely played a role in causing it. Whether you avoided it or ignited it, it is happening on your watch and now
you have to not just handle it, but handle it with skill. Admit your fear to yourself. Conflict is scary. Few people like it, most avoid it and now that you know where you are, it’s time to level with yourself about something else.
How much do you really know about going forward straight into conflict and making it better and not worse? As leaders, our skill level in this area varies and being truthful with yourself is the first step. Do I need some real
expertise to advise me? Coaching, courses or a mentor? If none of this is available and the moment is right now then…

Embrace Resistance. Understand that both relief and resistance usually exist within a storm. People are afraid, angry, resentful, confused, unsure and a whole host of other emotions and they are tossing them all in your
direction. As much as they want the conflicts involved to be resolved, they also have their own reasons for holding on to their way of participating in them. By embracing resistance, you are fully expecting it and can prepare
yourself to listen through it to what is happening on a deeper level for people. Resistance isn’t personal against you, but is personal for those involved. They need their questions answered, their fears heard and their
requests validated through deep listening.

Account For Your Own Actions. Resolving conflicts in the midst of a storm requires leadership to be able to look within to where your triggers lie and prepare yourself to be triggered because your staff, your team or your
colleagues are in reaction mode and leadership needs to be ready to respond rather than react. Being triggered will cause us to react, understanding our triggers and their roots puts us on the road to being calm enough to prepare an appropriate response. If as the leader you are confronted with how your actions contributed or even blew stuff up, consider the possibility that there is truth there, perhaps you got triggered, if so own it and begin to….

Determine a Course of Action. Looking at the damage done and going for the easier fixes first can only be successful if you start to work on a course of action to resolve the larger conflicts. Involve all voices and consider as
many solutions as possible before you determine the plan to move forward together.

Implement Your First Set of Actions. Leading transparently throughout the storm is critical to keeping everyone on board, together and connected to you, each other and the solutions proposed. Clearly you are the leader and
if you want them to follow, they need you to let them in on as much as you can about what the plan is and how it will be implemented and their importance in it.

Navigate, Negotiate, Navigate. It’s a dance even if you don’t like conflict or dancing. You take a few steps forward and one step back. Everyone is not going to like everything, but being the Bold Leader that you are, listening and negotiating your way through the more difficult issues allows you to find out what is in the way and reshape the plan so that you can continue to navigate your way through the storm to resolutions that will allow everyone
to rebuild together.

If you are looking for the right way to build the Leadership C.O.R.E. muscles you need to be the kind of leader that can L.E.A.D.I.N. to Conflict and communicate more powerfully, professionally and productively, then I invite
you to check out my new Leadership C.O.R.E. Program.

The Need for “Grownup” Leadership – Why Childhood Lessons Still Count

I ran into a friend who started working for a new company since I last saw her a year ago. Her job puts her in contact with leaders from several
departments regularly.

Her conversation with me was all about what she was observing about the difference in leadership styles and the effect they were having not only on
her ability to perform the tasks of her job, but also on her emotional well-being.

As a mother, she was comparing their styles of operation to the life skills and lessons that she was trying to impress on her teenage son daily.
Unfortunately, she was discouraged by the kind of leadership that she has to sit under. The more she talked, the more interested I became in her
analogy to getting her teenager to move toward adulthood and acting like a grown up and the leaders she was faced with daily.

I thought about the kind of leadership we are seeing today in all areas of life and about the life lessons that were impressed on me growing up.
Being a parent and a former teacher, I am familiar with the lessons that are still being impressed upon our young people today and wonder how much
impact the models of leadership they see are having on them.

As I began to focus on the basic lessons that are important as teens develop in to grownups, three things kept ringing true.

1. You Don’t Have to Respond to Everything Bad Someone Says About You

In other words, sometimes you just have to ignore what people say. With the popularity of social media, in particular Twitter, we are seeing
leaders in every arena “clapping back” at every remark harder and faster. Just the opposite of what we are trying to teach our budding young adults
to do. Real leadership requires a higher skill level around managing feelings, triggers and reactions. People are often unhappy sitting under the
leadership of a person who doesn’t know how to walk away or who just cannot let a remark go unanswered.

2. Do Unto Others As You Would Have Others Do Unto You

The golden rule which exists in a similar form in almost every culture and language is still something that is taught starting in childhood. The best leaders who create climates where people feel respected and cared about are those where leaders live by this rule. These leaders don’t name-call, scream, berate and intimidate their staff in order to get them to fear them and produce more. They know that the very things that they hate being done to them are the things that will cause resentment, dissatisfaction and a desire to leave the company.

3. Keep Your Word

Your word is your bond. It is all you really have. It is still a principle that sets leadership apart. In order to adhere to this principle, a leader has to be discerning. They have to think hard about what they want to give their word to because people will remember. Leadership that inspires loyalty and high productivity begins and ends with a leader who keeps their word to their team, their followers and their loved ones. Yes, leaders who understand that these days when the world can follow your every move, the separation between business and personal is getting smaller and smaller, don’t save principled behavior just for the office.

As more businesses reap the results of ineffective leadership, it seems to be turning out that childhood lessons aren’t just for childhood.

The Sandwich – The 4 Ingredients That Make This Conflict Easier to Swallow

I’m not a fan of sandwiches, but I grew up during a time when a cartoon character became famous for his. They were called, Dagwoods and they were piled high with every kind of meat, cheese and condiment that you could imagine. This sandwich was piled high over his head. That seems to be an accurate description for the life of those in my generation and even a decade younger.

We are caretakers for our elderly parents while still raising our children, the double decker sandwich. Some of us are helping to raise grandchildren or taking care of parents and grandparents while still having to raise children, which is known as the triple decker. Either way, the common feeling I have heard expressed is “in over our heads.”

It is a lot to comprehend, schedule, manage and wrap your brain around. It can be overwhelming. This kind of lifestyle invites conflict pretty easily and sometimes unexpectedly.

When my dad was in his late seventies, he was living on his own, dating (like you wouldn’t believe), driving his own car and was very active in his church and the neighborhood. My sister and I started noticing some memory issues that we held family meetings to address, but my dad was still having a full life, including enjoying his three grandchildren. One night, he had a stomachache and we took him to the emergency room. He was immediately admitted to ICU and sedated. When he finally came out of sedation three days later, he was in full blown dementia.

In a matter of three days, all of our lives had completely changed. My sister and I were now responsible for him and all of his affairs just like that.

I have watched numerous friends and family navigate similar situations and almost drown in them. The stress, the tension and the conflicts can threaten to shatter the best relationships. So, it is important to be prepared even if you are already in this sandwich.

Here’s the four necessary ingredients for being able to digest all of this:

1. Address The Fear of What If

Yes, no one wants to deal with what if, but the truth is that on top of all the stress you already have, you will have so much more if you don’t. This means, get all of their paperwork in order now. Insurance, medical, wills and yes even funeral services. There I said it. The worst is out there. Straight talk helps. My dad was more than willing to write up his funeral service a decade before we needed it.

2. Enlist Help

You are not the only person going through this no matter how bad your story. My friend Terri V. White at shares that in her work, there are so many stories out there and most of them involving people not reaching out for help or reaching out when they are so exhausted they can barely function. Getting help and information is important even before this happens to you.

3. Expect Opposition

Whatever is happening in your life, you can expect your children to push back, because there is not enough of you to go around. You can expect opposition from your parents and/or grandparents, because change is scary and losing independence is humiliating.

4. Schedule In Me Time

No matter what, something has to give. Learn to say no even when it is hard. Schedule time for yourself everyday and be upfront about it. It is not selfish. It is urgent care for you. If you are not doing well, then everyone suffers.

We are living lives that are very different from our parents and if you are not there yet, then get a jump on this because you will be one day. Handling these kinds of conflicts require skills, patience and preparation, but even with that there can be enjoyment. Just like that sandwich that Dagwood prepared. He knew that on top of everything he put in it that put it over his head, the main ingredient was love.

Family conflicts can be hard to deal with. That’s why I created The Soul of Conflict: Creating Peace In The Family Series. It starts March 27th and I would love to have you join us. Invest in yourself and your family now. Go to

Is Teaching Social and Emotional Skills Without Diversity Just Another Name For Respectability Politics?

A year ago a colleague questioned me as to whether I thought that teaching predominantly poor African American and Latino children (my primary youth audience), the skills of conflict resolution, communication and managing emotions bordered on respectability politics. My knee-jerk reaction was, “No, of course not. These are vital skills for success and staying alive in a world that is set up to limit their access to the people and places that can help them live up to their full potential.”

Her question rattled me enough to explore the numerous articles that had begun to surface on this very topic. Folks were not just questioning, but denouncing ideas like grit, character development, managing emotions and conflict resolution skills, because rather than creating safe and respectful environments, they are teaching children from marginalized communities that there is something wrong with who they are and how they behave. Respectability politics at work in their eyes.

In the article, “The Definition, Danger and Disease of Respectability Politics Explained,” Damon Young explains that respectability politics is “generally defined as what happens when minority and/or marginalized groups are told (or teach themselves) that in order to receive better treatment from the group in power, they must behave better.” What does it say that many of the schools that are implementing the very specific skills of managing emotion and effective communication skills are public schools where black and brown and poor students are the predominant demographic?

There is a definite influence that culture has on everything from communication to expressing emotions. Is getting us all on the same page in the way that we communicate a way of passing judgment on the quieter and more observant nature of most Asian populations and the more expressive and emotional communication style of African American and Latino populations? The tension that rises in the room when diversity is on the agenda often betrays the need to discuss the pushback against these skills that is beginning to surface in numerous articles.

I love what I do, but the questions being raised are important enough in my view to consider. For right now, I am choosing to continue reading and to take it all in. I would love to read what you have to say about it.

Read the connection between these skills and education and corporate America in my latest Psychology Today article.


Breaking Culture: 3 Things I’ve Learned. Why Is Everybody Looking Down?

1. Respect, we all agree?

Respect is a funny thing. Whenever I deliver a workshop, webinar or talk and we get to the place where we briefly pause to make community agreements together, respect hits the board quickly. Then I get what I call the “Amen Chorus”, everyone shaking their head in agreement and essentially saying, “Yes, that’s right. I agree.”

I Have A Crick In My Neck.


The truth is…

Respect means different things to different people and when you throw culture in the mix it can all look so different.


Years back, while conducting an all-day training for a very diverse group of adults, I was talking about this very topic. One man raised his hand and said, “Whew, I am so glad we are talking about this. I am from Pakistan and in my country you are considered an authority. So I must look down to show respect, but then I remember that I am in America. So I must look up to show you respect. I have been moving my head up and then down because it is not easy to break culture.

2. Oops! I’m Breaking “Your Custom”

It is impossible to live in such an eclectic society without running into conflict over customs that are held dear and impenetrable. Our rituals, languages, religions and celebrations all give cause for joyous coming together as well as tense conflict.

Asking folks to change long held customs and beliefs is akin to requesting that they detach limbs in many cases and yet folks are indeed asking.


Independence Day Celebration Contradiction


I experienced a thought-provoking dilemma over the weekend. In the moment of a huge firework celebration in Texas where everything is done bigger, a friend who is in the military, based there for now, took to Facebook Live in tears. She made an impassioned plea to all Americans that they consider the veterans in their planning of local fireworks displays and celebrations. With each loud popping noise she was experiencing PTSD. She wanted folks to know that this is real for thousands of military personnel.

An American cultural staple was causing extreme conflict for the very people who put their lives on the line so that we could celebrate “the reason for the season.” (Those of us who celebrate it, but that is a cultural conflict story for another blog). This is an entry-way into a rich discussion on breaking culture. Last time I checked she had over 8,000 views and hundreds of comments.

3. I Shalt Not Offend Because Everything Is Offensive

One of the most popular complaints I hear from cultural gatekeepers on down to folks who “just don’t want to say the wrong thing” is everything one says is offensive to somebody these days. Well, not really.

While the waters of culture and context may be challenging to navigate, there’s nothing that thoughtful inquiry, conversation, deep listening and ongoing pulling together and working to understand each other won’t cure.


But very little of that is going on these days because fear, not the cat, has our collective tongues.

I Love Lucy, No Really, I Love Lucy.


I read the most interesting 25 facts about the “I Love Lucy” show. The most fascinating one stated that during the episodes that included Lucy’s pregnancy, the scripts had to be approved by a priest, a minister and a rabbi in order not to offend anyone. That could have stopped them, but they went full speed ahead with their message of humor in everyday life, because they knew that it was bringing people together. Desi and Lucy were big on breaking culture.

Cultural shifts and breaks are happening everywhere, most rapidly in this country, even as we still face some of the same social issues that have been present for a century. The resistance that is rising up to meet these is only as strong as our fear of deeply understanding each other.