Management Styles: Do You Prefer Fight, Flight or Freeze
It’s Saturday and I am getting work done for next week since I will be presenting a workshop at HBA (Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association) on Thursday and Friday. I’ll be discussing one of my favorite topics, how to transform conflict.
Most management and leadership theories don’t really get to the heart of the matter. They don’t go back far enough to find those thorny seeds that grow and grow as we grow. Years of research and helping change corporate cultures from bristly to better has made me confident that unless we travel back in time we are prone to repeat behaviors over and over and over.
I believe the best business strategies begin with a solid platform of self-aware leaders who have done their personal work. Management skills that offer ways to connect the dots from what we learned in our original organization, the family to how we respond in our present organization, give us the ammunition to move from angry to accountable in warp speed.
I’d like to illustrate with the story of a man I was asked to coach recently.
Ralph, a VP of sales was in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was in the office locker room changing into his running shorts and sneakers, when there was a loud bang and a huge red hot flame was coming toward him. He made himself into a ball and knew he was going to die. What seemed like an eternity passed and when he stood up there was destruction everywhere.
He shook himself, relieved that there were no broken bones as he walked through what had previously been a wall onto a parking lot. Lots of commotion; police and firemen were standing helpless. The gas leak had come and gone in the blink of an eye.
Initially Ralph was frozen. He was in post-traumatic shock. And he was angry. Angry because there was concern that he may have caused the explosion. A non-smoker he was questioned over and over, even asked to take a polygraph test, which he passed with flying colors.
The few burns on his face were healing. The damage was mostly emotional. Ralph refused to talk with his boss who had requested the polygraph test. He said he did not think he would ever return to this company, not because of the accident, but because they didn’t believe him.
When I suggested that at the right time we could have a meeting with his boss he just stared at me. “Look Sylvia, they only care about the money, about what happened. I’m just a secondary idea, especially since I did not have major physical difficulties. I’m expendable.”
At some point I asked how tough situations were handled when he was growing up. He shrugged and said, “Same as now, someone would be blamed and then it would be ignored. No one ever really talked about anything. I left home for college and never looked back.”
It has taken time for Ralph to even consider talking with his boss. Yet, he is learning that fight, flight, and freeze never move conflict forward. A meeting has been set up for the two men to talk. I’m hopeful. I keep telling both men to remember a phrase from a Rumi poem “Somewhere between right and wrong there is a field, I’ll meet you there.”
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