Part 3 of my week-long Incredible Leadership Series.
As IncrediDad, it’s my job to lead Boy Wonder as he trains for life’s greatest adventures. But what if our family couldn’t conquer a baby meltdown or the morning routine because daddy had a bad attitude? That brings me to today’s Incredible Leadership Lesson – Three Ways I Handle Conflict, Bad Attitudes, and difficult people. You can read the first two lessons here and here.
What if a superhero team like Marvel’s The Avengers couldn’t come together to defeat Loki because one of them had a bad attitude? When earth was threatened, Hawkeye, Hulk, Iron Man, Black Widow, Captain America, and Thor, must come together to defeat the trickster god. But it almost didn’t happen. They couldn’t stop arguing, couldn’t see things from from a different point of view, or they refused to set their egos aside for the greater good.
So what do you do when it’s not a super villain that’s imposing imminent doom but an argument over who changed Boy Wonder last, tempers are short because he refuses to sleep, or just a plain old every day meltdown is threatening the peace in your home?
Marriage, Fatherhood, Leadership, and Superhero-ing, are enjoyable when everyone is on the same page with what I say and do. That’s the easy part. A lot of the times, that just isn’t the case. When I find myself in a disagreement with someone the following three steps help me keep a clear head as I work towards resolving the issue:
1.) Respect – Remember, it all starts with that golden rule- Respect. I cannot stress enough that everything I talk about in the rest of this article can only work if you come at it from a place of respect for everyone involved.
From here on out, let’s think of respect as your very own arc reactor. Remember that glowing piece of hardware in Iron Man’s chest? If you don’t, here’s a link to a Wikipedia description. Go ahead, read it, educate, and we’ll catch up with you in a second . . . Oh good you’re back! So, now you know that Tony Stark cant be alive without the arc reactor, let alone be a super hero, just like you can’t use your IncrediPowers without first having respect for the other person. So it’s fitting that this lifesaving piece of hardware is stuck in Tony’s chest, because, respect starts in the heart and helps put our heads in the right place.
2.) Listen to understand first, be understood later – Since you respect the other person so much, then it’s no problem for you to keep your mouth shut and listen to them. Let them vent. Listen carefully to what they are saying. Are they mad at you or are they mad at the situation? Do they want you to take action or just listen? Humans tell each other a lot, so long as we are willing to listen to understand. Once you know where the other person is coming from, you free yourself up to . . .
3.) Focus on the problem, not the personality – Focus on the result, rather than on how the person is making you feel. Ask yourself the question, “What’s the common goal we are working towards?” Probably the hardest thing of all for me; try to ignore the things they do that get on your nerves. When someone knows how to push my buttons I can lose my temper pretty quickly. Trust me, it’s not very Incredible. But what if I was wrong about their intentions? What if they weren’t trying to push my buttons at all but instead, they just communicate differently than I do? Well, remember that intentions can be misinterpreted. So don’t fall into the trap of telling yourself that the other person is aggravating you on purpose. Instead, think of that person as an ally. In the big picture, you both started out working towards a mutual goal. Refocus and find common ground again. When everyone is working towards the same goal it makes resolving conflict much simpler. So remember IncrediDads, focus on facts not fiction.
Bonus Tip: It’s okay to admit you were wrong, as long as you’re willing to learn from your mistake. – Wives, employees, and sidekicks are all more inclined to respect your leadership if you’re humble enough admit your own mistakes and ask them for help. Trust me, it’s not a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of trust, the same trust that you want them to have in you.
Now, let’s go back to our Avengers example from the beginning of this article and put all this advice into action. Whether you’re assembling a new team, like the Avengers, or adding on to an existing one, like having a child, everyone will bring something different to the table. Sometimes these personalities will mesh perfectly together like Hawkeye and Black Widow or they will clash like Captain America and Iron Man. No matter what, it’s an opportunity to learn from each other. It takes a tragedy, the death of a mutual friend, to get all the superheros to find some respect for each other, listen to each other’s opinions on the matter, and finally refocus their combined efforts to defeat Loki and his bloodthirsty alien army. Tony thought he could do it all on his own. It took almost getting sucked into a wormhole but he was finally able to admit that they couldn’t have saved the world without teamwork.
On a smaller but no less important scale, when conflict arises at home, Bex and I find that when we act as a team we aren’t just solving a problem, we are bolstering the strength of our marriage and our family. It’s like they said in Avengers: Age Of Ultron –
Ironman: “We’re the Avengers…how do we cope with something like that?”
Captain America: “Together.”