Monday, December 28, 2009

Conflict is Good

The title of my book — Say Hello to the Elephants — was inspired by the reaction most people have to conflict. That is, they sit on their hands and refuse to acknowledge it. I was thinking about this during a team meeting with my managers, some of whom refuse to criticize the named partners at Rose, Snyder, & Jacobs.

Conflict in any organization is important, I told them. What I failed to add is that conflict in any relationship is important. To be clear, conflict doesn’t mean that you hate a person or hold grudges. It means that you simply have an inquisitive mind and ask questions when we see them dangling before us. It means that you have the courage to look at each other and say what is honest. It means that you do what you should be doing and, when something doesn’t seem right, you speak up.

In other words: If you leave an elephant in a room, it will not go away. In fact, according to Ellen James of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, an adult elephant produces up to three hundred pounds of dung a day. If you ignore an elephant too long, you will quickly find out what it is like to walk through a pile of elephant dung.

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