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Podcast Transcript

My Way Or The Highway

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  0:10  
Welcome to "Your Authentic Path to Powerful Leadership" with Marsha Clark. Join us on this journey where we're uncovering what it takes to be a powerful woman leader. Well Marsha, we're back for Episode Two in our six part series on Managing Conflict and Enriching Relationships. And I just want to remind our listeners, these episodes are all based on chapter nine of your book, "Embracing Your Power". And we're taking time on this podcast to kind of dissect that chapter one section at a time.

Marsha Clark  0:48  
Yes, we are. And so thank you very much, Wendi. And hopefully our listeners caught last week's first episode in the series, which was "Denial Ain't Just a River", where we introduced the Thomas/Killman model which serves as the basis for our work here and our talk here and the foundation that I use in both programming and in the book around managing conflict.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  1:10  
Yes, managing conflict. Wow, we spent quite a bit of time upfront setting up the two axes of the model and how those interplay, or how the interplay between them creates five different conflict response modes.

Marsha Clark  1:26  
That's right. And for just a very quick review, as a refresher for those who did not, were not able to listen last week, or haven't yet, I offer that up, or those who just want to jump right into today's episode, the two axes on the model reflect each of our varying degrees of assertiveness and cooperativeness, from low to high on each axes. And then depending on where we fall on those two lines, so to speak, we tend to approach conflict from a preferred approach of either avoiding, which was last week's focus, or accommodating, compromising, collaborating, or competing,

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  2:07  
Competing. Yeah, that kind of feels like today's environment. So I'm guessing that's our focus for today since our title is "My Way or The Highway".

Marsha Clark  2:18  
Wendi, nothing gets past you! So yes, today's focus is on the Competing approach, which falls at the high end of assertiveness and the low end of cooperativeness.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  2:30  
Okay, so here's my first question on that conflict mode. In this chapter in "Embracing Your Power", chapter nine, when you set up the model, you add that overlay or filter of relationships versus results. So compete based on your overlay would be high on achieving results and low on relationships. Correct?

Marsha Clark  2:55  
You're absolutely right. And so this particular conflict mode of competing is about laser like focus because you're set on getting a very specific outcome, and it's a strong desire to achieve a specific result. And so in practical terms, it means that I think this particular result is so important that I'm willing to do what I often refer to as damage repair work on our relationship, because I think that's necessary, or it's a choice I'm willing to make in order to achieve what I think is the best result. And so that's where the low on cooperativeness, right, so I'm low on the relationship side of this and high on the results aspect of the two axes.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  3:45  
Okay, I want to just kind of double check something real quick. Damage repair, do you mean that after the conflict?

Marsha Clark  3:52  
Um, what I mean by that is that I know that if I stand strong, okay, in what I think and I'm rather immovable, which is what comes out is "my way or the highway". (Yep.) That I'm willing to say to you, I know this is in, you know, specific contrast or, you know, it's the other end of what you think is the right thing to do. And yet I still, I want to tell you why I feel so strong.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  4:21  
Okay, got it. So you're talking about damage repair, maybe even within conflict itself, okay. When I say damage repair, I think of like coming back in afterwards and whatever. Okay, so that makes sense from a model perspective. I mean, but it sounds harsh.

Marsha Clark  4:35  
Yeah, it does. It can sound harsh, especially without any context around it, which is where sort of this this particular competing mode can get a bad reputation. I mean, it can have a negative valance. But what I want to say to our listeners, we said it last week, we'll say it every week we're talking about this is every single one of these response modes is effective and appropriate when it's used at the right time. So it's quite relevant and there are circumstances, situations, scenarios where it is the best approach. And I'm gonna go back to one of our foundational elements, which is knowing what tool to use when and competing is a tool in your toolkit.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  5:15  
Exactly. And that's why we do these episodes to help people understand and remember the tools in the toolkit and understand how putting results over relationships can even be remotely a good thing.

Marsha Clark  5:30  
Right. And, and let me add one other thing here is, as always, it's all things in moderation, right? I mean, this balanced approach, so I'm not advocating that this compete is a winner takes all kind of approach or conflict approach is best all the time. You know, I often think about the when you're a hammer, everything looks like a nail. So that's what this reminds me of. But the five conflicts or modes are all situational. And there's a time and place for each one, and they can be highly effective. So you know, last week, we discussed how the avoid mode can be used very deliberately and skillfully. And the same is true for compete. And just like we don't advocate the overuse of avoid, or any of the five, you know, where you might be constantly hiding out from conflict, we don't recommend this opposite end of the insertive of the assertiveness axes as your go to mode for all conflicts either. So all five are a tool in our toolkit. And I do want to add one more thing that I think is really important connected to what you just said, Wendi, because I want I don't want our listeners to get the wrong idea. I believe and honestly, my experience as a leader and a coach reinforces this belief, that when I deliberately choose the right conflict mode for the situation and I skillfully execute that approach, I do end up building good relationships. So when even the use of compete, when appropriate, can end up strengthening relationships because it doesn't mean I didn't listen to your side of the story or your perspective even if it was contradictory. We do it respectfully. It's not a you know, fist slamming, four letter word, spit coming out of my mouth kind of conversation.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  7:25  
Right. Exactly. And I agree that the context and the conditions for this compete approach is really important. And I love how you explain it in the book about the importance of intention here also. So good. So positioning something is, okay, yes, my opinion is competing with yours but we are all in agreement that our goal is this goal for which is a bigger goal, a bigger good than what we're competing about.

Marsha Clark  7:53  
So I'm going to purposely read from the book because I was very careful in how I wrote about this. And to me, this is a huge, I repeat huge differentiator, because intention is just as important as the situation and the skill level. So from the book, here's what I write: "The competing conflict response is an effective strategy when I believe that my idea, my position, or my recommendation is the most effective or useful one (and here's the kicker) in service to the client, the market or the organization." Parenthetically, you did not see what is most useful or to me. So I want to call out what's not there as well. So it is about intentions. And if your solution is in service to something bigger, as you said, it's seen as effective, and I'm doing it, the other person understands my good intentions, not my self serving rather than my self serving intentions. Because if it's seen as you pushing your own agenda for your own personal gain or benefit, others are going to likely view it negatively. And that quite honestly is what leads to the tagline of my way or the highway, right? We know those people, you know, and in other words, I want what I want and I'm not willing to consider any other alternatives. You know, hopefully I have done my homework to really and truly believe that I've looked at options and this is the best one so and I'll also share with our listeners that and when I'm teaching this in our programs, I ask the participants if they've ever worked for or with someone who in their mind reflected this tagline, you know, my way or the highway and boy, the hands go up and they go up fast. There's like, yeah, right. We all know those people. And then what's always fun is I ask them how many people might of said the same thing about them, right,  the ones that are waving their hands going I know that person. And you know, it's interesting, a few hands will you know will slowly go up and it's typically accompanied by some nervous laughter going on, yeah, I might be one of those people, you know kind of thing. And so again, I caution our listeners, it's the overuse that you want to watch out.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  10:11  
Yeah, I can see how that's possible knowing what I know about the model and about this content. So let's dig into this compete mode and examine how and when it makes sense to focus on results. And well, basically just get things done using those compete skills. (All right.) All right. So for our listeners who have maybe had this conflict mode overused on them, and have a negative opinion of compete, I think it would be really helpful for them to hear a few of the situations where this really is an ideal approach to managing conflict. So if you're somebody who can be, it has been overused on, Marsha offers three examples in the book that would be great to share here.

Marsha Clark  11:01  
So for those of you who have the book, this information starts on page 266 if you're following along. And so the three are: if I need to take quick action, two, if I need to make unpopular decisions, and as a leader we sometimes and more times maybe than we'd like to have to make some unpopular decisions, or if I'm standing up for a vital issue.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  11:29  
Okay, so on taking quick action, you explained that it's important as a leader to be able to make decisions on your own, especially in a time crunch situation, or when you don't have all the information you need, but you still have to take action.

Marsha Clark  11:45  
That's right. And so as leaders, we're constantly expected to make decisions, take action and achieve results all the time, every day, many times a day. And in the case of pulling your compete tool from your toolkit, this is crucial in situations that require your immediate attention and action, you drop everything else you're doing, you gotta do it. Yep, yep. And I really like the example of an airline attendant. Many of us, many of our listeners, you know, are road warriors, as we call them. And for those of us who have racked up, you know, those hundreds of 1000's of frequent flyer miles, we're all too familiar with the safety presentation (we could say it in our sleep because we've heard it so many times) that's provided before every single flight. And this is the one that starts with "In case of an emergency landing...

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  12:32  
Yes...put your oxygen mask on yourself first before others.

Marsha Clark  12:38  
So it doesn't take a minute for that to come to you. And if we really are in an emergency situation on that flight and we do have to, you know, make an emergency evacuation, the last thing I'm looking for is a flight attendant who's collaborating with passengers on the best solution to exiting the plane. What do you think we should do? Yeah. And you know, who's not accommodating the passengers who insist on well, I gotta get my bag out of the overhead. No, you don't, we're about to crash, right? You know, and this is not the time to pull a taskforce together or do a bunch of research. You drop whatever you're doing and you take action, and there's no questions asked.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  13:15  
Yeah, so true. I want the flight crew to jump straight into "my way or the highway" mode for sure and open that door. I mean, it's non negotiable. And that's a really good example. So the second example you give of when to use the compete mode is in making an unpopular decision. Tell us more about that.

Marsha Clark  13:36  
Yeah, and this is a frequent one, you know, one of the, I describe it as one of the more dreaded aspects of being a leader and you're, you know, you're gonna have to make a decision that's not going to please everyone. And so the fallout of some of these decisions could be anything from requiring mandatory overtime, working weekends to meet a deadline or cutting the budget or even restructuring, you know, resulting in a loss of jobs. And, you know, we've either done it, we've been, you know, a part of it because it's impacted us. And rest assured you hopefully considered every other alternative or possibility before arriving at such a position. And yet you have to move forward based on whether it be contractual commitments, regulatory, legal requirements, and in most cases, even the ongoing future of the organization based on achieving certain financial results. And the other thing I say about this one, too, is even if you signed up knowing that you're going to occasionally have to work overtime or on your birthday or on Christmas or you know, whatever else that might be, it's still hard when it's your, when your time is up. And the other thing I just want to say I remember coming back into, I was working for the vice chair at EDS at the time and for those listeners who know him, it was Jeff Heller. And he had just asked me to make some, well we were going through something hard, and I came back in, and I said, Oh, this job is so hard. And he looked at me and he goes, and that's why they pay us the bigger bucks. And, you know, it can be a flippant comment or something like that and yet, it gave me pause, and I went, you know, that's exactly right. People think leaders just have it so easy and they get to do whatever they want to. No, It's hard decisions.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  15:29  
It gets harder as you move up and that's why you get paid more. (That's right.) So you make a point there about the importance of considering or evaluating other alternatives. Why is that so important in this situation?

Marsha Clark  15:43  
Yeah, I think it's important on two levels. So first, is for my own internal grounding, right? It's going to be much harder to stand out in front of the team or the organization, if you've got, you know, a more senior level and with confidence, really present that unpopular decision, especially if you're not even sure it's the best possible choice, given the timing and the information that's available. You know, I used to tell people that were reports to me when they had to do hard things. And somebody asked me, Well, why are we doing this? And I said, 'Do not say because Marsha said so'. If you don't know why we're doing something, come ask me why and we'd talk about it. But if I didn't have a belief that it was the right thing to do, it's not because I said, so. I mean, that was not acceptable. And then the second benefit to consider other options, in considering other options, is that it helps you prepare your reasoning and for the responses of why you in fact, did it. And you also want to share why you didn't choose other options, why they were not as attractive or, you know, available to you when that inevitable avalanche of questions can come your way.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  16:53  
Great clarification. Thank you for that. So the third situation where you're using the compete conflict mode is applicable when you need to stand up for vital issues. Tell us more about that.

Marsha Clark  17:06  
Yeah, for me, this is a big one. And vital issues for me are where we're really checking and testing our values and our principles. I think about it as our very core. And it's both our personal ones as well as those of the organizations that we're a part of. And in order for me to stand up for what I believe in, whether that's integrity, mutual respect, ethical behavior, pick your list Wendi. And what it is that for me to stand up, what am I standing up for? And quite honestly, sometimes you stand alone, when you're standing up for those things. So I may have to set aside my feelings for certain people in order to stand up in a contradictory or even a competitive position. And, and I ask this question, often in class, and I use it in the book as a way of demonstrating how I stand up for these vital issues. You know, do you speak truth to power, even when the stakes are high? And one of my favorite quotes that I use, you will also have heard me say before is from the movie "The Contender", and that is that "Principles are only principles when they are practiced when they're inconvenient." And to me that is at the heart of standing up for these vital issues.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  18:29  
Okay, so for our listeners who have not seen the movie, "The Contender", I just wrote it down to see it again, to give me a boost because it is so good. I think it's on Netflix, I can't remember. It's, it's easy to find "The Contender". And yes, so say the quote again.

Marsha Clark  18:48  
"Principles are only principles when they are practiced when they are inconvenient." So it's easy to, you know, if everything's going smoothly, you know, I'm just riding the flow. But we all know people who spout these great platitudes about honesty and integrity and ethics and respect for others, and so on. And then when you're in a pinch, when you're not getting your way, or when your ego may be a bit bruised, or when you have to admit you're wrong or make a mistake, or made a mistake, it's sometimes easier to forego those principles than to really take that heat. And for women, I think it is definitely about speaking up with a counter point of view. You know, this idea of we've always done it this way. Well, if it's been, you know, the, the oft heard it's a male environment or a male culture or whatever, you know, and particularly if we're the only or one of few women in the room, it requires a lot of courage to speak your truth, your perspective, your ideas, and I refer to it as having the courage of your convictions. And I want to share a couple of stories that over the years have come out. So there was one woman who was in the program, and she brought to class because it was so offensive to her, they were about to release a print ad that talked about beating the competition. And it had these two boxing gloves like it was a literal, we're gonna beat you up kind of thing, okay. And in her mind, that's not the point. We don't want to beat you up to win, we want to win because we're the best solution. (Exactly.) So why not sell that instead of this image of the boxing gloves. And she went back to that company and guess what? They did not release that print ad. (Good.) They changed it because she stood up for what she believed in and she had a business basis and reason for doing it. And then there was another, and I won't name it, but it's probably going to be obvious. But I'm going to try and do this with integrity. So let me offer that up. Because that's one of my core principles. There was an ad where it was a woman who was jealous of another woman. And it showed her, she had something on her hands, and she hugged the woman who had on a white jacket, and she left her fingerprints on the jacket. Okay. And the woman's courage of conviction there was do not show women not supporting other women or being catty or being jealous and feeding into that stereotype.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  21:25  
Yep. That mean girls.

Marsha Clark  21:26  
Mean girls, and it's a stereotype we're trying to change. (Wow.) And I loved both of those examples of ways in which we as women can stand up for what we believe in even when all the money that's gone into that production, PR firm or two. In the second story, it was a video campaign in May and that got changed. (Wow.) You didn't see it much after that.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  21:53  
Yeah. Well, I'm sure. Um, because eventually, I mean, I can't imagine the blowback that would have happened. I mean, especially today, oh, my God. Okay, well, anyway. So I can see how being able to take an assertive stand under certain situations would be valuable as a leader. And I'm guessing some listeners in our audience are thinking, Yeah, that's great, Marsha, but how do I do that, especially if it's feeling counter to their personality or their usual style?

Marsha Clark  22:28  
And I will tell you, Wendi, and my coaching calls with this, because that's a really fair question. I often after we've talked about a response that the my coaching client wants to give to something that's happened to them, and I say, practice with me what you're gonna say, because it's because it's so different, so uncomfortable, and I want them to hear themselves do it and not collapse in a puddle on the floor. You know, so the good news is that there are some very specific skills associated with the compete conflict mode. And especially for those with a learner's mindset, and a little practice anyone can not only get comfortable with all of them, but can be really effective.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  23:11  
Yes that's encouraging. So personally, I feel like, I feel specifically using that word, I feel like I have and I remember going through the Power of Self Program I remember ranking myself high on the compete level, but yet there are situations the majority of them where I revert all the way over to avoid like it's an extra high whatever. Yes, yes, I'm the one in a puddle on the floor. So if you're low please share with us how the how this compete mode can be helpful I mean, because if you're high then you definitely you're in this habit of standing up for yourself and what you believe in but if you think you're high but you're really not like yeah.

Marsha Clark  24:06  
So this goes back to that extreme of the overuse and the underuse. If I use it all the time, I'm now a stereotype for being that relationship based or that nurturing caring tending woman. So she must be one of those "b" words. That's what overuse looks like (right) to a woman. Underuse is she's meek as a mouse, she never speaks up. You know, she'll just go along to get along or whatever. So those two extremes are there. So again, pick your battles and know when it's that important, this important to you. So my story around this because I don't use compete very often but, but when I have to, I have to and I and I will and I will do it. So I think about my story of leaving EDS after 21 years. A new CEO from outside the company, first one ever was brought in. He was my new boss, a corporate officer and he was the boss. And first three months, getting to know him, watching him operate, hearing what he says, seeing his leadership style, having executive meetings and hearing him facilitate those. And I didn't like what, there was hardly anything in there that I liked. And the next three months was an agonizing "Do I stay or do I go? Do I stay or do I go?" And the last three months was planning my exit strategy. And when I finally figured out I had to go, it was because I knew that his personal values and the way he showed up and behaved as a CEO of my beloved EDS were not aligned with mine. And I was close enough to it to see it routinely. And I also knew that as an officer of this company, I could not represent it with him at the helm. So I left and it was standing up for my principles.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  26:06  
Did you also feel like you didn't have enough for lack of a better word, political force to change it? I mean, he's the CEO. But yet, if you had enough other corporate officers at your level and above, who also saw it, and also agreed with you, do you think you could have had a potential to change it or was it just flat out not even worth the battle for you at that point?

Marsha Clark  26:34  
So I'll give you a couple other data points. So there were 44 of us who were officers. Okay, I was the 38th one to leave. (Oh.) The whole thing in nine months after he arrived. And I was the last of those 44. The other six remained. (Okay) Yeah. So and that's not casting aspersions on any one of those 44. We all made our own decisions about it. But what took me so long is I'd had opportunities inside EDS that I'd never imagined or dreamed of and I couldn't imagine not being loyal to that forevermore. And the other was I'd never had a boss I couldn't figure out how to work for and be successful. And the differentiation here was the price I would have had to pay to be successful working for him was not one I was willing to pay. (Okay.) So that was me competing. It was my way or the highway. He was going to run the company that way. I'm out of here.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  27:35  
Yep. Okay. So, back on track here. I think once we uncovered the six different skills, more of our listeners will be able to think of compete differently, but then also see that they're already using this mode more often, and maybe more skillfully than they were giving themselves credit for doing.

Marsha Clark  27:57  
Yeah, I think that's right. And the other thing that I find either with program participants or coaching clients, is that once they start thinking about these compete skills, they recognize that they can even be as far as experts at it with certain people in their lives. And, you know, maybe their kids, siblings, partner neighbors, you know, and it's a big, you know, the overused "aha" moment for them when they realize that they can and do use these skills and at work in their professional lives, and they don't see them as transferable skills until we have this conversation.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  28:34  
Right, right. I can totally see that.

Marsha Clark  28:36  
So let me tell you what the skills are that are associated with this compete mode, and there are six of them. And the first one is the ability to argue or debate. So I often asked in class, how many of you were on the debate team, you know, a few hands go up. Then I say how many of you consider yourself really good arguers, and a few more hands go up. So it's not one or the other, some, some are naturally good arguers. And then the second skill is about standing your ground. And I often think about this one as remember those blow up clowns where you be bop, bop, bop, bop them and they bounce, but then they come right back up because there's some weight in the bottom, right? And I say that's how you imagine yourself as that clown because you're gonna get knocked down. Somebody's gonna say something that refutes what you offered or, you know, tries to diminish it in some way. And you got to just bounce right back up, right? You have to be able to state your position clearly. Don't ramble, don't repeat yourself, that kind of thing. State your facts, the fourth one. And then the fifth one is differentiate between fact and opinion. And then the last one, and I find this one to be harder for women, the ability to use your rank, which is your title, your job title, if you will, your positional power that says in the hierarchy, it is my job to make this decision, or my influence with those who might be the final decision makers. And so I've got to get comfortable being able to do that.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  30:10  
Mm hmm. Well, I can already see that with the first one, the word "argue" is what may make some people cringe.

Marsha Clark  30:17  
Well, it does. And it can be one of those, what we often refer to as trigger words, it triggers me and, you know, and I can use it intentionally for a couple and I do use it intentionally for a couple of reasons. One is to face that trigger head on. Because if it's a trigger, we got to figure out why it's a trigger and not let the trigger manage us, but we manage the trigger is often the way I think about it. And we can take some of the emotionality you know, I don't even know if that's a word, but I'm gonna use it out of the word itself, because the word argue, is actually defined a couple of different ways. And the definition, which most of us use or associated with is to exchange or express diverging or opposite views. And here's the kicker, typically, in a heated or angry way. I used to say about certain people, you don't want to start a little argument because it will escalate to world war three in a heartbeat, right? You know, but but to make an argument doesn't always have to be heated or angry. So so just hold that thought as a What else could be true moment, right. And then another definition of argue is, and this is the one I really like, give reasons, or cite evidence in support of an idea, action or theory, typically with the aim of persuading others to share that view, to share one's view.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  31:34  
I love that definition because it makes me when I hear the word "argue", now, I try to put the, I try to put a lawyer costume on that, like you're giving evidence and supporting of an idea, action or theory. I love that. But it also sounds like debate, which I like that word instead of argue also. So I tried to put that spin on it.

Marsha Clark  32:02  
Well, let me talk about that because I like the additional requirements that make it a debate. Right. So the thing with debate is that so many people associate with this formal version of debate with that word, you know. So imagine two people standing at a dais, the political debates or whatever it might be, or debate teams. And it makes them think they're not capable of doing that, they don't want to put themselves in that position, or I could never do that. So it's a very limiting view. And in reality debate is a set of skills where you do your homework, research things, you know, build your case and prepare, so that you can clearly share your position, provide your evidence or facts. And this is where the debate for me takes it to another level, you know enough about the opposing viewpoints to refute or remediate their points are their influence. And in preparation for debates, we know that debaters are often asked to represent the other side, so that they're ready for whatever may come at them. So anyone can argue or debate, but the first hurdle we have to get past is our own bias against it. And if you can't get past the word argue, then even reframing it into standing up for what you believe in.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  33:26  
So one of my favorite things you say, right there in the book, is this: "We can't be afraid of engaging in conversations that matter." Wow, I just think that virtually everyone has something that's important enough to them personally to stand up for.

Marsha Clark  33:45  
I couldn't agree with you more, and which is why most people if they think about it, they can come up with a few of those instances where their passion was, you know, it fueled their ability to engage in a debate or an argument or to stand up at a meeting or, you know, business meeting or community meeting, a school meeting, harnessing that energy that that fearlessness is what's required and, and we have it in us, it's in us already.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  34:11  
Yeah, the skills are there. You might need a little coaxing.

Marsha Clark  34:16  
Yeah, coaxing, preparation, practice, I would even put clarity in front of those. And you know, and that's actually a great transition to this second competing skill in the argue versus debate or argue and debate, but now we're talking about standing your ground. So when you're in a competing conversation, that back and forth is plentiful, you know. So we'll make, you're gonna make your points and also you (this is really important too) want to listen carefully to the points that are made by the other person. You know, in the best situations you're prepared. You're not going to be surprised by what the other person has to say. And even when the other person offers strong points, you standing strong in your own position and having facts to support it and stating them with confidence puts you in the best place to achieve that desired outcome. And again, I'll say this is another example of where you display the courage of your convictions.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  35:22  
Okay, so the third and fourth skills are stating your position clearly and stating your facts. And both of those are linked to points one and two. So what do you want to add to these number three, number four skills.

Marsha Clark  35:38  
So it in terms of stating your position, clearly, when, when you're doing that, you need to be clear, crisp, and concise, and practice it, say it out loud, share it with someone that you trust, who's going to give you constructive feedback on the clarity of your position. Because here's what I want our listeners to hear. When you use too many words, you ramble, you start repeating yourself. You're gonna lose your audience, and you're therefore gonna lose your credibility. So you want to show up as your best, most credible and confident self. And I find that practicing out loud is most helpful. Because when you're under pressure, you know, our thinking gets clouded, we get nervous, but when you've practiced the words out loud several times, they're just going to come to you more easily because it's almost like muscle memory, right? The words flow because they've been said out loud so many times.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  36:37  
I just want to offer one other thing that I do when I have to get myself in this mode is I make sure I'm standing up when I practice. And I make sure that when I deliver a message like this, I'm standing up because there's just something about and not standing with one hip bumped out or whatever, it's standing on both feet, weight equal, minimal arm hand movements, like don't get into the big dance, like, just be brief, concise, and state it straight out. So but it takes a lot, it takes a lot of preparation and practice going into building up to that skill.

Marsha Clark  37:19  
Well, the visible presence we have in those moments, which is what I think I've when I hear you describing I stand up and I look you in the eye and I don't waver and I'm not flailing my arms aren't flying or, you know, all of those kinds of things. So, you know, the strength of your position, you know, even whether it be standing your ground or stating your facts or the physical positioning, the strength of your position is only as strong as the facts on which you based it. Exactly. You've gotta have the business case. And you want to ensure that your sources are legitimate, that they're relevant and that they're current. We all know we can go find whatever data we want to support our position, but you've got to have credible, legitimate, relevant current sources. And that doesn't mean that earlier research is not relevant. I mean, some of the things that I cite, may be a few years old, but there's been no further research done on so it's the it's the best we have. And then we talk about anecdotal things that might be exceptions or trends that are changing. But you need to be prepared to hear that other person on the other side of this conversation refuting your research. I remember when the three at the table research around three women at the table, that companies yielded better results, financial results, and client relationships and satisfaction, so on. And there were so many people wanting to refute that until they did it so many times that they could no longer refute that. There's always going to be that especially when something is early in the change process. And so research does often contradict and again, especially when we're in the midst of those changing times, and I had a boss once I remember looking at him, like I don't even know what he's talking about. He told me I need you to triangulate the data. And that meant that instead of just saying I think we ought to do blah, blah, blah, blah, I needed to have three sources of data to support whatever facts I was touting or presenting. And it did require more work on my part, but it also when I took it to him, I had greater confidence when I presented my point of view and had to defend my position because I'd done my homework.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  39:36  
Exactly. And another thing about triangulating the data is that you want to make sure it's from three different sources. Like you can't just quote the same author three times at three different talks. Yes. Or the same type of report.

Marsha Clark  39:52  
Well, right. On page three of the report it said this, on page seven or... so it's a really good reminder and definitely a research best practice. So, you know, if you cite the same research over and over from the same source, it kind of starts to sound like what you know, we refer to it as an echo chamber, if you will. And it certainly can reduce the person's credibility who's presenting it in that way. And therefore, ultimately, you know, negate your chances of getting what you want, or what you need or what you believe is the right thing.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  40:24  
Right. Okay. So the fourth skill is differentiate between fact and opinion. And this skill seemed obvious when I first heard it, but I've never really thought about how important it is. And I since then, but I bet now that I'm, you know, we're talking about this. It's very, I think it's even more important for women, because women tend to be seen as emotional and just throwing out opinion and all that.

Marsha Clark  40:52  
That's right. Either our tears or our passion about something throw us into the emotional category. Yes. And differentiating between fact and opinion is one of those that's so obvious. And yet we have to get really clear about it, and use it as a skill. You know, I think about how the, in today's media that the lines seem to get blurred between fact and opinion, because it doesn't take watching the news for very long...

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  41:26  
Yeah. Pick your channel. Yes. Pick your slant.

Marsha Clark  41:31  
Yeah. So let's be really clear. Facts can be sourced while opinions are a reflection of our thoughts or our feelings based on our interpretation of those facts. You just said, I feel a moment ago. And you emphasize that because it wasn't a fact. It was a feeling, therefore an opinion about something. And, you know, I use this really simple example, in classes and in the book and because I think it makes it so clear. You know, if you and I are sitting in a room, you may think that the temperature of the room is too hot. I might think it's too cold, and somebody else thinks it's just right. Well, those are opinions, because we're all sitting in the same room. The fact is that the thermostat is set at 74 degrees. Yeah. And you know, one of the things things I learned about women, we used to have the bucket of blankets because some people were cold, go get blankets, some people were hot, we had fans. Yeah. Because it was all the same room, and it was all the same temperature. And yet there were a wide variety of opinions about whether it was appropriate or not.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  42:37  
And at different times of the day. Yes.

Marsha Clark  42:40  
Or different times of life where there were hot flashes, right?

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  42:42  
That's right. That's right. Yeah. So I can already hear the argument over the validity and reliability of sources, and how your sources are better than mine, and all of that.

Marsha Clark  42:53  
And that can and does happen. And it takes us back to the point about being able to stand your ground. So I mean, these go hand in hand, these skills do. And ideally, you know, in your preparation you've anticipated this challenge to your source credibility and, and you have your response ready for that, whatever it might be. And the focus of this specific skill is to be able to discern and call out the differences between facts and opinions, and it's your own or that of the other person involved in that decision or discussion. And when it gets fuzzy, when it really is, well, I think X is better because, and  the other person thinks Y is better because, that's when I often find it important to also talk about what is our criteria for making the decision of X or Y, which should be done up front, which is still part of competing, but it helps us not get into the moment say, Well, what do you mean we all have to agree to this or that it's a majority rules or that it's you know, your call to make versus my call. I mean, get your decision criteria set when there are seemingly equal approaches.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  44:05  
Yes, begin with the end in mind. And then also make sure that the goalpost isn't moving all over the place. Okay, so the last skill for competing is the ability to use rank, positional power or influence to achieve results. And I already know those first two are real challenge for a lot of women I know, ability to use rank and positional power. They just don't like to pull rank.

Marsha Clark  44:37  
Yeah, so there is a lot going on for people when they don't feel comfortable leaning into that positional power, which is really what using your rank is all about. So again, in the bell shaped curve, and you know, what the research shows us is that women are far more likely to prefer flat structures, right? So rather than hierarchical structures, where people's power in these flat structures feel much more evened out, you know, we're all in this together. So even when I'm the boss, and I do have more positional power in the organization, you know, as a female, I'm still going to try and level out that playing field. I'm going to be more of a collaborator, get your thoughts, and I'm going to rely more on my personal power and my ability to build and really rely on those relationships, I'm going to rely on my personal power more than I do my positional power. And every once in a while, the only key that's going to really unlock some people's unwillingness to agree to your terms, is that I have the authority, right, that's my card to play. And I'm not saying you throw your rank in people's faces and use it abusively to get your way or the highway to go back to our title. But remember, at the very beginning, when we spoke of our intentions, if your intention to achieving some outstanding result, and you leave bodies lying in your wake as you are the organization, then, you know, this skill is is easy for you to use your rank. But, you know, I also often say to women, and so I offer this to our listeners, say to yourself, not out loud, but say to yourself, I'm the boss, and you're not. (Yeah.) It is my job to make this decision (Right.) so that I'm not thinking that I'm manipulating or abusing or overwhelming or dominating in negative ways. I'm the boss. It's my decision to make.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  46:36  
Yep. So how do you do all of this without coming across as a complete "you know what"?

Marsha Clark  46:43  
Yeah, another one of those "b" words? (Yes.) So I'm gonna give you three T's, how about that? (Awesome.) Tone, timing, trust and they all play a part of how whatever it is that I'm saying lands with you or in the room. And, you know, most all of us have seen, you know, those nightmare videos captured of people while they're trying to intimidate one and you hear the words, do you know who I am, you know, as if by uttering this, you know, important name, or title or whatever the other person is now going to instantly, you know, acquiesce into submission. And I guess every once in a while that works. I call it malicious compliance, not engagement or commitment. But most of the time, it just escalates the conflict. And so, you know, I think a more subtle and effective approach is a combination of your role or title with a statement of relevant authority, and a reason why you want or need something a certain way. (Ooh.) I go back to that as a flight attendant it's my job to keep you safe. To keep you safe, you need to leave your bag here. You know, leave it in the overhead.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  47:55  
And that's what you mean by relevant authority.

Marsha Clark  47:58  
Yeah. And I have a few places in my life where, you know, I have positional power. I'm, I'm the boss, right? It's my company. So I have the positional power of owner/leader. You know, as the author of my book, I have positional power. I'm the author, you know. Now outside of my organization, or my circle, being the owner of Marsha Clark and Associates or being the author of my book doesn't mean anything to anybody, you know. So it's not like I can waltz into Starbucks, you know, and elbow my way to the front of the line, because I'm Marsha Clark. I'm no relevant authority there because they're going Marsha Who? Yeah. So I mean, it's that kind of thinking.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  48:36  
Exactly. So will you share an example of what someone would or could actually say using their title and their relevant authority in a way that will work?

Marsha Clark  48:49  
Yes. So you might start a statement, and this is subtle, and that's what we want, you might start a statement with something like well as the project lead for this agile team, because that establishes my role and the scope of my role, right, the authority of my role of the agile team, I think we should blah blah, blah, blah, blah, you know, or as, you know, in my role as chief marketing officer, it's my responsibility to blah, blah, blah, ensure that we meet our branding standards, or ensure that we're putting the best face forward to the market, you know, so that you establish it in those very, and you say it matter of factly. That, to me, is the other, that's what I mean by tone. The timing is at the beginning to establish it in a not an in your face kind of way. And you're building trust by owning the responsibility that you have. And I've had to do it, you know, in my career, for sure, you know. I've used phrases like, as the account executive on this account, it's my responsibility to make the decision or as president of our healthcare SBU, the buck stops here. I've gotta make a call.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  50:05  
Right, right. And for my ear, it doesn't sound harsh or hard at all. But I can also see how that's a card you don't want to play over and over. Like, you just don't want to be walking around saying as the blah blah blah and muckety muck...

Marsha Clark  50:23  
Exactly. So and that is a really nice lead in to the last two points -  the overuse and the underuse.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  50:29  
Okay, perfect. I love it when that works out. So we were just talking about the overuse or even abuse of compete. So what are some of the signs that our listeners can watch out for to signal that someone may be overusing this conflict mode?

Marsha Clark  50:45  
I include four in the book, okay. And the first one is lack of feedback. The second is, you know, if I don't listen, people are gonna stop talking to me. Reduced learning, because nobody's talking to me, therefore, I'm not hearing what's really going on. Low empowerment, why should anyone take initiative to put forth their own point of view because it falls on deaf ears? And pretty soon I'm surrounded by people who tell me what they think I want to hear. So the "yes people", right? There's a book title that I just love is that "Great Leaders Don't Take Yes for an Answer".

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  51:21  
Ooh! I might have to...

Marsha Clark  51:24  
I mean, well, let me just say the book's okay but I just love the title!

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  51:28  
Okay. Thank you for being clear and saving me.

Marsha Clark  51:31  
Again, some people might love it. But I just love the notion of that, right? Yeah. I don't want people to just repeat back to me what I just said. What is the benefit of that? Why are you even here if you're just gonna, you know, echo me.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  51:43  
Right. Right. So I'm gonna repeat the four, just very quickly. Overusing conflict mode looks like one, lack of feedback. Number two, reduced learning. Number three, low empowerment. And number four, surrounded by yes people.

Marsha Clark  51:59  
Right. So if it always has to be your way, either because you always want to win or you're taking one of those self serving positions, then as I said, those around you are eventually going to shut down, they'll stop offering their own thoughts, perspectives, because as I said, they're going to fall on deaf ears. And so what happens is communication becomes one way rather than any sort of two way conversation with a healthy or, you know, and perhaps it may be a validating exchange. So don't be afraid of that. And that then, you know, relates to the second consequence of our overusing which is, you know, reduced learning. You can learn so much by asking questions and inviting other's viewpoints. It can broaden your own perspective and if you give the weight and consideration to it, it can help you draw better conclusions and make better decisions.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  52:56  
Yeah, absolutely. That makes sense. And it also seems related to that third consequence, low empowerment.

Marsha Clark  53:04  
Yeah. And when people, if and when people do offer their ideas or share their points of view or, you know, get creative with some solutions and the response to all of that is they're ignored or worse yet, ridiculed and, you know, pretty soon they're going to stop because they don't, no one wants to be ridiculed.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  53:23  
Yeah, yep. That makes sense.

Marsha Clark  53:25  
And if it goes in one ear and right out the other, then why bother. And so people will often choose to just follow orders or create some sort of compliant culture when most of the organizations I know are seeking that innovation. And, you know, if an employee request transfers and may even start looking for new jobs outside the organization, that's a result of low empowerment. And high voluntary turnover can be a symptom of the overuse of competing.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  53:50  
So do you think part of the Great Resignation is because too many people are or were working for bosses who were overusing the compete conflict mode?

Marsha Clark  54:02  
Yeah, I think it's certainly a contributing factor. I was working with a CEO, and several people have heard me tell this story, and he was lamenting to me one day that oh, Marsha, I want to hear from my people in the town halls, I want them to tell me what they think and ask questions. And so I said, What do you think's preventing them from it? I just don't know. And I said, Well, let me come to your next town hall. And so I went to the town hall. And he said, Does anybody have any questions? And somebody bravely raises their hand and asks a question, and here was his response: "Well, that's a stupid question." And I kind of went, Oh, I may understand the problem now! So it's right there. It's right there. So when people have to live through those kinds of things pretty soon they just say I'm outta here. It just ain't working.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  54:48  
Right, right. Wow. I don't know what's worse, losing your talented people to the Great Resignation or finding yourself surrounded by team members who are afraid to offer up  any different ideas, and probably they're going to be innovative ideas, and they just shut down to pacify their over competing boss.

Marsha Clark  55:11  
Over competing boss or to protect themselves, their job security, or to not be ridiculed, shamed or embarrassed. And so that's the surrounded by 'yes people'. Because if you shut those down around you and believe you always have the only right answer, you know that's what's going to happen. And you know, perhaps it's to avoid your wrath or feed your ego or, you know to advance the career or something. But in reality, they're living in an echo chamber and you never talk to people with diverse views because it means they don't agree with you. You get very isolated when you only hear your own thoughts and words either in your own head, out of your mouth, or being parroted back to you. And what you really show up as is naive or narrow minded, and none of those are labels that are used to describe a strong leader.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  56:03  
Absolutely. Well, every one of these conflict modes, I love that we're talking about both the overuse and the opposite effect when you under use it. So we covered some of the consequence of overusing compete mode here. What would you say are the consequences of underusing the compete mode?

Marsha Clark  56:25  
This is one where I list three in the book, okay. One is restricted influence. Two is that you can be seen as indecisive, and three, pretty obvious, your contributions are withheld. And remember my definition that compete mode is high in assertiveness. And if it's hard for you to wield influence because you're not willing to step up and speak up, you'll always be following the direction of someone else. So one consequence of underusing is the restricted influence, you don't have any because you never speak up. And then if you don't declare your position, and almost always acquiesce, you're seen as indecisive or wishy washy, or having no courage regarding a position or a conviction you might have.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  57:13  
Yeah, and then comes the dreaded Gee, I wonder why you're here? (Right.) Going in this, why are you in this meeting? Why are you even at the company?

Marsha Clark  57:22  
And then finally, and again not to overstate the (excuse me) obvious, if you're following the lead of another, and you're clearly not contributing your best thinking or your best work. And I just have to admit, it makes me sad when every employee can't contribute the best of themselves.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  57:40  
Yeah, yeah. So in the book, after each section of the Thomas/Killman conflict model which we talked about in the last episode, you offer some reflection questions that I think would be helpful to share those again with our listeners today.

Marsha Clark  57:58  
Yes. So they're the same, you know, after each of these conflict modes that just so our listeners recognize that because, you know. So here's the first one, how was competing an effective or ineffective strategy, as you think about it and now better understand it? And when have you used it and was it effective or ineffective? And now that's from a past lens. (Got it.) Okay. Now, coming into the present, think about a situation where you are currently competing in a conflict, or you based on what you've learned today might think that would be a good approach? Is that a strategic choice on your part or is it that you're now just so dang mad that you're gonna go compete because you're so dang mad? Or I'm tired of getting shut down and therefore I'm going to speak my truth. And it's important that we're able to recognize those defaults whether it be that trigger,  you've, you know, stepped on my last nerve, or whatever that may be. Are we overusing it, compete? Are we underusing it? How competent and confident are we with the skills related to the compete mode? Maybe that's where I need to do some work. Do we understand when or where to use it. So going back to the scenarios or the situations what tool to use when, and what we ultimately want to be able to do is to be more deliberate, strategic and effective in our conflict responses.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  59:27  
So not always my way or the highway. So Marsha, this has been a fantastic episode. What final thoughts do you have for our listeners today?

Marsha Clark  59:38  
Yeah, so statistically speaking, I want our listeners to hear that men score higher in the conflict response mode in the global TKI assessment than women do. So in compete, men score higher and it's pretty statistically significant. But it doesn't mean that men are better debaters than women, that they aren't better at separating facts from opinion. And in my experience, women can just as fiercely defend their positions, especially when it's on an issue that they feel strongly about. Like for me, it's ethics, principles and family, right? You're gonna get me every time, right. But for a variety of reasons, whether you know, it's cultural, societal, biological, or, you know, all of the above, women tend to underuse this approach. And I just want to give that to our listeners so that they can say, maybe this is the time you know, when it's the right one. And so my wish for our listeners is that they would go back, re listen to all the situations where this is an effective and vital approach to resolving conflict, then listen again to the skills now that you've heard the whole thing, go back. And I think they're going to find that not only do they have issues that matter to them in situations where this approach makes sense, but that they also have more practice and expertise in this competing mode than they give themselves credit for. You know, find some safe opportunities to explore this, you know, build your compete muscles, if you will, if this isn't a particular strength for you. And for those listeners who are at the opposite end of the assertiveness area and have no challenge leaning into this, check for those telltale signs of overuse and try to modulate accordingly.

I want to give just a quick story. Yesterday, I was on a coaching call and it was someone who said I just feel that I'm so undervalued and never seen or heard by my manager. And so we talked about it. I said, Well, how strongly do you feel about that? Well, I'm really considering leaving an organization that I've been at for 20 plus years. And I said, Well, then let's talk about how you're going to stand up for what you believe in. And we spent the rest of the coaching call on that. And at the end, as I said earlier, how do you feel about being able to make this happen? And she said, I feel a whole lot better after the...because we've diagnosed it. We've looked at what the right timing, tone, and you know how it is potentially going to impact that trust or build that trust, one can be my friend and still be of a different opinion. But that she had a right to stand up for herself in this story, that she deserved to be seen, valued and heard. And so it happens all the time. It's happening all over. So I just want our listeners to notice and think about is this a time for me to stand up for what I really believe in.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  1:02:39  
I'm just gonna let it leave a mic drop right there. So next in our series will be the episode entitled "Be Our Guest" with a focus on the accommodating conflict response mode. So any sneak peek on that one, "Be Our Guest"? I have Disney going through my head now.

Marsha Clark  1:03:02  
Well, right, but you know, this is one where we've talked about avoid, we talked about compete, women tend to be bigger avoiders than men and men tend to be bigger competitors than women. Accommodators is another where women tend to accommodate more than men do. So I hope that's a tease enough to say is this my story, is it my default and how can I know when to use it appropriately as we've talked about with each of these.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  1:03:29  
Exactly. Well, thank you, listeners for joining us today on our journey of authentic powerful leadership. Please download, subscribe and share this podcast wherever you like to listen and visit Marsha's website at, links to all the tools, links to buy her book. Note that we were talking about chapter nine. So if you don't have the book you need to get it and stay up to date with Marsha on her social media and her email list.

Marsha Clark  1:04:01  
Well thank you Wendi, as always, and thank you, listeners, for joining us again today. And I hope you find this useful because this one is one that I think can be a really almost like you know, we talk about tools, a power tool that can put you in a position of credibility, courage, confidence, competence. And people can see you in a different light when you get really, when you're willing to use this tool. And so I hope that we've given you some thoughts about how you can best do that. And so thank you all. And by the way for those when we know we're in a stand up to compete and fight for what we believe in, it's a great time that if there are women in the room who can be your allies to ask for that support. And we as women can give that support whether we've been asked for it or not. And we may not agree but we we can fight for that woman's voice or opinion or thoughts to be heard. And that will lead me to our close each and every time. Here's to women supporting women!

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