Conflict among top executives is one of difficult issues to deal with in any organization. Mostly top executive conflict is prolonged, protracted, and deep cracked; also because of the very high rank of each person in organization, this level of conflict frequently seems no way out easily and practically. This is a major factor driving organization to crisis.
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After Ms. Atcharee Amphaikitpanich (my co-facilitator) and me facilitated and mediated a group of top executives for three days from morning to evening, to help them clearing up the mess pair by pair, issue by issue…
…until the third evening, we saw very surprising situation.
From the setting of one circle of chair in a big room, these top executives slowly walked toward their conflict parties, sit down and talked from their hearts to other hearts. They expressed their intention, needs, and values underneath each action and behaviour that disturbed or hurted the other side.
Some warned that ” I’m speaking from my own interpretation.”
Some said “We just are talking and judging based on our different values.”
Some gave empathy–using Nonviolent Communication (NVC) approach–to other saying that ” You say like this because you concern about this, is that right?”
Some walked to stand behind another and spoke out loud “to represent the deep voice inside” the one s/he stand behind. (This is a technique called “amplification” in which we employed from Process Work Psychology.)
Also many other things that all these executives have done–in similar to what our team has done– to mediate and facilitate conflict among them. They were very fast learners within only three days of intensive workshop.
Our team saw ourselves became ‘smaller and smaller’ until almost disappear.
These executives, who have been conflicting with each other severely for so long, spent about an hour discussing very warmly and wholeheartedly about future plan to deal with the crisis. For one full hour , we the facilitators just sit silently at a corner of the room, outside their circle, trying to make ourselves as tiny as we can, to signify them that ‘no need to pay attention to us anymore, now is your crucial time.’
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This reconfirms our belief again that in many conflict transformation facilitation, the facilitator’s first and foremost task is not to provide solution, but to reconnect conflict parties’ heart. Once they can reconnect to their oppositions, they can use the synergy of each one’s resources, capability, and huge amount of experience in their own field (much a lot more than us as outsiders), to reach solutions together.
Even such difficult case as this conflict among top executives, this belief is still valid.
Furthermore, as a facilitator, this situation reconfirms a principle in chapter 17 of Tao Te Ching, an ancient Chinese philosophical text, that…
“Highest form of leadership, people just know s/he is exist. …[And] when achieving any task, people say we’ve done it naturally.” (my own interpretation, from the Chinese version.)
Also this goes along with one friend’s words that “Highest form of faciliation is participants do it themselves.”
So, in the context of conflict transformation facilitation, to reach sustainable solution, we can say…
“Highest form of conflict transformation facilitation, conflict parties facilitate & mediate among themselves peacefully.”
And “They just know facilitators / mediators exist there.”
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1st published 7 Sep 2017
Chanchai Chaisukkosol, PhD.