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Career Change Conflict. The 5 Minute Career Coach November 09 Update
November 15, 2009

Helping Career Changers Around The World

November 2009 Update


I have been coaching a client recently who is facing some major difficulties at work, having to deal with internal conflict and weak leadership from above. With her in mind, I was reading an article about leadership and conflict and it struck me that there are some interesting parallels between leadership issues and career change.

Conflict and leadership
Conflict in an organisation needs transformative leadership to truly resolve it. When there is conflict, people tend to take sides and then get entrenched in the position they have chosen to defend. Often the conflict is between the traditionalists and the innovators, those who trust what they know works and those who want to take a risk with something new. The resulting conflict saps the energy of the organisation and reduces its capacity to be productive and to grow.

Some leaders choose to deal with this by quick, decisive action - in other words they decide which side will win and implement the associated strategies. Those that disagree either move on or remain as underground subversives who continue to play havoc from behind the scenes.

Transformative leadership
A transformative leader, however, takes the time to explore the underlying issues on all sides. She acknowledges that there is both validity and weakness in both positions. She is ready to stay open and uncertain for a while and let new and interesting solutions emerge rather than feeling she has to make a quick choice. She is ready to listen with an open mind to those who argue for stability and continuity and also to those who might appear to be troublemakers, challenging the status quo, but who bring valuable new ideas and perspectives.

The common knee jerk response to conflict is to stamp on it, to force compliance by implementing more rules and regulations. But in the long term this inhibits growth and can lead to a slow death for the organisation. The alternative, transformative approach sees conflict as a sign of energy and life which just needs to be gently contained and directed. It is this energy that keeps an organisation truly alive and growing.

And the link with career change?
You are probably feeling conflict within yourself over your career. You hate your job and want to do something different, to break out of the trap you are in, but you are afraid of the risks involved in making a change. You have different factions arguing it out inside your head - the play-it-safe traditionalist vs the radical give-it-a-go innovator.

So what kind of leadership are you providing for yourself? Are you avoiding the conflict by ignoring it or by applying lots of rigid 'shoulds' and 'musts' to your life? What would happen if you could be your own transformative leader? If you could stand back and acknowledge both positions, but then stay open to allow new possibilities to emerge? What if you could listen carefully to the voices of caution and of adventure, but then ask 'what is the way forward that will acknowledge these voices but will still allow me to grow as a person and do something more useful and meaningful with my working life?'

The answer certainly won't be just to put your head down and slog through another day at the office.

With very best wishes

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