Paul Paese, of PMC, is delighted to be teaching in the Women’s Leadership Forum at Olin Business School this month. Paul’s topic is Critical Conversations, and he happens to be the only male faculty member teaching in this program. Truly an honor!
For many years Olin Business School has partnered with the Metals Service Center Institute (MSCI) to provide premier executive education for metals industry leaders. MSCI provides knowledge and thought leadership to the metals industry through a wide range of educational programs and business services. Paul Paese, of PMC, is a long-time contributor to this partnership. Last month Paul taught an online course in Negotiations, and next month he’ll teach Effective Leadership Communication in person at Olin Business School. Teaching these courses for MSCI is a highlight for Paul every year.
For many people conflict is bad, pure and simple, and the best way to deal with conflict is to get rid of it. But conflict isn’t inherently bad. Consider your favorite movie or novel. The richest stories contain some form of conflict, and what makes the story good is the nature of the conflict and how the characters attempt to resolve it. As Ronald Reagan said, “Peace is not the absence of conflict, but the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means.” At PMC we add the following to Reagan’s words: The goal is not to eliminate conflict – which would be impossible – but rather to turn the inevitable conflicts of daily life into productive friction. All conflicts contain energy, and that energy can be managed to yield collaboration and creative solutions, or mis-managed to yield animosity and wasted resources. Our work at PMC is built on some basic truths: 1) conflict isn’t inherently good or bad, but merely a given, it exists, it’s natural; 2) conflict may be spoken and out in the open, or it may be unspoken and veiled; 3) avoiding conflict, while common, is not a viable option for anyone who wants to be an effective leader or team member; 4) a conflict sprout or sapling, so to speak, comes out of the ground as some form of disagreement or opposition – this disagreement may be real, or it may be imagined; 5) To perform effectively as a leader or team member, one must uncover and identify disagreement, and engage it proactively; 6) and lastly, it is HOW we engage disagreement that determines whether conflict will be productive or destructive. These principles guide our work at PMC, which is to help clients transform day-to-day tensions and disagreements into productive action that serves the organization’s goals.. For more insight into these principles and why this type of work is so critical now, we highly recommend the wonderful book by Ian Leslie, Conflicted: How Productive Disagreements Lead to Better Outcomes.
Leaders need strength to be successful. While this obvious truth is widely recognized, opinions differ on what constitutes “strength.” In the eyes of many, strength means standing firm, winning your position, exuding confidence, and minimizing vulnerability. At PMC, our clients are often surprised to hear that we see vulnerability as a key source of leadership strength. Which is stronger, a leader who advocates a position and stands firm until others bend? Or a leader who advocates a position while remaining open to different views, even inviting challenge from others? Leaders who take the path of openness will naturally feel vulnerable. Paradoxically, this vulnerability is not a sign of weakness, but rather a clear indication of leadership strength.